How to Decorate Easter Eggs Ukrainian Style

comments (6) April 16th, 2014     

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JenniferStern Jennifer Stern, contributor
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After I set up, I realized there were a few steps I had to do before I could start dipping those eggs.
Here are my first two finished eggs. Although they dont look like the eggs pictured on the cover of the kit, Im happy. The more you make, the better youll get at it.
This is the cover of the original kit we used to decorate eggs when I was a kid.
After I set up, I realized there were a few steps I had to do before I could start dipping those eggs.

After I set up, I realized there were a few steps I had to do before I could start dipping those eggs.

Photo: Jen Stern
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Decorating eggs was one of my favorite crafts when I was growing up, and they weren't just for Easter. We made them year-round. We would gather around a table covered with a plastic dropcloth. It was a kid's crafting paradise. In addition to the bowl of eggs, jars of different-colored dyes, spoons, stacks of paper towels, and little cone-shaped metal writing tools, there were a couple of candles burning. I couldn't wait to get my hands on them. Normally, we were not allowed to play with fire, but to decorate the eggs, we had to scoop the softened wax into the cone of the writing tool to draw a design. Thinking back, I am surprised that none of us got burned, or worse. I remember the glow of the flame as it played on the glass jars-it was magic.

I haven't decorated eggs in years, so I decided it was time, especially because it fits into this month's theme of Craft by Nature. I got really excited about doing this project. I dug out my old writing tools (technically, they are called "kistka"). They come in different sizes, and the larger ones have larger holes to make a thicker line of wax. I didn't have any dye left, so I went to the grocery story and bought some Paas egg decorating kits. I was surprised to see that they included all kinds of fun stuff in addition to the dyes, like colored sand and stickers. (I'll save that for the girls to have fun with later.) The downfall to these kits is that you are limited to a few basic colors: green, red, pink, blue. They don't work as well for this technique because you dye the same egg over and over with different colors as you draw more details with the writing tool. Happily, my mother came to the rescue. She had a couple of authentic Ukrainian egg decorating kits,. Now I have exciting colors like royal blue and scarlet. If you want the real deal, you can visit the Ukrainian Gift Shop which has all the supplies you need to make beautiful eggs.

As a kid, I just remember decorating my eggs. I didn't realize that there was some advanced preparation involved. I sat down with my egg decorating kit, all excited to get going, then I read the directions. I needed eggs at room temperature; mine were still in the fridge. I took them out to warm up and continued to read. I needed boiling water, so I put a pot on to boil. Then I read that distilled water worked better, so I had to go to the grocery store and get some. Finally, I sprinkled each color dye into a wide-mouth mason jar and added 1-1/4 cups boiling distilled water and 1 tablespoon of vinegar. The final delay in getting started was that I had to wait for the dye to cool to room temperature. This experience has given me a new love and appreciation for my mom, who always made our kid-crafting adventures seem effortless and instantaneous.

Here's what you'll need:

  • One Luba's Ukrainian Easter Egg Decorating Kit, which includes dyes, writing tools, and beeswax (I highly recommend getting one of these kits because it is filled with tips and design ideas)
  • Wide-mouth glass jars that are easy to get eggs in and out of
  • A candle that you can use to heat the writing tool
  • A good supply of tissues
  • A pencil

Start by making the dye as described above and get those eggs out of the fridge to warm up to room temperature. Here's a picture of my hot dye.I moved them outside to cool faster.

Hot dye   Many of the color dyes look black. To make it easy to tell if you are dipping your egg in green or blue, label the jars. I cut the color label from the packet and taped it to the outside of the jar.

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Comments (6)

416 writes: I think Ukranian eggs are beautiful. I have colored them before. The wooden eggs were a great icebreaker at one of our family reunions. Everyone took an egg when they came. They colored it with markers and signed it. Just before leaving the site, the eggs were voted on and the winner got a prize, had his/her picture taken with the egg and the whole celebrity thing. Each person took their egg with them or exchanged with someone else. It was a fun time.
Posted: 8:47 pm on April 18th
sewinggal1 writes: Although the traditional way of doing this is fun, if you don't have time for all the preparations, or if you can't afford the tools, but still really want to decorate eggs, you can buy a handful of wooden eggs. Just prime, sand, and paint the base colour the day or event the weekend before. Then all you have to do is pull out some permanent markers, paint markers, or, if you have the skills, fine brushes and paints, to decorate in traditional style. You can also do very modern styles too.

The nice thing about wooden eggs, is that they aren't as likely to get broken, so you have a long lasting hand decorated egg that can be passed down through the generations.

While I have one egg that my grandmother decorated in the traditional way, its not in great shape and may not end up getting passed down, whereas the wooden ones I did with my daughter will be around for much longer.

I think its great to do both if you can, but if life is just too busy, rather than skipping it altogether, you can still do it using alternatives, like we did.
Posted: 5:41 pm on April 10th
mjbains writes: I've been making these eggs - both traditional designs and some of my own - for more than 30 years now. It is a fun thing to do and I'm enjoying teaching people from my church this great art.

The distilled water does not have the minerals that some city water does. Boiling will take out the chlorine, but not the minerals that can sometimes interfere with the egg taking the dye.

I'm sure the kits will tell you, but it is important to note that the dyes are poisonous, so do not use them on boiled eggs you intend to eat.

But you can use Paas or other regular dyes and do simple designs on boiled eggs. Putting names on them can make great place cards for an Easter dinner.

Also, the beeswax is important because it sticks better to the egg than the paraffin in a candle. Lines are likely to flake off if you use the regular candle.

This site

has everything you would ever want to know about this fascinating art.

Posted: 7:22 pm on April 4th
diyday writes: I wonder, why distilled water? Less impurities? Would boiling the water beforehand serve the same purpose?
Posted: 8:56 pm on May 9th
designerdiva writes: We hold an "Eggstravaganza" at my church each year, which include egg dying for the little ones, and pysanki egg decorating for the older crowd. I find decorating the eggs very relaxing.
To mimimize the eggs cracking, both while we work on it, and later, we always use organic eggs instead of the regular grocery store eggs. They typically have a thicker shell.
If you want to keep your egg for many years, you will need to rotate it periodically (monthly) until the insides dry up.
Posted: 3:50 pm on April 7th
marie99 writes: i started making these eggs when i was a child and as you haven't done them for many baba won awards for her eggs and embroidery.........those were the days
Posted: 12:29 am on April 2nd
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