Big eggs, natural dyes

Here is my first experiment using natural dyes on ostrich and emu eggs. I made one of each, first etched them in vinegar, then used the same two dyes – my favorite coreopsis for yellow (turned out sort of green on emu egg) and madder+cochineal for red (brownish on emu).

Here’s the ostrich:

610_8234Photo courtesy of Mykola Swarnyk

The dots are specific to ostrich egg shells. The shell itself is very smooth, similar to rhea, and the wax tends to peel of sometimes – not sure yet what to do with that, perhaps making sure that the egg itself is on the warm side and the wax is well heated would help.

Here is emu:610_8326Photo courtesy of Mykola Swarnyk

It was etched again after the red dye.

In general, I would say, the experiment was interesting. It takes a lot of dye though, and unless one is doing a good number of big eggs at the same time, the amount of the dyes seems rather wasteful, it’s not clear what to do with them afterward – I put mine in a fridge and used some for the eggs in the previous post, but they did not work quite as well as the fresh ones would be expected to work.

For now I only have one or two emus left, and no other big eggs (have plenty of duck and goose instead), so probably will not be dyeing the big ones any time soon. It would be interesting to use dye on rhea egg – the color of its own shell should give nice tones.

Last eggs of the summer

I had a thick pen and some dyes left over from making big eggs (which I will show you later), so I made a few simple eggs. I love using the thick pen even on small eggs.

The dyes did not cooperate so well, especially the red one, not sure why, they might have not liked going in and out of the fridge. The eggs also did not provide a very even coloring surface. Maybe because I wiped some pencil lines with vinegar? To be further explored.

Yellow is coreopsis as usual and red (or rather orange) is madder with cochineal. Duck eggs.

Logwood dye (extract)

Logwood is and old dye (apparently it’s been used for dyeing since 16th century). It is supposed to give a range of colors from blue and purple to black. I got sort of dark brown with the addition of alum and chalk.


I found the dye to be not particularly eager, maybe it doesn’t like eggs so much. It also comes off easily when the wax is being taken off with candle. That, however, I have noticed with a number of natural dyes, that you have to be much more careful and gentle when taking off the wax, than with chemical dyes. So I often add much more wax before taking it off to seal the whole surface of the egg. Another thing I noticed is that the natural dyes seem to burn much easier than the chemical ones, that is, also when the wax is taken off with the candle.

UPD: To help set the logwood dye in other eggs, I have over-dyed them with another dye (in that case red sappan wood). While the egg remained almost black, the powdery surface of logwood was nicely sealed, and the issue of the dye coming off with wax has been resolved.

To see other eggs dyed with logwood, use logwood tag.

Red cabbage dye

I was a bit sceptical about the cabbage dye, but so far was pleasantly surprised. Let’s see how the color lasts, and whether it withstands time and light. How to make a cabbage dye? Ask google. I did, and found a bunch of step-by-step instructions. I’ll add one more.

Got some red cabbage. Actually, it’s been sitting in the fridge for months and was quite tired looking. If you get a fresher one, perhaps you’d get a better color.

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First experiments with natural dyes complete.

Here is the result:

You already saw the previous post with yellow coreopsis dye. I must say this was my favourite dye, and I was extremely lucky to have started with it, because I have struggled quite a bit with the next dyes. Coreopsis give a good intense yellow with relatively little dye, without cooking (just boiling water), it dyes quite fast and works well for a long time. While the red dyes have spoiled by now, this one seems fine still, and smells as beautifully now, as it did in the beginning, in spite of having been sitting in a jar in a hot room. I love this dye and will definitely keep using it.

Now, one by one.

1. coreopsis – yellow, madder standard and cochineal – red (50-50 mixture, twice).

I would have probably dyed it for the third time, the plan was to leave it in the dye over night one more time (it had already a session of few hours and then once overnight), because it still had some patches not fully dyed to my liking, but when I came from the week-end of being away, the dye has spoiled, so I’ll have to try a new batch of red dye eventually. I have really struggled with both madder and cochineal, I was not getting the intensity of color that I was expecting based on other people’s reports (and probably based on my amazing experience with coreopsis), I have used up the small container of madder standard in the process. I still have a container of madder rich, but that has turned from powder into a piece of rock, so I’ve let it be for now. I am tempted to just buy some regular madder in a herb store – it comes both in the root form and in powder, and see whether it works better that this fancy dye powder. We’ll see.

2. red cabbage – teal, vinegar – white.

Red cabbage was a nice experiment, because that is something that is easily available in a grocery store. I did add a mordant, and changed the pH balance to have a blue tone instead of purple. It smells like cabbage, is rather weak when dyeing, and takes a while, but still it works, and let’s see how the color withstands time and light. Maybe I’ll show later in a separate post and in detail, how I made that dye, especially if I manage to get another egg or two dyed in it.

3. coreopsis – yellow, black walnut – brown. Goose egg.

Black walnut worked sort of OK, but took a while to dye. It’s good as foundation (or over-dye) for other colours to make them darker. Perhaps I should have dyed this one two or three times. The dye powder is coarser than others, and I have more of it, so I will likely play with it a bit more, to see whether I can get the color more intense or have it dye faster. The egg pattern is not traditional, it is from a memorized and partially improvised version of a trypillya-style egg I have seen before. Not sure who is the author of this pattern, if I knew I would say.

4. black walnut – brown, vinegar – white.

I did an experiment here, because this was an etched egg and I did not want to mess up the while background by taking the wax off with the candle, I did half of it with hot water and half with hot oil. Turned out, walnut did not like one of those procedures (neither, by the way, did the etched cabbage egg above), guess which was the procedure not liked by walnut and cabbage? You can see that the dye on the right (or bottom) half of the egg has partially washed away. Didn’t like the water, liked oil just fine. You’ll see later that lac did not like oil. But maybe would not have liked water even more, who knows…

5. coreopsis – yellow, red cabbage – pale green, lac and then black walnut – brown.

This is the egg from the previous post.

So the red cabbage gave this pale green instead of teal-blue after coreopsis. I fell in love with this pattern earlier this year, so here is a comparison, the same pattern dyed with chemical dyes, with natural dyes and without dyes – etching with vinegar on the brown egg.

6. coreopsis – yellow, madder and cochineal – red, lac – burgundy, vinegar – white.

In the photo below you can see that lac was not happy at all and came off with the wax. Not sure whether it did not like the hot oil, which I used to take it off, or maybe it was just generally unhappy. It did not behave like this in the egg above when I used black walnut over lac, maybe this is what I should have done here. But, in general, lac stinks (worse than cabbage), it takes a long time to dye, the color is not particularly nice, and as we can see, does not stay so well. And it spoiled also within the same timeframe as madder+cochineal. I still have some left, so I might do more research to see whether I can add something to the dye to make it more happy (chalk? cream of tartar? something else?) and play more with it, but probably not any time soon. I will probably try out other versions of similar colours that I have not tried yet before coming back to this one.

See, this is lac by itself, the first try on plain egg – I should have known still from this first run, that is does not stick all that well to egg, the dye came off just by me wiping the egg dry.

So, that’s it for now. Ask questions if you have any.

All the dyes I have used here besides red cabbage are Maiwa extracts in powder form.

Coreopsis

My first experiment with natural dye powder. So, this is coreopsis extract, I mixed 0.5 teaspoon of the dye powder with 250ml of boiling water, added a pinch of alum. Put the plain egg in when it was still slightly warm, because I was just too curious. As a result, rich gold, quite fast – maybe 15 min. or so. I used an old unemptied chicken egg, it was partially dried out due to sitting on a desk for a few months, had to weigh it down with a spoon so it doesn’t float.

And here is the second egg dyed (the one with a pattern), this one took longer about half an hour, but is looking ok still.

Oh yes, and I almost forgot, it smells beautifully of honey!

For more eggs dyes with coreopsis, see coreopsis tag.