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  • Writer's pictureAmy

I'm Dyeing!

Creating natural dyes for eggsellent fun this Easter.

My kitchen currently smells of cabbage. I'm not used to boiling cabbage, I prefer it raw or steamed lightly or sliced and added to hot bacon fat and fried, but this smell reminds me of Sundays with Grandma, not that that was ever a bad thing, but pressure cooked cabbage was never something I enjoyed. I'm not sure what she'd have made of me boiling red cabbage for half an hour simply to make dye, but I'm hoping the results would have pleased her.

The last time I played around with natural dyes was when I was around 12 or 13. My school friend Lizzy and I gathered up berries and sticks and lichen from the garden to try and tie dye some fabric remnants back in the early 90s, when tie dye was in. The results weren't great and it put me off trying again. Since then, when it's come to Easter crafts, I've used food colourings and specific egg dyes to make beautifully bright and garish decorations, and one year I experimented successfully with silk scarves wound tightly around the eggs then boiled in water and vinegar, but this year I wanted something far more muted and natural looking, reminiscent of the traditional pasche eggs my mum would make using onions skins, but a little different, a little more 'eggsperimental'. *cringesatownrubbishjoke*

silk scarf dyeing egg blown easter craft
Blown duck egg dyed using a silk scarf

I've chosen to make a few different colour dyes - red (or pink), green, yellow, purple, blue, teal and orange, using as few ingredients as possible. Red cabbage can be purple, blue and teal ,all dependent upon the acidity of the dye. The more bicarbonate of soda you add the less red is apparent.

PURPLE - red cabbage

BLUE - red cabbage with a pinch of bicarb

TEAL - red cabbage with a fair amount of bicarb. Add it slowly until you get the colour you're looking for.

MAGENTA PINK/RED - boiled beetroot with a dash of white vinegar

YELLOW - turmeric

GREEN - red cabbage, turmeric and bicarb

ORANGE - beetroot and turmeric

natural dyes using food
A rainbow of natural dyes

On paper, things were going well. But my purple? It was blue. My blue was teal, my teal was green. This tells me that the PH of the water I cooked the beetroot in wasn't neutral, but slightly alkaline. Either that or the paper I used was alkaline and so were my eggs? It doesn't really matter, the colours were still beautiful and I do like a surprise.

Four of these eggs were blown before dyeing, three weren't. It's much, much easier to immerse your egg into dye and simply leave it there if you hard boil or don't boil (with a view to blowing later).

The blown eggs were 'threaded' onto bamboo barbecue skewers and simply dipped and turned with their sides immersed and the skewers resting on the edge of the ramekins. The effect is beautiful.

And here are the end products.

Natural Dyed Duck Eggs
Orange : Turmeric & Beetroot | Green : Turmeric & Red Cabbage | Indigo : Red Cabbage | Pink : Beetroot | Turquoise : Red Cabbage & Bicarbonate of Soda | Green : Red Cabbage & Bicarbonate of Soda (more) | Yellow : Turmeric

If you would like to know how to blow eggs, I'll be posting a How To later this week. Subscribe to be informed of new blog posts.

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