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Easter Egg Dyeing, Inspired by the WPA Era.


I’ve been spending some time as of late with a 1945 book called Creative Hands: An Introduction to Craft Techniques, written by Doris Cox and Barbara Warren Weismann, who worked closely with the WPA Handicraft Projects of Minneapolis and Milwaukee in bringing the book together. Their book covers a broad range of crafts, from block printing to needlepoint, from soldering to button making. But the section that caught my eye last week was called Eggs in One Basket, in which Cox and Weismann offer egg-decorating techniques from different cultural traditions. The method that I knew that I wanted to try was this: “The simplest method is to gather up all the onion skins one can find and put a layer of them in the bottom of a kettle large enough to hold all the eggs one wishes to boil. A design, simple or elaborate, is then painted with hot wax on the shell of the raw eggs. The eggs should be at room temperature. Use an old brush because it won’t be usable for paints after this. Place the eggs in the kettle, adding onion skins at the same time; add water and boil the required length of time. The eggs emerge a beautiful brown with the designs showing up in the creamy eggshell color. Do not stir the contents of the kettle with a spoon while the eggs are boiling. The edges of the spoon mar the design.” Here’s one of six eggs that I made following these instructions.

Since their details were sketchy concerning cooking time, I used Mark Bittman’s advice in How to Cook Everything—I brought the pot to a boil, covered the pot and removed it from the burner, and let everything just sit for a little while (Bittman says 9 minutes is enough; I think mine were in there a little longer, truth be told). There are lots of variations on this onionskin egg dyeing method—I especially like these three at Instructables , Martha Stewart, and Have you dyed eggs using onion skins before? Do you have favorite egg decorating methods, or family egg dyeing traditions that you love?  


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