Everything that is white at my house runs the risk of being dyed… so this time it’s the eggs! Perfect, since Easter is around the corner. Easter eggs printed with Botanicals are shockingly beautiful and actually super easy to make! ‘And you know I am obsessed with Eco Printing!
To Make The Magic Dye:
I keep a mesh veggie bag under my counter where I collect dry yellow onion skins (they don’t smell). I have also even been known to ‘clean out’ the bottom of the onion bin at the grocery store. Those skins produce the most rich warm hues of yellow to dark red. I’ve used them when dyeing wool (protein fibre) and it amazed me there as well. Use a medium sized pot so that the depth will accommodate the eggs without too much water.
Historically this art form called Eco printing or Botanical printing was discovered by India Flint when some impressions were found on an egg…
The key to having the most amazing richness of colour from the onion skins is how much you use. I ‘cram’ in as much skins (cut smaller if needed) as possible into a pot with enough water and add more as they cook, a little bit of white vinegar (tablespoon of vinegar) will help the shells absorb the colour. As the onion skins cook they will soften and shrink and emit the wonderful colours from their tannins. Let it simmer on low heat.
It seems that this year Canada has forgotten that it’s time to warm up for spring so getting fresh botanical leaves was impossible. Sooooo, the grocery store is the next best thing as certain house plants are poisonous.
I look for nice leaf texture and small size; parsley, baby arugula, and carrot tops are easy to find but any leaves will work. This method is somewhat like Eco Printing but uses the ‘resist’ method to create the leaf shapes and images
The Trick to wrapping:
Go find some old pantyhose (nylon) or socks (transparent is best) and stretch it over a small glass/mug. Carefully place the leaves over the hose. The leaves will come in contact with the sides of the eggs.
Let the egg sink into the cup and the leaves will wrap around the egg. I use white eggs for better contrasts than brown eggs would have.
Push the egg down and keep hold of the outsides of the hose. Add leaves on top if desired. You can be fussy or just ‘wing it’ for interesting results. The key is having good contact on the wrapped egg.
Grab the edges and pull tight together and twist closed with twist ties. How easy was that?! The hose gives good even pressure and full dye colour will permeate.
Sink the egg into the liquid, possibly moving some skins aside to have it submerge.
Let it simmer (low boil) while you prepare more. The longer the simmer the beautiful colors of the dye liquid will become richer! Pull it out (with a ladle or wooden spoon ) when desired and brush off any skins.
The Beautiful Reveal:
Notice my lovely stained fingers? Eco printing, especially with iron does make for some ‘colourful’ fingers! But no problem; lemon juice will nicely clean them up afterward.
I am utterly amazed at the intricate details that the botanicals print on the eggs. ‘Maybe the fact that they are not floating in a huge amount of liquid does helps make the dye quite strong.
You are not limited to only using leaves, you can use grasses, string, rice, lace, whatever has nice details. Always think outside the box! (oh darn, a bunch of new ideas just popped into my head…)
Modify the range of colours from light yellow to rich indian red with iron and acidity. You can experiment with other natural dyes like turmeric (yellow) or red onions.
Being an illustrator this amount of detail baffles my mind. Drawing or painting was not needed to make this magic… Well, ok, Mother Nature provided the ‘art’!
You will never look at carrot tops the same again after dyeing these. Rub on some oil (mineral, coconut or olive) to give them a nice sheen and you are done. These are for decorative purposes only as some may not be completely cooked. I leave them full and they will eventually dry out inside but you may also use blown eggs. (submerge them in the skins to cover)
How ‘Egg-squisite’ are these? Check out my next post to see how these were taken to the next level with another trick.
Happy making & Happy Easter!