Try Coloring Your Easter Eggs with These Plant-Based Dyes
In honor of this month’s GC theme of Rediscovery, we’re putting a Lil’ Sprouts spin on the traditional art of Ukranian egg dyeing known as pysanka. Pysanka utilizes wax to create intricate forms on easter eggs, and involves layering colors and motifs that pre-date the modern practice using food coloring to dye eggs. (Pysanka is also known in Ukrainian as pysanky, derived from the verb “pysaty,” which means “to write”– because the designs are “written” with wax rather than painted on.) The designs are etched onto the eggshells using what is known as a kistka— a delicate tool requiring a great deal of mastery and skill.
To make the process of all-natural egg dyeing easier for kids, we swapped out the kistka for a non-tinted lip balm made from beeswax. Designs can simply be drawn onto the egg with the lip balm, just like using a crayon. (Any leftover beeswax can then be used to make lip balm–just substitute it in for the coconut oil in our recipe).
“In honor of this age-old celebration we used all natural, plant-based dyes made from ingredients you can easily find in your kitchen or garden.”
According to Ukranian myth, the fate of the world depends on pysanka— if the tradition is abandoned or forgotten, the world will be devoured by a giant serpent. In 16th-century Ukraine, eggs were typically decorated exclusively by women and girls, and today they are recognized as an important part of Ukranian women’s folk art (something that we at GC can always get behind, as an all-woman team). Many of the shapes and symbols draw on the natural world, incorporating fauna (stags, horses, and birds) and flora (flowers, leaves, and the tree of life). Color plays an important role in the practice of egg decorating as well, with each color symbolizing something different– red standing in for the sun, and green for plants and spring. Traditionally, dyes were made from the bark and leaves of different trees, and in honor of this age-old celebration we also used all natural, plant-based dyes, made from ingredients you can easily find in your kitchen or garden.
- 1/2 cup black rice
- Skin of two dark plums
- 1 beet
- 1 Tbsp. turmeric
- 1 Tbsp. paprika
- 1 cup coffee
- 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
- Juice of 3 blood oranges
- White vinegar
- Boiling water
- Natural beeswax lip balm
- Hardboiled eggs
- Recycled newspaper
- Butter knife
- In separate pots, boil the black rice, plum skins, coffee grounds, turmeric, paprika, and beets with enough water to cover them.
- Once the water has reached a boil, lower heat to a simmer.
- Turn off the water and let cool once the water is almost opaque. Make sure the rice does not cook up too much of the water.
- Strain the water to remove organic debris and add 1/2 to 1 tsp of white vinegar to each.
- Juice the blood oranges directly into the container you will use for dyeing. You will not need to add vinegar because the juice is sufficiently acidic to promote transfer of the dye.
- Place the frozen blueberries in a cup of warm water. Strain into dyeing container when the blueberries have completely thawed and are beginning to disintegrate. Add 1/2 tsp of white vinegar.
- To create patterns along the outside of the egg, simply draw your desired design on the shells and then place in the dye. You can create a multilayered look by first dyeing the egg, then drawing on it, and then dyeing it again (this can be repeated several times for a multi-color effect).
- If the point of the lip balm becomes dull, simply sharpen into a point with a butter knife.
- Once the design is applied to the egg, place the egg in the dye.
- Periodically check on your egg while it is in the dye– with natural dyes, however, keep in mind that soaking for longer is often better (this way, you’ll get a richer color).
- After each layer of dye, allow the egg to thoroughly dry on a baking rack, taking care to minimize contact with the shell, as this can leave a mark in the dye.
- Once the eggs are finished, hide them around your garden and enjoy the search!
For more in-depth instruction on how to make each color, check out our instructional gallery, below.