You may have seen the guest blog post on the C.R. Gibson site in which we shared our inspirations, one of which, for us, was and is blank stuff. So, you can imagine our delight with these blank orbs just begging to be embellished! (They are sitting in front of an etching I made in 1983 right before Ellen was born … blank eggs ready for adornment … even then.)
And now that Ellen is not only born, but working with me, we are still decorating these wonderful little oval canvases together.
Recently, when Ellen came to Austin for QuiltCon weekend, we decided to fit in some egg decorating after quilting hours. When we finished our daily quilting lectures, we headed home and pulled out our Ukrainian egg supplies, and started drawing with the magic wax. You will see below that we had quilts on the brain as we designed our post-QuiltCon eggs.
Visitors often ask us how to make these eggs, so here are a few tips so you can make some, too.
We have been making this family craft since our girls were about 6 or 7 years old … with supervision … it does involve fire! You can buy Ukrainian egg supplies many places on the internet. We have purchased kits from Hearthsong, and recently bought some new supplies from All Things Ukrainian. The art of the pysanky is basically a wax-resist and dye process much like batiking. (We were once told that most of our eggs are not officially Ukrainian, because we don’t always use the traditional motifs, but the method is the same, so maybe we’ll call them Texakrainian Eggs.) We like to blow our eggs a few days in advance so that they are completely dry. A Blas-Fix Egg Blower Set is a great tool for emptying your eggs with only one tiny hole (as in the egg below). In the past, we used chicken eggs only, but lately we have been trying duck eggs and even goose eggs, which are big honkin’ eggs, (so to speak). More egg means bigger canvas. Once you have your eggs ready, set out some containers for your dyes. Light a candle for heating your kistka (your wax drawing tool) and begin.
1) Heat the kistka over the candle, and scoop up a bit of bees’ wax. Then begin drawing on your egg with the wax to save the white areas. The secret is to keep your kistka at a 90-degree angle to your egg surface. 2) After you save the first color with the wax, drop your egg into your next dye color. 3) Next cover the parts of your design with wax that you want to be your second color and drop into your next dye color. Repeat and repeat. It looks like one of the Blue Men is working in this photo, but it’s actually Ellen, who is very careful to wear gloves, since many of the bright dyes are chemical-based. If you want something a little more natural, we also tried Wilton cake-decorating dyes from JoAnn Craft Store and they worked well. Next year, we are planning to try all-natural dyes, like beets and blueberries, as seen here on DesignSponge. 4) When you are finished dying your egg, it will be covered with wax. It will not be pretty. 5) In the past, we removed the wax by heating little parts of the egg with a candle, all the while trying not to burn it … but now we use the toaster oven. It is awesome. Place your egg inside on a piece of foil and watch it carefully. When you see the wax beginning to melt, take it out and wipe it with a soft cloth or paper towel. Voila! A beautiful Easter surprise. (Here are some more tips for successful Ukrainian masterpieces.)
Do you see the QuiltCon influence in our eggs above?
This year, the college spring-break weeks for our girls were at different times, so we saved the dyes between each visit. Here are some eggs that Margaret made when she came home. I know, it’s not exactly a girls-gone-wild kinda spring break, and we’re okay with that! As her consolation prize, we bought this cool egg-turner … a college gal just can’t have enough egg decorating supplies!
Below, photo left, is another example of an egg, which Margaret just finished dying. Her work is still covered with wax. Then, the photo right shows the same egg after it has been to the toaster-oven spa.
As you can see, every egg is beautiful in its own way, whether covered with detailed design or simple dots and stripes. Here’s a little example of Margaret’s pysanky path, and a method you might want to borrow if you are running out of egg-making patience.
Tip: You might guess that the process is a little repetitious, like knitting, so we recommend running a television show in the background that does not require that you look at it to understand it. Our favorite Ukranian-egg-making station is the Food Channel. And you might even discover a recipe for all the eggs you blew out of the shells.
Here are a few more examples of the diverse results you will have. Whether you use cake dyes or beet dyes, bees’ wax or crayons, we hope you enjoy your Easter-egg-making fun with family and friends. Happy springtime from the Texakrainians.