23 April 2011

The New Old School of Egg Decorating

I couldn’t remember the last time we’d decorated Easter eggs. My daughters have only done it a few times in their lives. And so, after seeing Soule Mama’s blog on eggs, I thought it was high time we tried it again. But having been inspired by Soule Mama’s crafty inclinations I thought we’d try using some natural dyes. I’ve never met this women, who lives on a farm somewhere in New England, where she sews and knits, photographs, writes books, and does so many beautiful things that make me wonder why I’m sitting in front of the computer screen (again!) instead of learning how to do something.

As kids, my siblings and I decorated eggs every year, if I recall my childhood correctly. We were dyers of the Paas School of Egg Decorating. How I loved to drop that colored tablet into the vinegar! Easter, to me, always smelled like boiled eggs and vinegar, rather than chocolate and lilies. We were pretty traditional in most of our designs, using crayons and rubber bands to illustrate our egg canvases. And usually, even our dad would join us, often late in the game, making cool multi-color eggs that made us all wish we had a few more eggs to color. And our mom would usually indulge us by letting us dye any eggs – even raw ones – that remained in the house.

It is definitely more work to make our own dye, and the process of dyeing took a lot more time than it would with the kit. It wasn’t a short activity by any means; in fact, eggs were in the dye baths for several hours, so it wasn’t the greatest activity to do with young kids. Arden got bored, but came back to check on her eggs several times.

To make a pink dye, we used beets. Coffee, of course, will give you a yellowish-brown effect – I tried not to think about what my daily habit is doing to my teeth! Red cabbage makes a beautiful blue dye. And red onion skins resulted in a very cool mottled greenish effect that was more dramatic than anything we could have achieved with a kit.

I was reminded of a framed poster my grandparents had hanging in their house, which had illustrations of various native-to-Arizona plants and small swatches of yarn that was dyed from parts of those plants. For a time, my grandfather was into weaving and even dyed his wool.

This process of making dyes was an experiment that made me think of how we – as a society – have lost a lot of skills and knowledge about how to make things and how to do things. A few generations ago nearly everyone had a garden, was an artisan of sorts, understood how things worked (and therefore could fix them), or created something that was a necessity for others. It was far more than a hobby or craft. We’ve ventured away from that for the most part, towards offices and desk jobs and computer screens. But the good news is that there are lots of people out there who do know how to make and create all kinds of things – and many of them write books and blogs about it.

What new “old skill” might you learn?

09 April 2011


Another pot of coffee pressed while
the snow piles softly against the panes

and our pajama’ed daughters drive small
vehicles of even smaller creatures

about the house, racing to appointments
here and there, they play at being us.

The snow grants reprieve, an excuse
to stop and wait, not pressed, unlike most

weekends when we rush toward whatever
it is we do: mostly, it seems tasks

not accomplished during the week.
Yet in today’s quiet Saturday

morning moments we linger: these we
yearn for during the chaotic pace

of work’s week, these that are pressed in a
book of memories banal but desired

still because they usually flee,
chased off by a cycle of trite to-dos

that drive us from our cozy bed, but
where this morning, your head on the pillow,

I watched you sleeping, and traced the
imprint of your heart, pressed into mine.