Chestnut and oak young leaves

Something you can easily find in the middle of the city. Chestnut on the left, oak on the right. The chestnut is the variety with yellowish-green blossoms. Perhaps the one with white or pink (haven’t seen the pink ones here) would give a different shade? The oak is a young tree, also just bloomed recently (if those are considered blooms), according to my dad the variety is the Northern red oak (Quercus rubra or Quercus borealis). The lighter shade is after less than an hour in a dye, the darker one – overnight. No issue with chestnut whatsoever, the darker shade of oak was powdery and was coming off, but it’s possible that would be rectified with repeated dyeing rather that the whole night straight, or also overdyeing with another dye for final color.

The recipe is very simple, took a bunch of young green leaves (use as many as possible, a good bunch), soaked in water overnight, cooked for about 20 min., when cool strained the leaves, added alum and started using. Didn’t prep the eggs in any way at all, didn’t even wipe them with vinegar as I sometimes do. Excellent results, highly recommended.

I also tried a maple with reddish brown leaves, and it did give green but very uneven, it might take some more playing with.

Cabbage with different mordants

Tried the cabbage recipe again, wanted to see what different mordants would do. Shredded a full purple cabbage and boiled for about 20 min in 2l of water. I think it could take more cooking, there was still color left in the cabbage. Drained the liquid, divided into 4 jars, to try iron, vinegar, alum and baking soda. Final result:

Here are the eggs after about an hour in the dyes:These are iron, vinegar and alum. Soda didn’t really work much at all, so it’s not in this picture. Then I added alum into both vinegar and soda jars, to see whether that would improve how the color took. Left the one in just alum and vinegar+alum for another hour to achieve one more shade, left the rest for the night. Here is before taking the wax off, iron, vinegar, alum, soda (that one didn’t change at all after adding alum, and did not give a darker shade overnight, vinegar improved with alum, but the dye didn’t adhere so well to the egg):

So, I recommend alum. Vinegar and soda didn’t work very well for me, however, I used tap water, and it’s full of chlorine here, which might affect the dyes, can’t really be called a pure experiment. Use demineralized or distilled water if you want to make your experiment really “scientific”, and let me know how it goes.

The iron was OK, gave a decent gray after an hour and almost black after a night, but I wouldn’t use cabbage for that, unless you don’t have other options and don’t mind the cabbage smell.

Red tulips, green dye

This idea came from Сніжана Король, who successfully dyed eggs with green dye made of red tulips. Don’t be surprised, it’s quite common for fresh red flowers to dye eggs green. I must say, the tulip dye dyes surprisingly well and surprisingly fast, smells a bit like raw potato, and we’ll have to wait and see about the light-fastness.

Now, the recipe. I didn’t have red tulips, so I bough some in the store (was looking for as dark a red as possible), and enjoyed them till they wilted.

Took the flowers, chopped them with scissors, did not soak them (though you could try, it’s generally recommended), covered with 500ml of hot water and cooked in a pot for about 20 min. at more or less boiling temperature. Let them cool, strained the petals and threw them out, added alum and the dye was ready. The dye gave much even tone on an egg wiped with vinegar before dyeing, so I would recommend that.

The book I have on dyeing fibres with plant dyes suggested that adding alum with vinegar, or, optionally iron, would produce different colors. As you might already know, it doesn’t always work the same for eggs. After playing a bit with the basic alum recipe, I split the dye into two cups, and added a gulp of vinegar into one, and iron mordant into the other. Not recommended, both of these.

Below, clockwise, from top (12) to bottom left (9):

  • untreated chicken egg in a dye with alum, 10 or 15 min.
  • dye with alum, chicken egg wiped with vinegar before the first coat of dyeing, first shade 10 min, next shade 1 hour, next shade about 12 hours. Beautiful (never mind my shaky hands, I’ve been doing so much of drop-pull, that the regular kistka is refusing to make even curves).
  • brown chicken egg, dye with alum – not as even as white egg.
  • goose egg pre-dyed yellow with old coreopsis – ok, but not as vibrant as white chicken.
  • chicken egg, dye with alum and vinegar – became all spotty and coming off easily. Perhaps too much vinegar? Anyway, not recommended, no need to spoil a perfectly dyeing dye.
  • chicken egg, dye with alum and iron

I have no more functional tulip dye left, so my tulip experiment is over for now, but there are still plenty of tulips around Toronto, so now it’s your turn. And yes, my book says that yellow tulips can give a yellow dye, and can also be supplemented with daffodils and narcissi. It says there to use the mordants for yellow that I don’t use (tin or chrome), but you could try just alum, and see what happens, anyway it is different on eggs than it is on fibres.

Books: Lithuanian Easter Eggs

Of all the books I’ve added to my egg-related library this year (and I’ve added quite a few), this one is definitely number one treasure. Out of print, I found the used copy and bought it. It was expensive, but worth every dollar, if you are into that kind of thing.

Continue reading

Books: Country Colours by Carolyn Lock

I’m starting a series of posts about useful books with this beautifully done guide to dyeing wool using common plants that grow in Nova Scotia, published by Nova Scotia Museum, Halifax, N.S. 1981. You probably wouldn’t buy it, unless you are really interested (amazon sells used copies for $10-15), so I will copy here the things I found useful or interesting. I found this book in my university library, so you might find it in some libraries as well.

The book has a nice intro and a chapter on history, then directions on natural dyeing of wool. This contains a chart some of you might find useful on different mordants, with proper and common names, see below.

Then some information on collecting the plants, which I will omit here, and then a set of charts with records of plants collected and what color they gave with which mordant. Something I found extremely interesting in this chart was that sometimes the same plant with same mordant gave a different color if collected a month later, so this is something to be aware of. Here are all of these charts. Continue reading

Goose egg drop-pull spree

I wanted to keep using the dyes I made for the Pysanky Toronto retreat. The dyes were not very cooperative at the event, but when they came back home and relaxed a bit, they were dyeing just fine, so it would be a shame to not use them. Still working on the strokes, and starting to work on the variety of patterns. All these patterns are from the Lithuanian book.


  • Top-left, coreopsis extract then sappan wood
  • Top-right dyer’s broom extract, then mulberry, then sappan wood (red)
  • Bottom: coreopsis extract, then sappan wood, then vinegar etched to white, then dyer’s broom to bright yellow and immediately after mulberry.