This is a fun excerpt with so many different ways to decorate eggs!
- Dye tabs (used today)
- Wrap the egg in patterned fabric and boil
- Boil with the skin of red onions
- Rub designs with tallow candles, then boil with dye tabs (used today with crayons)
- Dye and engrave with a needle
- Several natural dyes are recommended for different colors
So, why not give it a try?
We’ll forgo the dye tabs because that’s so 21st century, and instead focus on the other options, starting with the fabric. A quick trip to the local fabric store produced two of the brightest swatches I could find: blue and red. I have been known to accidentally dye a clothing item or two in the washing machine, so how hard could intentional dying be?
I wrapped the eggs in the blue fabric first, securing with a rubber band, and boiled for 10 minutes with a splash of vinegar. I let the eggs cool before taking them out of the water and unwrapping. Unfortunately, the results were less than stellar and resulted in a very pale blue. Skim milk blue. I didn’t even bother trying the red fabric. Let’s continue with red onion skins.
Did you know that boiled red onion skins smell like armpit?
I realize this is not what you think about when you picture lovely colored eggs, but it was bad. You’ll need air freshener for this one…or some extra-strength solid stick. Ugh! As for the colorant, I used the skins of two onions for a 2 quart pot with 2 eggs (2+2+2). It did transfer the color, but turned it to a muddy lavender-brown. Perhaps the onion skins would have worked if I had added more or them? As it was, the eggs looked exactly like those your youngest child makes when he thinks it’s a great idea to mix all of the colors together. So, moving on…
Shall we continue with turmeric?
Turmeric is amazing on so many levels. Middle Eastern dishes, Indian dishes, pancakes (just kidding) … It also comes in handy when making Easter eggs. I tried using just a little bit (1/4 teaspoon) in boiling water for 10 minutes, concerned that it would turn the eggs brown. They did, in fact, turn out slightly brown, or the palest of pale yellows.
So I went back and tried it again, this time added 1 tablespoon of turmeric, and a splash of vinegar. I boiled the eggs for 10 minutes, then let them soak for a good 1.5 hours as they cooled off.
Finally, we have some beautiful, vibrant Easter eggs!
There’s quite a bit of trial and error on this one. All of the water did turn the respective color I was trying to achieve with the eggs (success!), but that didn’t necessarily transfer to the eggs (grumble, grumble). Trial batches of 2 eggs at a time was a good idea.
Also, the red onion skins smell something awful. The whole fridge reeks of onion. Unless there’s a really good reason to go au naturel, opt for commercial dyes – as was clearly stated in sentence 2 of our Easter egg overview written back in 1886. Ms. Corson clearly knew a thing or two about Easter eggs…
For a more modern technique on using natural dyes, check out Abbeycoseattle’s post here.
Have you ever used any other natural egg dyes? How did they turn out?
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Source: Miss Corson’s Practical American Cookery and Household Management, 1886.