The egg shape has often inspired artists and the egg has been the palette for some of the most intriguing of folk arts in many cultures.
There is literally no end to the creative possibilities for individual expression on an eggshell. You can paint eggs or color them with crayons or felt-tipped pens, turn them into funny faces, top them with fantastic hats, trim them with feathers or sequins or simply dye them in an endless variety of hues. However you decide to do it, decorating eggs is fun for grown-ups as well as kids.
You can decorate either hard-boiled eggs or empty eggshells. The hard-boiled variety is a bit sturdier for children to use, while empty shells are best if you’re making an egg tree or want to keep the eggs on display for a considerable time.
Commercial egg dyes are sold especially at the Easter season and food coloring is available year round. Any time of year, you might prefer to craft your eggs by experimenting with colors from nature.
To make naturally dyed eggs: Toss your choice of a handful – or two or three – of one of the materials below into a saucepan. (Use your own judgment about quantity. This is an art – not a science!) Add about a cup of water for each handful, so the water comes at least an inch above the dyestuff. Bring to boiling, reduce the heat and simmer from 15 minutes up to an hour, until the color is the shade you want. Keep in mind that the eggs will dye a lighter shade. Remove the pan from the heat.
Through cheesecloth or a fine sieve, strain the dye mixture into a small bowl that’s deep enough to completely cover the eggs you want to dye. Add 2 to 3 teaspoons of white vinegar for each cup of dye liquid. With a spoon or wire egg holder from a dyeing kit, lower the eggs into the hot liquid. Let the eggs stand until they reach the desired color. For emptied eggshells, stir or rotate for even coloring. With a slotted spoon or wire egg holder, remove the eggs to a rack or drainer. Allow the eggs to dry thoroughly. Within less than two hours, refrigerate hard-boiled eggs that you intend to eat.
However you decide to color your hard-boiled eggs, follow these tips if you’d like to eat them later: Wash your hands thoroughly before handling the eggs at every step, including cooking, cooling, dyeing and hiding. If you won’t be coloring your eggs right after cooking them, store them in their cartons in the refrigerator. Don’t color or hide cracked eggs.
When coloring the eggs, use water warmer than the eggs. Refrigerate the eggs in their cartons right after coloring and refrigerate them again after they’ve been hidden and found. Don’t eat cracked eggs or eggs that have been out of refrigeration for more than two hours. If you plan to use hard-boiled eggs as a centerpiece or other decoration and they will be out of refrigeration for many hours or several days, cook extra eggs to refrigerate for eating. Discard the eggs that have been left out as a decoration. For more decorating ideas, visit www.IncredibleEgg.org.