Buckthorn berries (and less so the bark) have been traditionally used for dyeing in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, later also by professional dyers in North America. I didn’t have access to the berries, but I bought the bark in the herb store and tried it. This buckthorn variety is Rhamnus frangula, other varieties exist and have been used for dyeing even more than this one. The egg on the left is the dye with alum, the one on the right is the same dye post-mordanted with iron.
The books (Wild Color by J.Dean) say that you can extract the dye from this bark without even cooking it, by just pouring boiling water over it and soaking overnight. It is suggested to then simmer the bark again to obtain the second batch of the dye. I tried both, with more or less the same result, so you could make half a batch by soaking and the other half by simmering and then mix them together. Like most wood or bark chips, you can dry them out afterwards and try using again for lighter shades. I have also added some cream of tartar to one of the dyes, as this was suggested by Maiwa, but didn’t see much of the difference. Still it’s something worth experimenting with in the future.
The dye itself doesn’t have a very nice smell, however, unlike most natural dyes it did not spoil after sitting for months on a warm counter. I have made it in mid-December, and it still works in March. From that point, it is definitely a keeper, worth exploring more. The color is also very nice, and seems to give a lot of potential for over-laying with other colors. The iron post-wash was not particularly effective and has partially come off when the wax was removed, it might have worked better if I added the iron directly into the dye instead of soaking the egg in iron-water. I might try that next time, I actually do have two batches of this (and it doesn’t spoil!), so I can turn one of them into an iron batch.
Made this egg for someone’s 60th marriage anniversary, based on the traditional design, double yolk goose egg, vinegar etch, gold- coreopsis extract, orange – old sappan wood, then egging etch to white, and backround pink – same sappan wood. The contrast between pink and orange is not clear enough, should have made the background lighter or gone for a dark dye.
Traditional patterns and their surprises, didn’t realize there’s a star at the narrow ends, until I actually made it:
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.
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.
The 3-day pysanky retreat in Toronto is now over, it’s been a wonderful experience, amazing people, new friendships, exquisite art, ingenious craft, and the atmosphere full of inspiration, which, I’m sure, will last for a while. If you have an interest in decorating eggs, whether traditional, or contemporary, you have to come next year! (Possibly in June). Whether you are new at this, or you have been doing it for years, you will learn a lot.
Now, this is the only egg I managed to do, I just enjoyed too much seeing what others are doing, chatting, learning…
I was asked to do a presentation on natural dyes, and that in itself was a wonderful experience for me. I felt welcomed and very much encouraged, there is a lot of interest and desire to use natural dyes on eggs. I also made brought a set of 6 dyes, and even though natural dyes require much more time than chemical ones, they are very unpredictable, and some of them did not want to cooperate, several people tried them. By next time I think I will figure out a more cooperating set of dyes, and that will probably make a difference.
Gold – coreopsis extract, brown – combination of dried sappan wood dye and logwood extract dye. Chicken egg.
More exercises with what can well become my two favorite dyes, and with the drop-pull method. I’m discovering that there is much more potential for different strokes than I initially thought. My grandma only did simple dot and straight line circles, but the actual variety of patterns and stroke combinations is amazing, especially once you hit the google image search. Of course, my hand is still not very steady, needs more practice, but I’m looking forward to it. If someone knows a good book on these Lemkivski eggs, point me to it please!
Yellow – coreopsis extract, a new/different source, seems darker than the first one, I might consider diluting it more, and I ordered seeds, will attempt to grow some in a planter.
Red – still the same sappan wood. This dye is few weeks old now, has developed clumps and stuff, but still smells fine, doesn’t appear to be spoiled, and still gives the color, albeit not as easily or evenly as before.