Goldi's Locks of Yarn

My place to discuss my raging obsession with yarn and crochet along with happenings in my life and the world at large

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Pysanky: Colored Easter Eggs

This is such a timely, perfect message for our official Spring Holiday.  My friend Joe has a fascinating hobby, which he shares below.  He first introduced his pictures about a month ago with this little story (I'm only repeating the link once here):

I've been busy creating symbols of life and beauty,
and you can see them at the link below.

There's a story from the Ukraine that there's a
monster chained at the bottom of the world. Each
year, the monster sends out its minions to see how
many pysanky or decorated Easter eggs are being made.
If there are few, the monster's chains are loosened
and evil may move freely about the world. But if
there are many eggs being created, the chains are
tightened and evil withers.
This week, he posted a reminder to see his latest creations, including one in process...

Have you been to my photo album lately?
Pysanky-colored eggs (I'm not sure if your link is still intact under the description, will check it before posting the entry)
I will add more this week, as time permits, so check back as you are able.
After checking out his photo albums (there are 3 to browse from the above link, with the most recent being the one on the left, I fired off a list of questions about the process of coloring eggs that he incorporates. I learned quite a bit about this exacting, delicate art form - now THIS requires a LOT of patience, and a steady hand! He graciously answered my questions, and even provided several links to learn more about this art form, along with granting permission for me to share this here on my blog.

I am in so much awe at the incredible variety of creative self-expression we have available to us! For me, my favorite form is crochet, as it is with many of my visitors. But I have always been fascinated by all artforms, and have dabbled in many with varying rates of success for my efforts, and I just love to learn about new ones. This egg-coloring process that Joe engages in comes from a long tradition and rewards us all with some incredible, exquisite beauty.

Hi Goldi,
Well here answers to your questions, numbered for clarity.

--- goldi wrote:
1.How do you paint them, with a brush? Pens?

Nope, it's wax resist, or batik, method. Wherever wax
is applied to the shell, it preserves the current
color from being erased by the next color. Beeswax is
the wax used as it is pure and melts easily. We use
aniline dyes, a powder mixed with boiling water and
1/4 C white vinegar. The dye is cooled before using.
Vinegar acts as a mordant, meaning it etches the shell
in minute layers so that the color adheres to the

Applying wax is done with a kistka, a stylus which can
be traditional (a wooden dowel with a brass funnel
fixed to it) or electric. Either way, the wax is kept
very hot so that it runs out the tiny tip of the
funnel in a controlled stream. So you're literally
writing on the shell, which is where the name of this
craft comes from: pysanky (singular = pysanka), from
the Ukrainian word _pysaty_, "to write."

Anyway, once you are done waxing and dyeing and
everything is as satisfactory as possible, you remove
the wax either by holding the egg near a candle flame
and melting the beeswax off bit by by, or you place it
in the oven at 200 degrees and melt it off quickly.

2.Most important of all, how do you preserve the color?

Varnish. There are different kinds that are
appropriate but whatever you use, it prevents the
color from getting rubbed off. If the egg got wet,
the color would run a bit.

3.How long do one of these typically take you to do?

The one in progress has taken about 12 hours so far.
I messed up again. I'm using a new breed of egg and
I'm making newbie mistakes as I learn to deal with the
variations in shell porosity and whatever else. This
time the drain hole in the bottom of the egg leaked
dye into the interior, which is a bad, bad thing. The
dye can eat thru the shell if the shell is kept in the
dye. I'm letting this egg dry out for a few days
before I proceed. :o( I'm also consulting wiser
heads than mine for what to do. I can salvage this
egg if I do it right.

One sad thing is, once the wax is on the eggshell, it
is difficult to remove it, so you have to be careful
or learn to love the mistakes.

4.How long have you been doing this?

5 years or so. [A friend] found a beginner's kit at a
thrift shop and bought it for me. I thought he was
crazy and put it away. Then I got curious and decided
to try it and voila, I was hooked. :o) It helps that
we have a large Ukrainian community and an
international seller of pysanky supplies right here in

Here are additional links: (slow loader) (Romanian folk art with a
variation on the waxing process) (has pix of the
process) (a net-friend's site) (another net friend and the one
who taught me about the physics of eggshells and how
wax adheres and dye adheres-- smart woman! would love
to meet her)

Any other questions, just ask. :o)

I hope you've enjoyed learning about Joe's egg-coloring hobby as much as I have!
If you have any comments for him, I'll be sure to pass them along to him if he misses
them in the comments here.


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