Create Unique Easter-Egg Designs With Southwest Flair

If you're hoping to use unique Easter-egg designs to fill your Easter baskets with cheer, Juanita Browne has the perfect idea.

| March/April 1985

For centuries, eggs have served as canvases on which people have painted the signs and symbols meaningful to their cultures. In our family, we find particular pleasure in adorning Easter eggs with the extraordinarily beautiful designs characteristic of the Southwest's Native Americans.

Unique Easter-Egg Designs: What You'll Need

To create your own Southwest-style Easter eggs, you'll need vinegar, pencils, india ink, felt-tipped pens, clear plastic varnish, a good supply of uncooked eggs and some natural dye materials. Although you can use any of a wide variety of weeds, flowers, nuts, leaves, bark and vegetables to create natural dyes, I've come to rely on just a few that seem to give superior results and that are easily available: Red cabbage produces a light robin's-egg blue, yellow onion skins yield a dark yellowish brown, red onion skins give a light reddish brown, coffee makes a light tan, beets, surprisingly, lend a light gray cast, and sassafras will turn eggs a soft pink.

Other common, easy-to-use dye materials include such flowers as goldenrod, marigold, coreopsis, chrysanthemum, petunia, zinnia, chamomile and dahlia. Also, leaves — birch, hickory, maple, oak, pear, willow, mint and ivy, for example — make good egg colorings, as do sumac and pokeweed berries, carrot tops, walnut hulls and orange, pear and apple peelings. (And, although I've never tried it, I've read that you can get a nice red dye from fermented prickly pear cactus — a most appropriate background coloring for any natural southwestern motif!)

In other words, nature provides quite a palette for you to choose colors from, so don't be afraid to experiment. If you think a material might yield a pleasant dye, go ahead and try it. Be prepared for surprises, though: Natural dyes can be as unpredictable as Mother Nature herself. You may get an entirely different hue than you were expecting. In fact, the same material may produce different shades of color from one dye bath to another.

Remember, too, that dyes from nature generally aren't as bright and vivid as the colors you get from commercial dyes. Instead, they will be soft earth and sky shades — browns, grays, yellows, blues and pinks — that provide a perfect background for your Indian egg designs.

Dying Easter Eggs

First, chop the dye materials you'll be using into small pieces and put each kind into a separate enamel, steel or glass pan. Don't use aluminum pans; for some reason, dye doesn't adhere well to eggs cooked in such containers.

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!