Flower/Foliage Easter Eggs

Flower Easter Eggs

After our success with the Tie-Dyed Easter Eggs last year, Cait and I decided to make it a tradition, just like our Christmas baking, and do it again this year. Obviously, we would do something different  (the tricky thing about this blog is I can’t ever really do the same thing twice).

Flower Easter Eggs

So after looking at this post and this post on dyeing eggs with natural dyes and using plants to make impressions on them, I knew this was something we needed to try – FOR SCIENCE. However, with Indy now part of the family and requiring our 100% attention at all times to avoid him being eaten by Gren, I knew we didn’t have time to set up natural dyes for the eggs. We would do that next year.

Flower Easter Eggs

I had some Ukrainian style pysanky dye that I purchased when Cait and I had a different plan for science-y Easter eggs (maybe we’ll do that another year as well), so I figured we’d use that instead.

Flower Easter Eggs

So all you need for this is whatever dye you’re going to use, some rubber bands (again, leftover from the Tie-Dye incident), some cheap or old pantyhose (the Pie bought this for me at the Dollarama and said it was an odd experience), and some flowers or plants. The plants that work the best are really floppy ones that are thin and pliable.

Flower Easter Eggs

Use scissors to remove the legs from the pantyhose and cut them into small sections large enough to wrap around whatever eggs you’re using.

Flower Easter Eggs

You can either leave them as a tube or slice them open – I found it was easier to open them up.

Flower Easter Eggs

Although I left the toes as-is.

Flower Easter Eggs

Oh and you need eggs, did I mention that? We’re going to hard-boil them in advance. Don’t worry if your eggs have those pink date stamps on them — that dye will come off in the boiling process.

Flower Easter Eggs

Set all your eggs in a pot of water and bring it to a boil, then turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner and leave it with the lid on for about twenty minutes.

Flower Easter Eggs

Now you can work on your dye. Cait and I picked out four colours to use.

Flower Easter Eggs

I followed the instructions on the packet, using distilled water (leftover from our soap extravaganza) and vinegar to prepare my dyes.

Flower Easter Eggs

Then I had to let them cool. And just a warning, powdered dye gets everywhere, as I learned during my Tintex experiment.

Flower Easter Eggs

Then all you need to do is take a piece of flower or leaf and put it on your egg. This is some cilantro that I’m growing on the kitchen table.

Flower Easter Eggs

If you dip the leaf in water first before you smooth it on it will stick better. Cait and I also suspect that the thin layer of water between the leaf and the egg provides a bit of surface tension or something science-y that will serve as a barrier for the dye later on.

Flower Easter Eggs

Then all you need to do is wrap it tightly in a piece of the pantyhose.

Flower Easter Eggs

The tighter you wrap it the wider the spaces between the strands of nylon and the easier it will be for the dye to get through – also it will press the plant closer to the surface of the egg and be a better dye blocker.

Flower Easter Eggs

Secure the ends with a rubber band.

Flower Easter Eggs

We tried it with some bigger flowers.

Flower Easter Eggs

And some wee small flowers.

Flower Easter Eggs

And just the petals of other flowers.

Flower Easter Eggs

Flower Easter Eggs

Flower Easter Eggs

This is less easy than they make it look on the internet.

Flower Easter Eggs

Into the dye. Leave it for however long you are supposed to according to your dye.

Flower Easter Eggs

We hauled ours out after a while and gave them a rinse – we probably should have let them dry in situ but we were under a time constraint.

Flower Easter Eggs

As you can see the ones with the floppy thin plant materials worked the best. The one on top here is a few sprigs of tender rosemary and we were both quite pleased with how that turned out.

Flower Easter Eggs

All in all, though, this experiment could have gone better. Part of the issue is that we couldn’t really find any nice slender foliage as Ottawa is still covered in snow. This is definitely an activity better suited for a more southern climate.

Flower Easter Eggs

Pretending it’s Spring with a Feather Bouquet

Feather Bouquet 45

So.  If you’re anywhere in the world that has been experiencing winter this year, you know that it pretty much has universally sucked.  In Ottawa, and Canada in general, we just got wind that winter isn’t ending anytime soon.  In fact, the forecast is so depressing that our country’s senior government meteorologist has gone into hiding.  I kid you not.

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So I’m doing what I do every year and going into denial.  I’m going to pretend it’s spring with a pretty fake bouquet in my front hall.

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I picked up a bag of feathers from Value Village for $1.99 about two weeks ago.  Inside the bag were four packages of craft feathers from White Rose, which was a craft supply store similar to Michael’s that went out of business when I was a teenager.

Feather Bouquet 1

Three packs of white chicken feathers and one pack of dyed chicken/other bird feathers.

Feather Bouquet 2

Also, holy smokes feathers are staticky.

Feather Bouquet 3

I didn’t want an all white bouquet with accents of brown, so I decided to dye the feathers to suit my mood.  I’ll leave the ones that are already coloured for something else.

Feather Bouquet 4

Find a dye-proof container (usually a glass bowl), and drop in 4 cups hot water, 2 teaspoons white vinegar, and lots of food colouring in the colour of your choice.  I went with red, purple, and orange.

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Jam those feathers in and squish them down.  You want to bedraggle them as much as possible.  You can un-bedraggle (undraggle?) them later once they’re dried.

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Leave them in the dye baths for 5 to 15 minutes.  The longer you leave them in, the darker they will get.

Feather Bouquet 12

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I picked plastic bins for my dye batches because I could cover them when I left them unsupervised.  I suspect if you have small grabby children this might come in handy.

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Pull the feathers out of the dye baths and set them to dry for several hours on a paper towel.  Just a warning that until the feathers are completely dry, they will still stain things with food colouring, so be careful where you set them.

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I thought that the orange batch was doing better than the other two, and I later found out why.  In the orange batch, you can see that I only have two of these long feathers with the rounded tips.  All the other ones have the flat tips.

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In the red/pink, the proportion of long round ones is higher.  For some reason these round ones are more waterproof (I’m sure someone who knows more about feathers knows why but I don’t really care).

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The purple batch had the most round feathers of them all, and so came out the palest overall.

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But I wanted variety, so variety I got. And I also dyed my fingers quite well.

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Once they’re dry you can fluff them out again.

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Then I took a spool of thread and got to winding the feathers together at the stems, one by one, starting with the smaller ones in the centre.

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I added larger and larger ones as I kept going, eventually tying off the “bloom” with lots of thread left over.

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One down, several more to go …

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This is definitely a job you will want to do while watching or listening to something else.

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When I finished, I took a branch I found in the park and used the loose thread to wind the feather bundle to the thread.

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All finished.

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The Pie thinks the pink ones turned out the best, with the colour gradient, but I’m partial to the orange ones.

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Experiments with Tintex Fabric Dye

“it doesn’t look like you dye-it” – Stef

In February of this year, as I was procrastinating studying for my exams, I decided to try to dye my dining room curtains, just to see if I could.  Before the wedding last summer, the Pie and I painted both the living room and the dining room a cream colour, and the white cotton curtains (from IKEA) I had in there made the room look too stark. We didn’t have the money to purchase new curtains, so something had to be done with what we had.

I thought, why not purple?  A rich, deep, eggplant.  Yes.

I’d always passed the boxes of Tintex fabric dye in the grocery store and wondered how the process worked.  Now was my chance to find out.  While I was picking out my purple, I also picked up some forest green (in case the Pie objected to purple) and I read the instructions on the back of the box.  It suggested I remove all traces of the old colour or stains on the fabric with the Tintex colour remover, so I picked up two boxes of that, as well as two each of the purple and the green.  The dye amount is by weight, and I figured each curtain panel would warrant its own box.

Now, if you know me, you’ll know that I have a tendency to spill, drop, tear, break, or otherwise destroy things.  The idea of me in charge of a vat of purple dye was enough to give the Pie arrhythmia, but I promised to be careful.  And, to my credit, I was, very careful.  Nothing got dyed that shouldn’t have been.  I wore long rubber gloves, tied my hair back, and wore my oldest clothing.  And I didn’t spill a drop!

Everything ready and waiting for the colour remover.

In order for fabric dye to set it requires that the water in which it is dissolved be as hot as possible, boiling if at all possible.  There was no way I could put an entire curtain panel in even my largest pot, so I needed a new venue.  Luckily I had an extra-large Rubbermaid bin, and I set this in the bathtub to avoid spills.  I boiled up some water in my big lobster pot, and poured it into the tub.  I followed that up with water from the faucet.  Fortunately our water heater is brand new and about three feet from the bathroom, so the water that came out of the tap was near to boiling itself.  I also turned up the heat in the bathroom (which normally hovers around sub-zero).  This was the best I could do.

The instructions on the box also recommended that I dye each piece of fabric separately, but I didn’t trust myself to either time it properly or get a uniform water level between the two batches, and I needed these panels to come out the same colour, so I did them at the same time.

Having the colour removed.

First, I boiled the water and dissolved the colour remover in the tub.  I plopped in the curtain panels, which were white, but which did have a few stains and marks on them that could have stood to be removed.  I sat on the edge of the tub for the time allotted, stirring my cauldron of smelly, steaming liquid and poking the fabric back below the surface with a long metal slotted spoon (from Lee Valley – I highly recommend them).

When my time was up I tipped out the liquid and rinsed the curtains as best as I could.  It is really backbreaking work, and quite hard on the wrists to bend and squish (but not wring) a huge pile of wet fabric from your knees.

I repeated the boiling water process with the purple dye.  The powder itself looked black, and billowed up in a multicoloured cloud as I poured it.  I was wiping red, blue, green, and black dye particulates off the walls of the shower for a week afterward.  Once the dye was dissolved it made an opaque, wine-like liquid that steamed and smelled quite evil.  I dumped in my wet, rinsed curtains and poked at them for the requisite amount of time.

Bubble Bubble Toil and Trouble.

Already tired from my rinsing of the colour remover, and solidly bored from having to sit by myself in the bathroom for over an hour, I was not all that enthused about rinsing the newly dyed curtains.  The Pie, bless him, helped quite a bit, running the removable showerhead over the fabric as I worked it with my gloved hands.  Eventually, after about the ninth rinse, I gave up and put them on an extra rinse cycle in the washing machine.

Draining the Vat

I figured there wasn’t enough dye left in them to do any real damage to the machine (we had a residual bleach accident when we first moved in that made us reticent to put fabric altering substances in the washer), but there was enough still in the fabric that it might rub off on something else when it was dry.  The nice thing about the rinse cycle is that it did a better job of wringing out the fabric than I ever could, so I didn’t have to worry about drips while it was drying.

Hanging from the shower rod to dry.

I hung the fabric to dry, and the next day I hung them in place in the dining room.

They weren’t a perfect job, by any means.  There are several patches of white remaining on the fabric.  I think this is either the result of me not rinsing them enough after the colour removal stage, or the dye didn’t penetrate that far into the folds of the cloth while it was in the tub.  Next time I might just time and measure it better and do each panel separately to ensure better coverage.  But for a first attempt, I’m quite pleased with them.  They turned out the colour I wanted them to and they really make the dining room much cozier.

Back in the dining room.

Cleanup was nearly a breeze from this experiment.  I was very careful to have no spillage, so anything and everything was fortunately contained within the tub.  The tub, however, is very old, and a lot of dye worked its way into the tiny scratches on its bottom and sides while I was doing the rinsing.  It took some scrubbing with vinegar, baking soda, and borax to get it out, but it was easier than I had expected.

Cleanup was a snap.

Flushed with my success, I took the remaining dye (the forest green) to one of the lampshades in our living room.  This lampshade is one of the cheap ones from IKEA, and is made of paper overlying some sort of plastic.  It was getting dingy and dirty, and during the day, when the light was off, it looked quite yellow.  I dusted it off with a clothes lint brush and took it into the kitchen.  I laid down a garbage bag and then several layers of newsprint on top, and took one of our sponge brushes from the closet.  The lampshade was too wide to fit into a pot, and I was concerned that the paper part of it might dissolve if I were to submerge it.  Instead, I planned to paint it.

Painting on the Dye.

I filled a 4-cup measuring cup with boiling water and emptied in the green dye, which also looked pretty black, and dissolved the whole thing.  I let it cool slightly, and then set to painting.  I let the sponge brush fill with dye and ran it gently up and down the sides of the shade.  I had to let it thoroughly dry between coats so that I didn’t destroy the paper, but I managed four coats before I was satisfied.  An unexpected effect was that the paper on the shade was actually crinkled, with wrinkles running here and there along the sides of the shade.  The dye darkened the wrinkles more than it did anything else, and so now the shade looks sort of like dark green leather.  When the light is on, the lines stand out even more.  It’s quite nice, actually.  Another decent first effort.

Finished, Greenskin