Though I’m actually Irish Canadian, my best childhood memories of Easter are decidedly Ukrainian flavored.
Manitoba is known for a huge population of Ukrainians. Huge! Excellent homemade perogies could be found anywhere… but I digress. My grandmother’s neighbor was Ukrainian, Easter meant that she’d bake up these wonderful citrussy breads – Paska – and share with us. Oh, they were amazing. My favorite part of Easter, I still remember those delicious breads.
Another favorite part of Easter back then was seeing the Ukrainian Easter eggs, which would show up in advertising, or on display, or whatever. I’d marvel at the intricate designs, the bright colors. Tons of beauty and talent, right there.
One year – I’m sure I was probably in grade 4 or 5 – my class went to the Ukrainian Cultural Center to learn how to make the eggs. We were given little tools to draw wax designs on our eggs – a little stick with a cone shaped well. We’d scoop some wax into the little well, use a candle to melt it, and draw our initial outlines on. We’d dye it, dry it, draw more wax on… lather, rinse, release. When we were done, we’d carefully hold our eggs up near the candle flame, to melt all of the wax we’d drawn on, to reveal all of the colors that we’d protected from subsequent dye baths.
Although none of our eggs looked anything like the gorgeous egg art displayed in the Center, it was a lot of fun. I’ve always loved learning new skills, and I’ve always loved learning about other cultures.
The other day, I was thinking about how much fun I’d had back then, and decided that I would try it again, with my husband. As we’re both sort of anti social, doing at at home was the most attractive option. As I didn’t own any Pysanky tools, I needed to either buy some, or some up with an alternate way to get the wax on the eggs. I briefly considered painting melted wax on with art brushes… but then thought of another way – CRAYONS!
So, last night we bought some crayons and eggs, and went to it. We had a BALL! It was so much fun, and definitely an interesting, fun alternative to our usual Tuesday night “date night”. Though our results were far from professional, they were definitely more interesting than your average “egg dyeing kit” results… and really easy! This is a fun craft for kids AND adults or all skill levels. Let me show you how we did it:
What you need
Napkins or paper towels. LOTS.
Egg Dyes and/or food coloring
Cups or bowls for dye
Hard boiled eggs
How to make Pysanky, the easy way
- Cover your entire work surface with newspaper – preferably a few layers. Put a good stack of napkins at each seat – you will go through a ton of them!
- Mix up your egg dyes according to instructions. We actually used Americolor food coloring, guessing at the amount.
- If your dye instructions don’t include the addition of vinegar, I highly recommend adding some – about 1-2 Tbsp per dye cup. This results in much more vibrant colors on the finished eggs. If you’d prefer to do pastel colored Pysanky, then skip the vinegar!
- Add 1 spoon to each dye cup, and line them up on your work surface, progressing from light to dark. Our dyes were ordered: Yellow, Red, Green, Blue, Black.
If you have food coloring bottles, dye jars, or anything else, it can be helpful to place them in front of their respective dye cups – for identification.
- Decide on what you’re looking to design, and what colors you’re using.
- If you are using any white in your design, draw that part of it onto the egg with a crayon. Make sure that any lines or spaces that you want white are completely covered – you are using the wax to protect that part of the egg from subsequent dye baths! Once you are satisfied that all of your white is drawn on, dye your egg in the lightest color you’ll be using.
- If you are not using white in your design, dye your egg in the lightest color you are using.
- Allow your egg to sit in the dye for about 2 minutes, until the egg is the desired vibrancy. Use spoon to remove egg from dye, pat COMPLETELY dry with paper towels.
- When egg is completely dry, use your crayon to draw on the design for the color you just dyed. For instance, if your egg is now yellow, draw the yellow part of your design on with the crayon.
- Dye egg in the next lightest color you’re using. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Here are a few progressions:
Once all of your eggs are fully designed and have gone through their final dye bath, dry them all off completely (this is very important). We placed ours in a mini muffin tin to rest:
Now here is where we diverge from tradition, and kind of live to regret it!
Traditionally, you use a candle to melt the wax off. However, in googling to see if I was COMPLETELY off the wall in wanting to use crayons, I came across a post from Martha Stewart that recommended using an oven to remove the wax. I was intrigued by the idea, and my husband definitely preferred that to using a candle, so we tried it.
The idea is to put your eggs in a 250F oven for 10 minutes, and then use a paper towel to gently rub off the wax, revealing your final design.
I don’t know if it was our dye (doubt it!) or the technique, but we found that the oven caused moisture droplets to appear, and ruin the dye job. Our darkest eggs were left with neon pink dots on it, almost looking like someone had splattered bleach on it.
The solution we figured out after our first batch turned out weird:
Use a mini muffin tin. Lay paper towels out over the impressions, and gently rest your eggs on top. Bake at 250F for only about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, carefully blot away any moisture. If any wax is melted, gently rub it off AFTER removing the moisture droplets. Return to oven, bake another 3 minutes, repeat. Do this until all of the wax is removed.
Some of our finished eggs:
Here are the eggs pictured in the progressions above:
Also – of COURSE – we *had* to make a Klingon Easter Egg:
(@jenusellis had the cutest comment on our tweeted picture: “LOL Is that a Klingon egg amidst the other pretty ones? Easter FtlhW” Hahaha! ‘FthlW’!!! Love it! I have the *best* Twitter followers!)
- You WILL break crayons. Have a lot on hand, and consider them disposable. The Dollar Store is your friend!
- Try to use a different color after each dye bath, so you can tell what you drew last time around, and which is new. Depending on the design, it CAN get confusing after a couple colors.
- You don’t NEED white, and you don’t NEED to end with your darkest color. Some of the prettiest designs don’t have one of those – or either of them. It can be very tempting to use every color, so try to break out of the habit!
- If you don’t *completely* cover a spot with wax, the next color of dye can/will seep in. If this happens, shrug if off and claim you meant to. It’s like… Easter Egg Patina finish. Yes. That’s what it is. You read it here first, I pioneered crayon Easter Egg Patina. Royalties, baby!
- Next time, I think we’ll be doing the traditional method of removing the wax. It’s slightly more labor intensive – and not as kid-friendly as the oven method – but I am sure it’ll produce a better final result. To do so, hold your finished-design, DRY egg up near your flame. Don’t let it touch the flame, or hold it OVER the flame – you don’t want it to smoke, as it may ruin your egg. Allow a small section of wax to melt, and gently rub it off with a paper towel. Repeat, until your whole egg is revealed!
- If you don’t have ankle biters around, this is a GREAT date night activity. Especially with booze. I tried to get #DrunkenPysankyMaking to trend on Twitter last night, to no avail. Regardless, it was fun, and highly recommended!