May 2, 2014

Easter Egg Dyeing with Natural Colours and Leaf Resists.

Resist dyed leaf patterns.
 About time I showed you what I did with the kids at school for Easter.
 First I explained about the connection with Spring and Easter, or rather let the kids think about why we were celebrating eggs, bunnies, chicks, and flowers at Autumn time! Yes, of course I mentioned the other celebration of Jesus as well, but in passing. This was about dyeing eggs, and it is a secular school.
And the kids did come up with the answer; we're on the other side of the world of where these traditions started! So I said, we are going to make Autumn-Leaves Easter Eggs.

New Zealand Primary school classroom.
 This is my "base" classroom, since I work in 4 different rooms at the moment. That's the teacher, she has phenomenal energy, I am in her class for the second year in a row. The children are having "mat-time"in the picture. In between different activities they come and sit on the mat, or the carpet in front of the teaching desk. It gives them movement and a different pace and signals that they need to pay attention to the teacher while she talks about something in detail. It's also where they eat their morning-tea, or listen to a story.
That big white board is an "interactive white board" on which you can bring up the internet, or computer programmes, with which you can use an electronic pen to write or draw on the board, print it out, or even send to another computer in the school. Nearly all our senior classes in our school are completely "technology classrooms", in which each child does their work on their individual laptops, then sends their work to the teacher. She/he can also monitor their work in their files, and checks if the kids access things they shouldn't. It seems to keep the kids' attention quite well!

Anyway, back to the eggs...
Simmering red cabbage.
 At home I prepared the dyes. I could have done this at school too, but seriously; boiling cabbage and onion skins for half an hour is not that pleasant a smell in a classroom...
So I simmered (in a stainless steel pot, since iron or aluminium can change the colour) half a red cabbage with salt (making it alkaline) and the other half with a dash of white vinegar (making it acid), just under boiling point for half an hour. With all the windows open...
Then drained the cabbage out, reserving the intensely coloured dye-water.

Red and brown onion skins.
 I did the same with 2 big handfuls of mainly red onion skins. Nothing added.

Cheese-cloth (with small leaves inserted) wrapped hardboiled eggs .
 When the dyes were cool enough, I poured them into clean plastic fizzy drink bottles for easy transportation to school. I also took some glass and steel bowls, again other metals react different to natural dyes, and plastic bowls will stain.
I picked a tray of small leaved plant material from my garden, like maiden hair ferns and young fern fronds, young ivy leaves, and clover.
I cut lots of squares of cotton cheesecloth and some white yarn to wrap the eggs into

O.K. the eggs themselves.... I thought that would be easy, right? Get some white eggs from the shop, as you can't  make brown eggs blue or pink.
By George! I had some serious problems there!! No white eggs to be found in either Napier or Hastings supermarkets, Farmers' Markets, or egg Farms..... Incredible!
The lady at an egg farm told me that they can't actually buy the hens anymore that lay white eggs. And that people think that brown eggs are healthier looking, you know like a sun tan, or like brown bread versus white bread.
That's mono-culture farming for you...
Did you know that some type of hens lay blueish eggs, or speckled?
Anyway she had these trays of commercial eggs, these are usually bought by baking companies, the eggs are irregular sized, have bumps or spots, are thin, or very pale.
So we found 30 of the palest brown eggs, it was very kind of her to help me. But some did crack during the hardboiling. They would simply have to do...

I hard boiled them, for about 5 minutes. That way they were still pleasantly edible for the kids. And not so breakable.
I added a drop of dishwash liquid to the water to remove any chicken-bum grease, that might prevent the dye penetrating the shell.

The hard boiled eggs were left overnight in the dyes.
 So the children placed some little leaves in the cheesecloth in their hand and wrapped their egg in it and tied it up. Well, as I thought, that was a super tricky action, most 7 year olds these days can't tie a knot if their life depended on it... They are the velcro-generation, hahaha!
And if they did manage to totally knot up their egg, the cheesecloth was loose. For the resist method to work, the leaves need to lie tightly against the egg while dyeing.
Luckily there were 3 adults in the room.
We also wrote their initials on the egg with a white crayon.

Now they got to choose which dye pot their egg was going to soak overnight in, but I warned them that   their egg would be a different colour then what they could see...
Since I wasn't sure of the outcome I wasn't going to promise them a particular colour, and it was excitingly mysterious...

After cutting off the wraps and drying the eggs.
We were all happily surprised the next day. I cut off all the cotton wraps, and most of the resists had worked nicely. The red onion skin liquid had turned a deep orange brown, the purple red-cabbage-with-salt liquid had left a sky blue colour.
And the purple-pink dye made from the red-cabbage-with-vinegar went a more lavender hue, that could probably have done with another dash of white vinegar to go towards pink.
Science/ Art/ Culture experiment successfully completed!


softearthart said...

Wow, that is so cool, and good for the children to see the process, nice colors, cheers Marie

12Create said...

What a great idea using leaves on the eggs and it is amazing the way the colours have come out.

Elmtree said...

Although most vegetable dyes are not stable, i.e. they will fade in time, and sometimes in no time at all, it is however an interesting concept for kids. Not to mention safe to eat.