How to dye Easter eggs naturally – a tutorial

So you want to dye your Easter eggs naturally – without chemicals and artificial colors? While it takes longer than the commercial egg dye kits you buy at the store, dyeing your eggs with natural foods is better for you and your child(ren)’s health, produces much more interesting colors and is, quite arguably, more fun!

Why dye with natural colors instead of artificial?
According to, “Many food colorings contain color additives such as Red No. 3 and Yellow No. 5, which, according to a 1983 study by the FDA, were found to cause tumors (Red No. 3) and hives (Yellow No. 5).” I wrote about the drawbacks of artificial colors a while back if you’d like to read more on the topic.

It is more time-consuming than using a store-bought conventional egg dye kit (and I highly recommend preparing the egg dye baths a few hours before you plan to dye the eggs with the kiddos), but it is healthier for your kids and the environment. “Dyeing eggs the natural way gives you the opportunity to spend more time with your family, teaching kids to use alternative project methods that are healthier for them and the environment.” I think it will be a lot of fun and a great family project.

To get started you will need:

  • Hard boiled eggs (preferably white eggs since they take on the dyes better than brown eggs)
  • Ingredients to make your dyes, which I will discuss in more detail below – As a guideline, use up to 4 cups for vegetable solids and 3–4 tablespoons for spices per quart. Mash up fruits.
  • White vinegar (2 Tablespoons for every quart of water)
  • Several pots and bowls
  • Optional: stickers, rubber bands, and crayons for decorating the eggs and making interesting patterns
  • Egg cartons for drying the dyed eggs

Natural egg dyes can be made from a variety of ingredients. Here’s a list of what I used last year along with comments on the colors that resulted.


  • 3 cans of beets in cranberry juice (instead of water) – produced a dark reddish hue


  • Frozen cherries – made a very light pink


  • 3 tablespoons of chili powder produced a nice reddish-orange color


  • 3 Tablespoons of tumeric produced a great yellow


  • A mix of spinach leaves, canned blueberries and their juice and a few tablespoons of tumeric produced a gorgeous earthy green color – I think it would work without the spinach leaves, but I happened to have some that were wilting so I threw them in.


  • 3/4 of a head of red cabbage (chopped) made a beautiful blue


  • 2 cans of blueberries and their juice made a grey-blueish color


  • Frozen cherries mixed with blueberries yielded a grey color (not the purple I was going for).

Last year I found a couple great web site with tips on “Natural Easter Egg Dyes” and Natural Dye from The natural dyes come from spices like paprika, tumeric and cumin; vegetables like spinach and red cabbage; fruit juices and even coffee. All of your dye ingredients can (and should) be composted after you are done.

On, there is a boil method (which produces darker results) and a cold-dip method, which is suggested for children or if you plan to eat the eggs, which is the method we used last year.

The two methods are:

Method 1—Hot
Place eggs in a single layer in a large, nonaluminum pan. Add the dyeing ingredient of your choice—it’s best not to mix until you are comfortable with experimenting. Cover the eggs and other dyeing “agent(s)” with one inch of water. Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar per quart to help the color adhere to the egg, and bring to a boil. Next, simmer for 20–30 minutes or until the desired shade is achieved. If you cook the eggs longer than 15 minutes, they will become rather tough.

Method 2—Cold
The cold method is the same as the hot method with the following exception. Once ingredients have simmered 20–30 minutes (depending on desired shade), lift or strain the ingredients out of the water and allow the water to cool to room temperature though you may wish to try keeping the ingredients in the colored water to give the egg more texture as the dye will become concentrated in areas where the vegetable touches the egg. Submerge the eggs until the desired color is achieved. You may keep the eggs in the solution overnight as long as it is refrigerated.

The longer the egg stays in the dye, hot or cold, the deeper the hue will be. Using vinegar will also help the color deepen.

Definitely feel free to experiment and try out other foods and spices. For me, that was a big part of what made it so much fun, trying out different things to see what colors would come from them. For example, the dye from the spinach, tumeric, blueberry mix looked orange or brown, but the eggs came out green! And the red cabbage dye was purpley-pink, but the eggs came out blue. It was like a fun science experiment that the whole family could get involved in. Happy egg coloring! :)

The process of making the dyes:

The egg dyes on the stovetop Beets in cranberry juice
Red cabbage Tumeric

And the results:

Red and pink eggsYellow and orange eggs
Green eggsBlue eggs

Links to other people’s natural egg dyeing results:

If you dye your eggs naturally and blog about it, please leave me your link and I’ll add it to the list. :)

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A homemade Christmas tree (and BSM)

After writing my holiday eco-friendly crafts post, I got this insane great idea that it’d be lots of fun to make all of the decorations for our Christmas tree this year.  I was hoping to involve the kids in the crafting, but my first two attempts – with popcorn garland and cranberry garland – were not as successful as I hoped. Turns out that popcorn is fairly hard to put a needle through and I didn’t want to risk Ava poking the heck out of herself, so she and Julian ate popcorn while I threaded it. The cranberries were a little harder than I would’ve liked too so I did those myself while the kids ate them and then spat them out because they are, of course, very tart. ;)

I also made the star on the top of our tree by cutting it out of a pie tin (super sharp edges) and gluing it to a piece of black paper.

Finally this morning, I decided on a project we could work on together (at least Ava and I could and Julian could help out later) – salt dough ornaments!

Here’s the recipe that I used.

Salt Dough Ornaments

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 cup water
Optional: 1 tablespoon any type of oil (to make it easier to work with – thanks to Brighid for the tip)

I didn’t have enough sea salt, so I used my kosher salt (after grinding it up in the food processor a bit). It worked just as well. I think table salt is probably what they have in mind for this recipe though. 

Mix salt and flour. Add in half the water, then gradually add the remaining water. Knead until the dough is smooth, this can take up to 10 minutes.

I divided up my dough into different segments and used food coloring on some of it. 

For flat dough ornaments roll out the dough (to about 1/4 inch thickness) on baking paper, wax paper, or directly on a cookie sheet. Use cookie cutters, cut-out templates, or just use your hands.

Add details to the ornaments with a toothpick and knife.

Don’t forget to use a straw to make a hole so you can hang the ornament. (I forgot to do this on two of mine. Oops!)

Baking: Time varies based on thickness of ornament
Temperature: 325°F.
Time: 20 minutes or until dry – They should be hard to the touch, but not brown.

After they are done baking and cooling, you can paint, add glitter, spray with a clear finish, etc. We chose not to do this and let me tell you why I’m glad we didn’t.
a) because Julian decided to start tasting several of the ornaments
b) because a few, invariably, got dropped or stepped on and broke, but because they don’t have any extra stuff on them, I can just throw them into the composter. :)

Finally, add ribbon, yard, string, twine, etc. and your ornaments are ready to hang on the tree or give as gifts.

And now, the pictures…

Ava hard at work 12/14/08 Decorating candy cane ornaments 12/14/08 Ornaments ready to go into the oven  12/14/08

Putting yarn in our ornaments  12/14/08 Finished ornaments  12/14/08  Ava showing Julian how to hang ornaments  12/14/08

A tree on a tree  12/14/08 My little candy cane 12/14/08 Julian gets the hang of it fast  12/14/08

Ava’s happy tree 12/14/08  Last-minute rearranging before bed 12/14/08 Our homemade-decorated tree  12/14/08

I don’t know if we’ll stick with just the homemade decorations on the tree – I think we may add a handful of ornaments we’ve collected over the years – but I will say that despite the extra work involved, I really enjoy the organic-feel and personality that our tree has this year. It’s been a lot of fun. :)

My choice for Best Shot Monday is the one of Ava and Julian together putting the ornament on the tree (2nd row, 3rd picture). Ava was being so sweet and helpful to her little brother. It just makes me smile. You can see more Best Shots over here.

Cool and (mostly) eco-friendly holiday crafts

When I was asked to write a post about cool holiday crafts, I thought, “Oh, this could be fun!” I’ve been getting a little more crafty myself lately and have been really digging the craft blogs. However, in light of my No Plastic Holiday Challenge (also on BlogHer) and my propensity to be a greenie, it didn’t feel right to me to showcase anything other than eco-friendly holiday crafts. I began my search and was pleasantly pleased with what I found. Let the reusing, recycling and recrafting begin!

Crafts, especially during the holiday season, are a great way to bring families and/or friends together. Depending on the craft, kids of all ages can get involved, making it a wonderful bonding activity. Rachael Page from EcoFactory points out, “Crafts can be even more rewarding if they utilize items that would otherwise be discarded into our landfills.” Her top 10 list of Eco-Friendly Ways to Trim Your Tree includes things like paper chains made from wrapping paper scraps, bottle cap ornaments and tin lid ornaments.

grinchlightbulb.jpgWhile we’re on the subject of recycled ornaments, check out these cool ornaments made from light bulbs and baby food jars from The Wicked Stepmom and these glittered recycled bulb ornaments from Craft Chi. Over at Cordite County, there are tutorials to make three light bulb ornaments – a Santa, snowman and a reindeer. Photo credit: The Wicked Stepmom

Here’s a homemade ornament idea from Simply Thrifty that the kids can be a part of – painted pinecones!

Alpha Mom has the blueprints for a super cute life-sized gingerbread house (for the kids). Wow! My kids would eat that up (pun intended).

At Creatively Green, Wenona used decorated toilet paper rolls to make gift card holders and turned paint chip samples into cute gift tags.

Grandma Shelley at Grandma’s Modern Day Trunk of Treasures has an easy Christmas picture frame craft for kids that involves macaroni.

Sommer at Green & Clean Mom has tips for Eco-Friendly Gifts and Giving for Kids this Holiday Season and All Year Round. She suggests using pressed seasonal holiday flowers to decorate beeswax or soy candles, making decorative paperweights out of rocks, and making a picture frame decorated with puzzle pieces (from puzzles that are missing pieces). And what does she suggest to wrap these kid-friendly crafty gifts? Your child’s own artwork, of course!

Derek wrote a post with five simple holiday crafts to decorate and celebrate, including things like popcorn garland, salt dough ornaments, and a clove pomander made by sticking whole cloves into an orange – festive, pretty and smells great.

grinchfeet.jpgHere’s a craft that could double as a gift, Grinch feet slippers! Em from Modern Cottage simply washed some thrift store wool sweater on hot to make felt, then used this pattern and stitched them up into cute and warm pointy-toed slippers. Photo credit: Modern Cottage

If your holiday crafts require felt, like this Mini Santa Claus, Sleigh and Two Reindeer and you don’t feel like making your own, check out this cool recycled plastic felt made from recycled bottles that Summer of Wired for Noise recently wrote about.

Here’s a crafty project from Junk Creation that transforms old cereal boxes into gift boxes. Brandie, from A Journey of 1000 Stitches begins with just one…, also posted a craft project using cereal boxes and made them into magazine holders which could easily be decorated festively for the holidays.

Zen Crochet by Akua has a round up of several mini Christmas trees made both by knitting and crocheting and at All Free Crafts Blog there are some cute knit or crochet Christmas bells and wreaths.

tissuepaperwreaths.jpgHere’s an example of a craft that’s not necessarily green, but could easily be made more eco-friendly by using recycled or reusable materials. These tissue paper wreaths from There Is No Place Like Home aren’t specifically green in nature, but they look like a fun craft that the kiddos could get involved in and if you used old magazines instead of tissue paper, they become a little more eco-friendly. It might be fun for the kids especially to search through the magazine for the colors you need for the wreath. I think you could easily find reusable items around the house to use for decorating the wreath too. Photo credit: There Is No Place Like Home

Although many crafts you come across may not be eco-friendly, there are likely ways of greening them up a bit. Get creative, get crafty and don’t forget to get out your reusable and recycled materials whenever possible.

Cross-posted on BlogHer

Crafting pizza, mail, and sachets out of felt!

I’m not usually a very crafty person. I would like to be, but I just haven’t gone there yet and figure I have enough things to occupy my time without adding crafts to the mix too. ;)

However, in the spirit of the No Plastic Holiday Challenge (which means no gifts with plastic, not refraining from buying using plastic i.e. your credit cards, although that’s a good idea too), I’m forcing myself to get crafty. I’ve come across more cute homemade kid present ideas on blogs lately than I can recall, but I’ve settled on a few that I want to give a try.

felt play pizzaThe first is this homemade play pizza set made out of felt. No sewing involved, which is a definite plus in my book. Even though I have my mom’s old sewing machine, I have no idea how to thread it. I want to make two of these – one for each kid.

Photo courtesy of: Pink and Green Mama

mail setThe next thing that I want to try making is this Jolly Little Postal Worker set. This one requires some sewing, but I think I could do it by hand pretty easily. Ava loves to play “mail,” so I think she’d get a kick out of this and I’m sure Julian would be happy to join in on the fun. It’s not made out of felt in the instructions, but I’m enjoying working with felt and think that’s probably what I will use. Photo courtesy of: Craft Pad

That’s all I have planned so far for the kids, but I’m extending my craftiness to include some family member gifts too. I got the idea to make sachets from my friend Julie (who has yet to blog about it or I’d link to her post *nudge, nudge*). Basically, I’m sewing (by hand) the homemade felt sachetperson’s first initial on one of two small pieces of felt, then taking two small squares of felt and sewing them together with yarn and putting a loop of ribbon at the top (in case the recipient wants to hang it instead of put it in a drawer). Then the sachets will be stuffed with wool (if I can find a local place to buy some) that is scented with essential oils. I chose to use lavender and sweet orange.

Ava is really big on sewing these days (thank you, Waldorf preschool) and will be able to do a little of the stitching (we use thicker needles so she’s less apt to poke herself), and I think Julian will get in on the stuffing part. I like that they can get involved in the gift making this way. I made a test sachet tonight for Ava – pictured at left – and stuffed it with cotton balls, because I was desperate and do not yet have any wool. It’s not perfect, but I thought it turned out pretty cute. The nice thing is it was quick and easy to make and if I can get the kids involved in the process, it will make the little gifts that much more meaningful to the recipient. And now as I sit here looking at this sachet, I’m thinking we might make some felt ornaments too. Same process, but we won’t have to scent the wool. Cool! :)

So those are my upcoming craft projects. Between the crafts and the leadership role I’ve taken on (with a few others) for the urban hen movement (we’re working on a petition and will be hosting a public educational urban hen meeting in a couple weeks), I’m going to have a very busy December.

How about you? Do you have any craft projects you are currently working on? Care to share links? I’m always amazed at the things other people come up with and I could seriously read craft blogs all day. Ya know, in my spare time. ;)