You are never too old to decorate Easter eggs. I have many years of egg decorating experience myself, and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Over the years, I’ve tried just about every technique, texture, dye, you name it. I thought I had tried them all until I came across a Sunset magazine article on homemade dyes. I was skeptical at first – homemade crafts usually require buying expensive ingredients that you will only use once – but then I read further. Most of the ingredients on the list were items I already had: vegetables, juice, tea, spices, vinegar. I’m willing to bet you have most of these things in your cupboard too (behind the two half-eaten boxes of Girl Scout cookies – it’s ok, I’m not judging).
IT ALL STARTS WITH THE EGG
Or does it start with the chicken? The secret to a great-looking basket of Easter eggs is choosing the right egg, or combination of eggs.
Pick an egg – chicken (most popular), turkey, duck, goose or quail will work. I suggest using white eggs to get the richest colors out of your dye. Mixing small and large eggs will give you a diverse basket – just be aware that larger eggs will take longer to cook.
Cook the eggs – you can hard-boil the eggs before decorating to make them stronger, or you can blow the yolks out to empty the shells. This technique takes some real cheek power and patience, but produces some awesome-looking eggs that won’t spoil. If you don’t want to waste the yolks, consider turning them into spring spritz cookies!
GIVE THEM SOME SPOTS
Turkey and quail eggs have natural spots, but you can easily give any egg some spots or speckles with more ingredients from your cupboard. You can also add a textured look with simple art supplies.
Grains – grains can be dyed with food coloring and used to create spots on your white eggs. Roll eggs in colored grains to create a speckled look. Beans, rice, lentils and pasta all work well. You can dye your eggs first and then add spots, or add spots and then dye them for a more diluted look.
Rubber bands/wax – gently wrapping eggs in rubber bands before dying them will create white stripes. Or, you can try drawing on them with crayons/melted wax before dunking them in dye – the wax will prevent the dye from sticking to that part of the egg.
Straws – skinny straws work great for creating speckles. Dip the straw in dye and blow the dye onto the egg. The skinnier the straw, the better the effect.
TIME TO DYE THE EGGS
And your fingers. The trick to these dyes is to let the eggs sit for a long time. Patience is key.
Onions skins – boiling red onion skins creates a deep red liquid that will actually turn your eggs a greenish color. Yellow onions skins will give you a deep yellow dye. I don’t usually eat onions, but I was able to gather the loose onion peels from the produce section at my local grocery store.
Juice/wine/beets – dark juices (grape, pomegranate and cranberry) and wine can create deep purples (but do you really want to waste your wine?). Simmering beets in boiling water will yield a natural brownish-purple as well.
Tea – brown and green teas doesn’t work as well, but rich berry teas create cool blue colors.
Food coloring – when all else fails, food coloring will give you great dyes with just a few drops.
Vinegar/alum powder/baking powder – these are all dying agents that will help you get that rich color you want. Alum (used for pickling) can easily be found in the spice aisle and it produces the richest color. Allow powder or vinegar to dissolve in dye before dunking your egg.
DON’T FORGET TO LEAVE THE BUNNY A NOTE
And a plate of cookies with a glass of milk. The Easter Bunny (actually a hare, not a bunny) is a Santa-like figure who watches you throughout the year. He only comes around to hide your Easter eggs and leave you a basket of treats if you’ve been good. Turns out, Santa isn’t the only one watching!
While I rarely made the effort to write to Santa as a child, I always made a point of writing to the Easter Bunny Hare. I can still remember the note on the side of my Grandma’s fridge that read:
Please hide the eggs extra good this year – they were too easy to find last year.
Xoxo – me”
Mr. EB took my note to heart, because not only did he hide them REALLY well that year, he hid them so well that some of them were not found until a month later. Make sure to ask him to leave a map, or you will be searching for eggs until next Easter.
PUT THE EGGS TO GOOD USE
I can’t think of a better use for a few dozen hard-boiled eggs than creamy deviled eggs, and my Dad’s recipe is to dye for.
The eggs that have dyed all the way through the shell make a fun, colorful egg salad sandwich for the kids! Or for the adults my age who just happen to love egg salad of any color.