Last year, Suz Lipman who writes the blog Slow Family Online wrote a super post about Dyeing Eggs Like the Ancients with Plant Dyes. This was the memory jogger, so this year I thought I would Be Prepared! When walking the dog yesterday, I came across lots of celandines.
These sunny spring flowers are common all over the NE Scotland at this time of year. They also make excellent flowers for adding to pace eggs.
To make pace eggs is surprisingly easy. I think it's an ideal Forest School campfire activity as it just involves boiling eggs. However, time is needed for the dye to work so do this first thing and open them up at the very end of a session.
1) Wrap up each egg in a piece of muslin. I used a new cotton kitchen cloth as I didn't have muslin which was suitable for 2 eggs. Put the celandines in the cloth with the flower heads touching the eggs. Remove the stalks and leaves. Tie each bundle with string so the flowers can't fall out.
2) Put the bundled eggs in a small saucepan. The smaller the pan the better so that the dye is more concentrated. The traditional dye is onion skins. You need the at least one onion per egg - but only use the skins. Save the onion for cooking in a dish.
3) Confession time. I didn't use onion skins because I didn't have enough onions. I used the water from a jar of almost-finished homemade pickled beetroot that a Czech friend gave me. I added a little pink food colouring "just in case".
4) Hard boil the eggs in the dye. Then leave the eggs for a few more hours after that. I think this is important in that when I tried this before, I didn't get a very strong colour. Then unwrap the eggs and...!
And for a close up view...can you see the flower imprints?
5) The children will probably have picked more celandines than needed. Rather than chuck them away, dry them for use in art activities. I find commercial flower presses quite fiddly. The quick method involves a few squares of toilet or kitchen roll. Put the flowers on the roll.
6) Then cover up the flowers...
7) And stick them inside a big, heavy book. Put more books on top of this one and leave for a couple of days. Once they are dry, use them as you please!
Pace eggs are a lovely natural addition to any other egg celebrations you may have planned at this time of year. Help keep this tradition alive and spread it a little further.