Around this time last year I learned about the art of Pysanky eggs. It’s a really fun craft of decorating eggs using melted wax and dyes. I was so intrigued by it’s complexity that I bought a kit in hopes of making more at home. Well, I think Easter came sooner than I had hoped so I didn’t get back to it last year. Luckily, my friend motivated me to try it again this year and we got together to begin our designs.
You can read more about this craft in a previous blog post here, but I learned a couple of new things during the process this year too. First, you have to understand how the whole process works and remind yourself that you’re working with colors from lightest to darkest when it comes to the dyes and applying them to your designs. That all begins with deciding on whether you want to use a white or brown egg, as it will effect the shades of the dyes later on (obviously the brown eggs produce darker shades). And I should also note: you do want to start with blown out eggs so that you can save them.
While the blown out eggs are drying (you want them to be completely dry), this is a good time to set up your dyes. I found that mason jars are the perfect size for the job because they also allow room for the water level to raise once you put an egg and heavy spoon inside. There are specific directions for dyes from the manufacturer but basically you add boiling water and vinegar to them.
Okay, so first new lesson learned: that powdered dye is made up the tiniest granules and it can SPREAD quickly! And if you have white kitchen countertops, find a different (i.e. less precious!) area to do this process. Carefully snip the packet of powder inside the jar and don’t thwack it too hard to get the last bits out. I (somehow) inhaled some and didn’t realize it until I went to the bathroom about an hour later to blow my nose. Needless to say, teal snot is quite startling! And we won’t even talk about the mess all around my mouth (whaaat?!).
You’re going to need a lot of paper towels for this project, and a lot of patience too. In total, I made eight eggs this year (well, seven but you’ll learn why later) over the course of about ten days because it’s something that I just left out on the craft table to come back to here and there (it was great during a couple of snow days when school was canceled too!). There are many small parts/steps during the process and a lot of waiting (mostly for the egg to dry between colors) but you can also really just take your time with something like this. It can totally be done within a day or two though; just use something like a blow dryer to help speed up the process.
Again, you can read about the kistka tool here. You’ll need that, wax, and a candle for this project. Once you seal up the holes of your egg, go ahead and start a design. I know traditionally these are done with extremely detailed and symmetrical patterns but I just couldn’t go that route this year. I wanted to do freehand designs (mostly because I had a hard time deciding what I actually wanted to create) but there are many books and online tutorials on how to create the traditional designs.
The whole process is exciting to me: from dipping in one dye to another to the final reveal.
Sometimes you just need help keeping that egg down in the dye! Ha ha! This seemed to do the trick.
My friend had this great idea so I created a little drying board for myself too. I found a scrap chunk of wood in our basement and hammered a few nails into it. Super easy and a great way to keep the eggs elevated while drying.
My favorite part of course is the big reveal at the end of the whole process. I love melting away the wax and rubbing the egg to show the colors and design.
And an unfortunate lesson I learned this time around: the dyes and repeated heating can make the shell super frail! (Insert sobs here) Be careful when rubbing away the wax and don’t squeeze too hard.
When I learned this craft last year, I also took our then 5-year-old daughter with me and she tried her hand at it. It was probably too young of an age to be quite honest, and there was more frustration felt than happiness in the end because “it doesn’t look like the picture in the book!”, so I’d suggest trying this with a child(ren) if they’re a little bit older. She wanted to try it again this year and fought through the frustration to create (what I think is) a simply cute design of scribbled circles. Maybe we’ll try again next year?!
You’ll notice that most of my eggs have a black background. You don’t have to do it like that – you can totally do different colors or even just stick to one (I want to try that next year). I love the flexibility of this craft and how you can make it as simple or complex as you want to.
So if you’re looking for a new craft to try around the Easter holiday, definitely give Pysanky eggs a try. And if you get to the point where you want to make seriously good, straight lines (unlike mine!) there are tools you can buy such as an electric kistka and different sized kistka tips. I am already thinking about what I want to try next year (definitely the single colored concept) such as stencils and different shades of dye. For now, these jars will go back down to the basement until we work with them again (which is one nice thing – they can be stored away and reused).
Happy crafting, friends!