Growing up in Canada, April has always been the month of fantastic chocolate that goes on sale quickly, pastel colours on everything, and of course, dying eggs. I have dyed eggs almost every year since I was a young lass. I stopped when I moved out on my own and would only really end up with a bunch of eggs that I didn’t know what to do with. Anytime I’m with family for a couple of days over the holidays, or thinking of something fun to do with friends around this time….. the eggs become involved.
If you have dyed eggs before, you probably remember getting excited by the colours that the little pucks of dye turn in the water and vinegar. The thrill of dipping your virgin white egg into a bowl of colour. I might be exaggerating a little, but it was always fun to try and make the most interesting colours and combination of colours to accent your designs in wax crayon. It was like working with watercolours with blending to make new colours and everything light and soft and covered in pastel colours.
Of course, as we all know, things are done in different ways all across the globe. In the Ukraine, there is a very interesting twist to this similar tradition. I was invited to my friends house to do some egg dying. She had been talking about dying these eggs for weeks. I love egg dying as much as the next girl, but I couldn’t really understand why she was so excited. She was telling me about these special egg decorating kits that she had to search for online as the craft store she used to get them at doesn’t sell them anymore. You can buy them for about 35 dollars depending on if you can find them locally or not.
When I arrived at her place, her hands were covered in blue powder along with other parts of her. She was just finishing up getting the dyes ready. Already, I could see the difference. little white pouches contained the dyes for our eggs. Amazing colours with only a couple pastels to be seen. We had a bright fuchsia purple, turquoise, scarlett, and most surprisingly, black. They were all vivid. Laid out on the table were a few other things I didn’t know were involved. Candles, little tablets of beeswax and kitskis
This was a whole process that really should have spanned over a couple of days and I could definately envision ladies sitting down to put together these little treasures. The first big difference is in the eggs. These kits advise you to use large goose eggs that can handle the teeny tiny designs that are involved. We used both regular and goose eggs. Another big difference is that these eggs need to be room temperature so that condensation doesn’t happen as it warms up. The third difference is that these eggs are not hard boiled, but raw so that the insides will dry up and you can just display them.
Another thing that is a little different is that the instructions instructed us to draw our patterns onto the egg in pencil first. Traditional patters are very geometric and quite lovely.
I scoffed at these patterns as I decided that my first egg should be done freehand. So skipped the pencil and went right to the kitski – of which we had 3 different sizes (that looked like the blue one pictured below).
They work like fountain pens where you fill this little metal cup with wax which you need to melt in a candle to get flowing. The wax flow is precise and delicate lines. The hardest part was to trust that it was writing when you couldn’t really see it, which is the most time consuming and frustrating mistake we made as so long as when blotted on a paper towel it left a little spot of melted wax, then you were good to go. The thicker wax made everything harder to clean up later.
After the first layer of wax is applied you can dunk the egg into the first colour. All of the initial design ends up being white.
With Ukranian egg dying, as with regular egg dying, you should start with the lightest colour and move through to the darkest, selecting 5 or 6 that you’d like to use. After the first colour is applied you can take the kitski again and continue the design or add accents. These accents are preserved in the colour the wax was melted over. Anything added to the egg above would be orange, for example. This continues as many times as you’d like. The cool thing about these dyes that is different from what I am used to, is that they thoroughly dye over the colour before, like paint. These colours are bold and bright and amazing. It’s like comparing the watercolour of the Canadian eggs to acrylic.
After you apply all your wax and all your colours, you hold your egg to a candle and melt it all way to reveal the work of art underneath. For the moment of truth:
They are not quite the geometric designs of the traditional eggs, but it does really give you an idea of how bright and amazing the colours are.
After the first night I was hooked and went back a few days later to do a few more eggs. Now, I didn’t catch pictures of them before my cats knocked over the container, but there are witnesses that my eggs looked similar to this:
Traditionally, these types of eggs are given as gifts to bring prosperity and good luck. There are different symbols that can be incorporated into these designs to bring good luck, money or any number of good things to the recipient. These eggs are meant to be given as gifts and to be displayed out of sunlight to avoid fading. No egg wars for these puppies!
I had a lot of fun and if you have the time and the patience, it’s really impressive and rewarding when you uncover your work. I don’t recommend them for anyone very young as it’s quite delicate work, but I could have spent a weekend putting these together and watching my favourite movies.