Happy Easter, everyone! Instead of an edible concoction, I’m posting a recipe for silk-dyed eggs. There is a plethora of egg dyeing techniques, from the simple food coloring and vinegar combos, to the more advanced metallic paints, sticker combinations, Sharpies in various colors for Faberge emulation, our family’s tradition of onion skin dyeing (maybe I’ll post that eventually), etc. I found the silk dye method randomly months ago, the many muses of old musty ties and scarves inspiring me to finally do it. Today’s post is photo tutorial style rather than an egg memory. Let’s dive into the photos and tips:
Do not use any silk that has been treated with “stain resistant” chemicals. These do not allow the dye loosen from the fabric to die the eggs properly. I tried it and did not end up with any color on the eggs I wrapped with this silk. The players:
Clip out the insides of each tie:
Check the tags of the cloth you plan to use. Unfortunately, some “silk” is not actually silk. I found one tie at a thrift shop labeled as “100% silk” when the tag sewed underneath it said “100% polyester.” In general, if the fabric does not transfer any color, it is probably not silk even if labeled as such or it has a stain-resistant treatment.
A never-used snot sucker is your secret weapon.
Since silk dyes can be toxic, I don’t recommend using raw, whole eggs to cook or eat. To get around this, I used blown eggs, meaning I poke a hole into each egg pole, force the egg out gently, then dye the empty eggshell. This method is also nice to preserve the decorated eggs — they will last forever this way, save for a rough hand or an earthquake.
General instructions (my “recipe” below explains this a bit more eloquently): Poke the two poles of each egg using a wide needle. When the needle is inside the egg, swish it around inside to scramble the egg inside the shell to puncture the yolk; this will help you remove the egg more easily. Now use the snot sucker to gently push the egg out into a bowl (a scrambled egg recipe on my next post). Position the sucker over one hole, then gently press out (you are not vacuuming up the egg, you want to get it pushed out) to release the egg through the other hole. The trick is to use gentle pressure — otherwise, you’ll end up with a break or two like I did. Save the egg innards! Make a huge omelet! Or wait for next week’s post on scrambled eggs with croutons.
Time to wrap them up! My first trial used copious rubber bands. A fair method, indeed. The photo below shows I wrapped the eggs in the silk then wrapped again with a white cotton to prevent color bleed and subsequent water discoloration. It wasn’t really necessary with the patterns and colors I used. You decide what you like. We’ll compare the results later on.
Trial Two: Cotton twine and/or white sewing thread. This method obviates the need for the secondary white cloth wrap. You must wrap firmly but not too hard, as the eggs will crack with the pressure. (If you use whole eggs that you plan not to eat, you can wrap more firmly without as much crack risk.)
Line the slow cooker with a liner bag (there are toxins in the silk dyes that you don’t want to mingle with your slow cooker if you intend on using it to cook food later). Since the eggs are hollow, they will float. You must fully immerse them in the warm water for the silk dye to release and cook the color onto the eggshells. My solution: place glassware on top to submerge the eggs. Here they are cooking, 2 hours left of cook time. Cook them for at least 3 to 6 hours for the best color transfer.
A bird’s eye view of the glassware:
The results from Trial One (3 hour cook time):
And Trial Two (6 hour cook time). Notice the darker transfer of color (some better photos below, too). I used the same silk ties, but did not use the same cut pieces from Trial One. You could easily reuse scraps of cloth but the longer you cook them, the less color will be available for later use.
This is a 6 hour cooker egg, with white thread wrapping: great silk-to-eggshell contact and color transfer. The folds of the silk creates an interesting design, like wrapping paper.
This blue paisley egg was wrapped with the white thread — one of my favorites!
This duet shows an obvious color difference between the 3-hour and 6-hour cooked eggs:
The left-sided egg was wrapped with rubber bands and cooked for 3 hours. Observe the darker color on the right-sided egg as well as the lines of cotton twine forming variegations in the color transfer.
Another comparison on different cook times and rubber band versus white thread wrapping. The faint brown discoloration is from another egg’s wet silk that touched this egg while drying: a lesson to keep all eggs separated after removing from the water bath. Prop them up in an empty egg carton.
Basic summary of the cook times and the wrapping techniques: My first attempt cooked the eggs for 3 hours on a high setting in the slow cooker and silk secured around the eggs with rubber bands. While this method worked, the rubber bands did not provide complete contact of the silk to the eggshell. The transfer of color was acceptable but there were many white areas where the silk did not touch the egg and therefore did not transfer the color.
My second attempt cooked the eggs for 6 hours on a high setting in the slow cooker and silk was secured around the eggs with cotton twine or white sewing thread. I found the cotton twine worked a bit better than the rubber bands but still had the same transfer problem due to incomplete silk contact to the eggshells. You can also see in some of the photos that the thread contact created a striped effect on some eggs. Wrapping the eggs with sewing thread took much longer to do but provided better and smoother silk-to-egg contact, therefore better color transfer over the entire egg. It really depends on your goals on which wrap method you use. White spaces and certain colorful designs might actually be more interesting than fully colored eggs.
One year ago: schrödinger’s brownie
Two years ago: tawa naan
Four years ago: crisp flatbread with za’atar
- Blown eggs
- Patterned silk cloth, such as old ties from a thrift shop
- Slow cooker
- Slow cooker bags
- Thick needle
- Unused infant's snot sucker (and don't reuse after your project unless you have a fail proof method of disinfecting it!)
- If using silk ties, dissect them completely. Using scissors, clip them open and remove the inside liner.
- The easiest way to blow an egg is to poke two smallish holes, one on the top and in one on the bottom. Use a thick needle to do this, and swirl it inside the egg; this will break up the yolk and help it slip out better. Blow carefully to extrude contents. An unused infant snot sucker is also very helpful to do this. Don't use it to suck up the egg. Rather, gently try to expel the egg. If you use too much pressure, the egg will crack. Save the eggs and make a huge omelet. Rinse the eggs well and set aside.
- Cover the slow cooker with a slow cooker cook bag. Since silk dyes can be toxic, I always use a cook bag when I do this project. I do not want to mix toxic chemicals directly in my cookware.
- Wrap each egg in a square of fabric and wrap firmly but carefully with your desired wrap system. I recommend using white sewing thread for the best silk-to-eggshell contact. Wrap the thread completely around the egg so there is practically no silk showing.
- Place each prepared egg into the slow cooker. Add enough water to submerge the eggs. Blown eggs will want to float. I used empty glassware and bowls to help push down the eggs into the water.
- Turn the slow cooker to cook on high for 4 to 6 hours (8 hours would be even better I bet, but there might be some more risk of water discoloration from the dye bleed). When time is up, allow eggs to rest in cooling water for at least an hour before unveiling the design transfers. You may need to use the infant's snot sucker to remove the water from inside the egg. I usually let my eggs sit for a day or two to completely drain in an old egg carton. A thin layer of a neutral oil rubbed on the surface of each egg creates bit of shine and deepens the color slightly. Prettily decorated egg cups show your craft well.