Last year, I was contacted by a television program to share natural egg dying recipes that could be used instead of those super-bright, finger-staining dyes that reek and sting your eyes.
Challenge happily accepted.
I have experimented with dyeing fabrics and wool roving, but dyeing eggs seemed like a different beast, and I went all-in when it came to experimenting with veggies, spices, seeds and beverages.
I took two approaches to the “natural” Easter Egg solution. The first, literally being solutions made up of garden-grown ingredients such as these:
The second approach was to add texture to (in some cases, hide the cracks and imperfections of) my hard-boiled eggs by covering them in seeds, spices & teas:
Here are a few things to note before I share my favorite “recipes” with you.
A lot of natural dyes take quite a bit longer to set than chemical-based commercial dyes. When I used dry ingredients such as Turmeric, tea or cabbage leaves and instant coffee, I always started with a room-temperature egg (to prevent cracking during the boiling process) in a small sauce pan with two cups of lukewarm water. I wanted to set a constant for my dyes, and 2 cups liquid was it! I would bring the liquid to a boil and cook the egg for at least 11 minutes, sometimes a bit longer. I used white vinegar as my mordant. During my first few dye jobs, I omitted the vinegar, and found that the color didn’t hold as well.
While many of these dyeing agents seem like they will take a while to set, you should not neglect your crafty protection. I HIGHLY recommend wearing an apron and gloves while working (unless you love that stained hand look).
Lastly, a roll of masking tape and a Sharpie marker will be your best friend in this process. There are SO MANY different combinations you can use, and you may think you have a good memory, but labeling your dye jars (I used a variety of washed jam jars and assorted mason jars) will take all the guess work out of it.
As mentioned above, I boiled the water, added room temperature eggs, then added the remaining ingredients as the eggs cooked (to release the colors from the dye agents.) Then, while the (now colorful) water was still hot, I would pour it — along with the dye agents (cabbage leaves etc) — into my labeled jars. I would carefully remove the egg, and place that into the jar as well, then seal the lids shut to let them cool.
If you plan on eating your eggs, store them in the refrigerator as indicated.
Now. Onto my favorite natural dyes.
Red cabbage is a PH indicator, and it creates carbonation when combined with the white vinegar, so you will want to open your jar of cabbage dye at least once a day to release the gas build up!
I dyed this next egg in half white wine and half red (the cheapest Trader Joe’s carried). The results was INCREDIBLE crystals all over the surface of the shell. It looked like a snow-encrusted version of my cran-raspberry egg! I tried dyeing an egg in straight red wine and got the same crystal-formation with a more plum color. If anyone can explain the science behind the crystal formation, I would love to know.
Turmeric will stain just about anything it comes in contact with. Great for dyeing, but be sure you are wearing an old apron and gloves when handling this stuff!
To see how I applied my seeds and teas for texture, this radmegan post will give you everything you need to get started. Hopefully, you will see your spice rack and the contents of your refrigerator in a whole new light after these experiments!