- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Five-year-old Jared Tewodros partially immersed a hard-boiled egg in red dye, flipped it over and dyed the other half in yellow and blue, making green.

The Fairfax Academy kindergartner then dipped the egg in orange, darkening the colors, but ran out of time for the purple.

“It was fun because I got to decorate it with a lot of colors,” Jared says. “I wanted to make it pretty.”

Each of the 250 students at the Arlington private school dyed an egg to learn about the Easter holiday and egg dyeing.

“They learn different colors and how colors mesh together,” says Brandon Dukstein, admissions coordinator for the school, adding that the students also develop design ideas and learn creative dyeing techniques.

Egg dyeing can be done with a traditional decorating or color kit or by making homemade dyes and decorations.

A kit made by companies such as Paas, Dudley’s or Easter Unlimited Inc. has everything the aspiring egg artist needs, including food-color tablets or dye packets, egg dippers, egg holders or stands, and drying trays. To jazz up the eggs, the kit might add stickers, rubber stamps, wax crayons for writing personal messages and drawing designs, and tools and materials for shimmery colors, swirls, glitter and speckles.

Dyes, too, can be made from food, drinks and food coloring, and decorations can be found in the home or arts-and-craft stores.

The American Egg Board, an organization in Park Ridge, Ill., that promotes the egg industry, provides directions for making dyes on its Web site, www.aeb.org: For each cup of water, which should be warmer than the egg, add a few drops of food coloring and two to three teaspoons of white vinegar, which will allow the color to adhere; the egg is dipped into this mixture with a slotted spoon and left there until the desired color is achieved.

Egg dyes also can be made by using fruit drinks, brewed coffee or tea, powdered drink mixes and boiled spices and foods, says Elisa Maloberti, consumer information coordinator for the AEB. Boiled eggs can be dipped directly into the dyes for a darker color, or the eggs can be boiled with the dyes to achieve a lighter, more subtle color, she says.

“It will be a different color palette, a softer color palette,” Ms. Maloberti says.

Using naturally made dyes requires more time to color the eggs than does using the store-bought tablets, says Cory Vicens, culinary director at Allrecipes.com, a Seattle-based food Web site.

“With store-bought dyes … you can get a pretty good color straight off,” Ms. Vicens says.

To achieve deep, rich colors, the eggs need to be left in natural dyes for at least one to two hours, while pastels and lighter hues require less time, depending on the intensity of color desired, she says. She recommends giving dyed eggs enough time to air dry before decorating them.

There is no exact science to decorating eggs, Ms. Maloberti says.

“It’s more of an art expression,” she says. “Depending on how you want to express yourself, egg decorating can take many different directions.”

Eggs can be hard-boiled and then decorated, or raw eggs can be emptied by blowing the contents from the shell through holes at both ends after scalding-hot water has been run over the shells to kill salmonella bacteria. The empty shell then can be decorated.

Eggs that will be consumed can be dyed with food coloring, store-bought or natural dyes; painted with nontoxic paints; and embellished using nontoxic glue or double-sided tape. If the egg will not be eaten, the options expand to include materials such as fabric, poster or acrylic paints and rubber cement, which can be rubbed off after dyeing the egg to leave white areas.

“Don’t eat the egg unless you’re using nontoxic products,” says Kit Bennett, owner of Amazingmoms.com, a Web site in Vancouver, Wash., that provides ideas for family fun.

One idea for decorating, she says, is making a collage on the egg using such materials as fabric scraps, sequins and feathers. Another idea is to use construction paper to make faces and then stand the egg in a toilet-paper tube for display; or try rolling the dyed, still-wet egg in bubble wrap to create a funky pattern, she says.

“They certainly don’t look traditional,” Mrs. Bennett says.

Ms. Maloberti’s suggestions include wrapping the egg in rubber bands and dipping it in dye for a striped pattern or placing a leaf onto the egg and into a stocking before dipping for a relief effect. Or try embellishing the egg with lentils or dried peas, pasta or herbs, or rolling an egg covered in a thin layer of glue in rice or small seeds, she says. The letter-shaped pasta used to make alphabet soup is a way to put letters on the eggs, she says.

Beyond the kitchen, other household and craft items can be used for decorating, such as sewing notions, ribbons, tissue paper and postage stamps, Ms. Maloberti says.

Eggs can be rolled in glitter or beads; they can be made with papier mache; and for a mosaic effect, the shells of one egg can be placed onto another, says Jennifer Brown, classroom coordinator and designer at A C Moore crafts store in Falls Church.

For polka dots, try hole-punched paper or polka-dot stickers, she says.

“The imagination is the limit. You can do whatever you want,” Ms. Brown says.

Using scrapbooking supplies is another option for decking out an egg.

The egg is dyed before paper punches, borders and stickers are added, says Cheri Sicard, editor of Fabulousfoods.com, a food and cooking Web site based in Los Angeles. Other options, she says, include dabbing paint over gauze or spattering on paint with a toothbrush or skewer. Or add vegetable oil to the dye and quickly dip the egg to achieve uncolored areas where the oil repels the dye, she says.

“It’s kind of a surprise. You don’t know how they will come out until you unveil each one,” Ms. Sicard says. “Each one is a little bit different with most of these techniques.”

Dyes in the kitchen

SEVERAL FOODS CAN BE USED TO DYE EASTER EGGS. WEB SITES SUCH AS WWW.AMAZINGMOMS.COM AND WWW.ALLRECIPES.COM ALSO OFFER SOME IDEAS.

BROWN — BREWED COFFEE OR TEA

YELLOW — TURMERIC, SAFFRON, YELLOW ONION SKINS

ORANGE — TURMERIC OR YELLOW ONION SKINS WITH BEET JUICE ADDED

RED — CRANBERRIES, BEETS, PAPRIKA

PINK — CRANBERRY JUICE CONCENTRATE

PURPLE — BEETS, PURPLE ONION SKINS

GREEN — SPINACH, KALE

BLUE — BLUEBERRIES, GRAPE JUICE CONCENTRATE

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