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How to Naturally Dye Easter Eggs

Your kitchen is full of natural dyes. Common food items such as red cabbage, onion skins, and coffee can be used to transform plain white eggs into a rainbow of colors. Kids will especially love discovering all the different colors they can create—let them experiment using hard-boiled eggs and bowls of cold dyes.

naturally dyed easter eggs in a wooden basket

Photography: Janelle Jones

Source: Martha Stewart Living, April 1998

Introduction

This method involves boiling the eggs with the dye; the heat allows the dye to saturate the shells, resulting in intense, more uniform color. With the cold-dipping method, the eggs and the ingredients for the dye are boiled separately. That alternative produces subtle, translucent shades, but can result in uneven coloring unless the eggs are rotated vigilantly while in the dye. For hollow eggs that will last indefinitely, cold-dip raw eggs, then blow them out after they are dyed.

 

Natural Dyes

Red-cabbage dye: 4 cups chopped cabbage
Turmeric dye: 3 tablespoons turmeric
Onion-skin dye: 4 cups onion skins (skins of about 12 onions)
Beet dye: 4 cups chopped beets
Coffee dye: 1 quart strong black coffee (instead of water)

 

Color Glossary

Natural dyes can sometimes produce unexpected results, so don't be surprised if, for example, your red-cabbage dye yields blue eggs. Use the following guide to help you achieve the colors you desire.

 

Deep Gold: Boil eggs in turmeric solution, 30 minutes.
Sienna: Boil eggs in onion-skin solution, 30 minutes.
Dark Rich Brown: Boil eggs in black coffee, 30 minutes.
Pale Yellow: Soak eggs in room-temperature turmeric solution, 30 minutes.
Orange: Soak eggs in room-temperature onion-skin solution, 30 minutes.
Light Brown: Soak eggs in room-temperature black coffee, 30 minutes.
Light Pink: Soak eggs in room-temperature beet solution, 30 minutes.
Light Blue: Soak eggs in room-temperature cabbage solution, 30 minutes.
Royal Blue: Soak eggs in room-temperature cabbage solution overnight.
Lavender: Soak eggs in room-temperature beet solution, 30 minutes. Follow with room-temperature cabbage solution, 30 seconds.
Chartreuse: Soak eggs in room-temperature turmeric solution, 30 minutes. Follow with room-temperature cabbage solution, 5 seconds.
Salmon: Soak eggs in room-temperature turmeric solution, 30 minutes. Follow with room-temperature onion-skin solution, 30 minutes.

 

(Also pictured: Terrain Teak Wood Basket, $128, shopterrain.com.)

 

Don't miss out: Get Martha's Guide to Easter Eggs--it's the exclusive resource for tutorials, tips and decorating ideas.

materials

  • Natural dyeing agents (red cabbage, turmeric, onion skins, beets, and coffee)

  • 3-quart pot (or larger)

  • White vinegar

  • Small bowls

  • Eggs

  • Metal whisk

  • Tongs

  • Paper towels

  • Varnish (optional)

steps

  1. Select a dyeing agent, and place it in the pot using the color glossary listed above. Add 1 quart water and 2 tablespoons white vinegar to the pot. (Note: If more water is necessary to cover ingredients, proportionally increase the amount of vinegar.) Bring to a boil, then lower heat. Allow the ingredients to simmer for 30 minutes. Strain dye into a bowl.

    a carton of eggs and a pot with an orange powder mixture
  2. Drop raw eggs in a pot of strained dye. (Tip: Slip a single egg into the whisk, prying open the wire loops to cage it safely inside. Using the whisk, dip the egg into the dye.) Bring to a boil for the amount of time specified in our color glossary, as little as 5 seconds or as long as overnight, depending on the depth of color you desire. 

    whisking an egg in a pot with orange dye
  3. Remove eggs with tongs, pat dry with paper towels, and let dry on a rack. (Optional: Natural dyes tend to fade over time, so finish any eggs you plan to keep with a matte or gloss acrylic spray varnish. To create an egg-spraying stand, stick a 6-inch length of wire into a block of Styrofoam; prop a hollow egg onto the wire through one of its holes.)

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