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Natural Dye for Eggs and Rugs

The natural dye on the eggs goes well with this Persian rug.
The natural dye on the eggs matches this Persian.

Have you ever tried your hand at dyeing eggs with natural dyes?

Naturally dyeing eggs is truly a labor of love. It speaks to my instilled love for eating healthy. Collecting and prepping all the ingredients like onion peels, purple cabbage and chopped beets shows dedication. Allowing the eggs to simmer in their dye bath for 30 minutes or even overnight for truly stunning deep colors is worth the wait.

When I look at our naturally dyed Chobi Tribal rugs and our Kazak Tribals, I have a new appreciation for the amount of work that goes into producing one of these rugs.

Naturally dyed chobi rugs are roughly 100 knots per square inch but take the same amount of production time as their Persian counterparts at over 500 knots per square inch.

The preparation for getting a Chobi on the loom is over half of the time needed for the rug’s production, where as it takes less than 10% of the total production time of a Persian to get it on the loom.

What takes so much time to get a Chobi on a loom?

The wool is first hand-spun with a drop spindle and then dyed with hand-gathered natural dyes.

Abdul Khaliq and Abdul Razaq know what natural ingredients and dyeing techniques are needed to get these brilliant colors.
Abdul Khaliq and Abdul Razaq know what natural ingredients and dyeing techniques are needed to get these brilliant colors.

What is a hand gathered natural dye?

  • Pomegranate skins that were collected from the local fruit juice stands
  • Walnut shells picked up from the forest floors in September and October in the northern regions of Pakistan
  • Onion skins gathered from everyone’s house and local restaurants
  • Madder root painstakingly dug from underneath a mature madder plant and then chopped into small pieces for even cooking

Basically hand gathered natural dyeing is labor-intensive raw material gathering that then leads to labor-intensive dye bath preparation.

Ph Balance, Pounds of Raw Materials—It’s Science

A few years ago I took a Natural Dye class at a local fiber arts store. Our teacher was a combination of scientist and creative genius. She encouraged us to know the fundamentals of natural dyeing but not to be afraid to experiment. All things needed to be considered when creating a dye bath: the ph balance of the water, the time of year the raw ingredients were gathered and from where, the method and length of time used to extract the dyestuff and the extra additives, like iron or sulfur, in the water that can alter the final color.

Some colors required a simple soak for a few minutes. Other colors demanded a long soak in the dye bath, sometimes even overnight.

We were only dyeing wool in one pound bundles. One pound.
We were only dyeing wool in one pound bundles. One pound.

When our class dyed with onion skins, we used a year’s supply of onion shells collected from our teacher’s kitchen. One year collecting onion shells at home yielded only one pound of naturally dyed wool.

Natural dyeing is scientific art form

When I look at a 9’x12′ Chobi Natural Dye Tribal with its roughly 260 pounds of wool needed for production, I begin to think of the pile of onion shells needed. Or the walnut shells. Or the chopped and dried pomegranate skins. Just staggering. Purely staggering.

Natural dyeing is scientific art form, one that is normally passed down from teacher to apprentice. Bunyaad artisans in the northern regions of Pakistan have been rediscovering natural dye recipes nearly lost over time and are leading a resurgence in the Pakistani natural dye tradition.

Fair trade is preserving ancient art forms like natural dyeing and rug making. Without fair wages, these Pakistani Picasos of the fiber arts would not be able to produce quality, natural dye carpets that will endure what your family dishes out over the generations.


Try Your Hand at Dyeing Eggs—Naturally

Gathering and preparing raw materials for a 9’x12′ Chobi Natural Dye Tribal is a skill all it’s own, but gathering ingredients to create naturally dyed eggs is something we all can do.

Ingredients per 1-2 cup dye bath. Choose vegetal ingredients OR spices.

  • At least four cups of vegetal ingredients (ex. onions peels, purple cabbage or chopped beets) OR 2-3 tablespoons of turmeric Or an educated guess at the amount of cinnamon sticks.
  • Boil the raw ingredients until the dyestuff is extracted
  • Strain off the veggies and fill wide-mouth mason jars with this beautiful liquid
  • Add 1–2 tablespoons of vinegar to each jar
  • Soak cold hard boiled eggs in dye batch for a minimum of 30 minutes or overnight for deeper colors.
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And then, about a day or so later, you will be done and have beautiful eggs to show for your labor of love.

Share your Natural Dye experiments in the comments. We’d love to hear how your eggs or maybe wool have turned out.

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