Dyeing Easter eggs, courtesy of Mother Nature

This Easter, teach your youngsters –or yourself — the time-honored tradition of dyeing eggs … using all-natural materials.

What our moms called “stain-makers,” we call an opportunity to have family fun and save money at the same time! Most of the items can be found right in your kitchen and yard.

From cinnamon to carrot peels, cranberries to Kool-Aid, blueberries, onion skins and many flora and fauna in-between, you can brighten up those rainy Spring days by helping your kids cook up a batch of indigo, copper, yellow, pink, purple, and more — for a special, inexpensive and fun family project!

You’ll spend a little more time dyeing eggs this way, but you’ll find it so rewarding that you just might want to apply your new dye-making skills to breathe new life into other household items!

What you’ll need

Have on hand several pots, lots of eggs (keep the cartons handy!), several wooden spoons, some bowls, white vinegar, a measuring cup and whatever materials you choose to add color to your life.

If you’ve got youngsters involved in the process, be sure to have aprons handy, and some damp paper towels for any dye that goes astray.

Nature’s Abundance

Here’s a brief list of some of the most common natural materials that produce wonderful dyes:

– Black walnut shells (brown)
– Onion skins (yellow)
– Carrots and peels (yellow-orange)
– Beets (red)
– Nettles (light green)
– Elder leaves (yellow-green)
– Grape juice (purple)
– Madder roots (red)
– Kool-Aid (multiple colors)
– Cinnamon (light brown)
– Spinach leaves (green)
– Woad (indigo blue)
– Cranberries, blueberries, mulberries (pink, blue, red)

Making the dye

To make the dye, you’ll want about two cups of water, one cup or more of dye materials and a teaspoon of white vinegar for each egg you plan to dye in the finished color.

Before adding the eggs, mix the water, vinegar and materials in an ample-sized pot and bring it to a quick boil, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon.

As soon as it reaches a boil, reduce heat immediately to medium-low, and let simmer very gently for at least 25 minutes, and up to 45 minutes. Again, you’ll want to stir regularly.

When you like the color (or just get tired of watching the pot!), turn the heat off and let the mixture cool for 10 minutes before straining the organic matter from the liquid. Don’t forget to compost the leftovers!

Adding the eggs

Now put the pot back on the stove and add the eggs to the liquid. Don’t crowd the eggs into the pot, because they’ll bump up against each other and create little pale spots in the coloration.

Turn up the heat to medium, and let the eggs simmer gently in the dye for at least 20 minutes while you stir them occasionally and separate any that are touching. You may continue cooking the batch on low for up to 90 minutes if you’re looking for more intense color.

When the eggs reach the desired color, simply remove them to their cartons and refrigerate.

You can even organize to complete several batches of different colors in one session, and mix-and-match the dye projects to produce blended colors from different materials.

Encourage the youngsters to help out, try different colors and, of course, help with the inevitable clean-up! You’ll find at day’s end that you’ve accomplished more than dyeing Easter eggs — you’ve cooked up a wonderful batch of lasting memories to share for years to come.

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