Happy Eastertime! I know, we’ve got 26 days and an entire other holiday between us and Easter, but for those of us who make Ukrainian Easter eggs (pysanki), it is prime Easter prep time.
So pin it, do it, take a picture and send it to me.
I should warn you that pysanki are addictive. There is something so incredibly relaxing and pleasurable about making pysanki. My friends and I have pysanki parties which are as delightful as the old quilting bees but without anybody poking their fingers.
Because a varnished Ukrainian Easter egg will look great for many years, you can build up quite a collection if you make a few each Easter.
I hope you will consider making Ukrainian Easter eggs this year, and I hope if you do, you’ll send me a picture. Now to the Instructions:
Ukrainian Easter Egg (pysanki) Tutorial
Product information can be found at the end of this post.
Preparation one day ahead:
1. Mix all the dyes in short pint mason jars according to the dye packet instructions. Some require vinegar, some do not.
2. Purchase unstamped (not Eggland’s Best), high-quality eggs. Numbly, bumpy eggs are hard to work with, and some eggs that are unevenly bleached will come out patchy. You can also use brown eggs which will be darker. For large pysanki, use goose eggs. You can even use ostrich eggs (Whole Foods), though it take a lot of dye to submerge an ostrich egg.
3. Blow the yolks and whites out of the eggs. You could do this with a safety pin and your mouth. You could also remove your own moles with those implements, by why torture yourself? Use a hand-pump egg blower! Your brain will thank me. (See product links at the end of the post)
4. Let the eggs dry for at least 12 hours. You could use unblown eggs and let the insides mummify, but the eggs may be too heavy to hang and prone to rolling since their insides are unevenly distributed. Blown eggs are much nicer.
Egg Party Day!
Set out all your materials:
- Tea lights on plastic plates
- Paper towels
- Q-tips for touch up
- Heavy spoons or spatulas
- Styrofoam and toothpick drying board
Step 1: Use a pencil to subdivide the egg into hemispheres. Don’t draw too darkly, and try not to erase. The eraser can work like the wax in preventing the dye from taking.
Step 2: Draw your basic pattern. There are lots of wonderful pattern books, or you can create your own designs. I recommend starting with one of the easy patterns in the books. This purple egg is a variation on one of the easiest beginner patterns .
Step 3: Heat a kistka (links at the bottom), one of these metal funnels on a stick, until it is hot enough to melt wax. The scrape the funnel across a corner of the wax into the top of the funnel pot.
Sadly, sometimes wax can drip on the outside of the pot and make a big wax blob on your egg. You can minimize wax blobs by quickly wiping the outside of the funnel pot with a paper towel each time you refill the pot with wax. Using the flame to keep the wax molten, you draw whatever lines on the egg you want to be white.
Any kind of candle wax will work, however, the black beeswax made specifically for pysanki is nice because it really helps you see what you’ve covered. I have made pysanki with white and yellow wax before, but the black wax is much easier.
Step 4: Draw the tip of the kistka across the surface of the egg to cover the lines that you want to be white. Continue to heat the metal on the flame and refill the pot as needed.
Originally Pysanki (little drawings) were made by drawing on the eggs with a branch (kistka) dipped in melted wax. The eggs were alternately drawn on and dipped in vegetable dyes (red onion skins are a favorite) until these beautiful patterns immerged.
Today we use little metal funnel pots, called kistkas after the original branches, to hold the wax and let a thin line through as the tip is drawn across the egg’s surface. There are even electric kistkas that heat the wax continuously so you never have to stop to reheat the funnel pot.
Step 5: Seal the holes in the bottom and top of the egg with a glob of wax from a large opening kistka. If you skip this step, the egg will fill with dye that can run out and ruin the egg as you proceed.
Step 6: Dye the egg in the lightest color you are going to use. The dye kits will give you a chart to tell you the order of colors you should dye the egg. Use a heavy spoon or spatula to keep the egg submerged thoroughly in the dye bath.
This egg was dyed first in red.
Step 7: Trace over whatever needs to remain the color you’ve just dyed the egg. If you’ve just dyed the egg yellow, apply wax everywhere you want to be yellow. The wax lines will preserve that color.
Step 8: Dye the egg the next lightest color. Repeat steps 7 and 8 until you complete your pattern.
This egg is a fairly simple three color pattern that Megan used for her first egg. The egg is dyed first in yellow, then in orange, and finished in pink.
For more intricate patterns, the whole egg can be practically covered in wax by the time you’re finished.
Step 9: The big reveal! Hold the egg beside the candle flame close enough to melt a small section of wax–but not too close or it will discolor the egg! Quickly wipe away the melted wax with a paper towel. Continue melting off the wax in small sections until the whole egg is clean.
If you find you have stubborn pencil lines, you can try erasing them now. A pencil eraser will work, but may also damage the dyed areas, or worse, crack the egg. A Q-tip dipped in alcohol or vinegar will also take pencil off. Just be careful not to take of the dye as well.
Step 10: When the egg is clear of wax, you can coat and seal the egg by running a little bit of varnish over it with your finger tips. Two or three thin coats work best. I have also used craft spray varnish, but it takes many, many layers and is a little more finicky than furniture varnish.
Let the eggs dry thoroughly between coats on a drying board made of styrofoam and toothpicks.
Optional Step 11: Display your workmanship. You can glue little ornament holders called “findings” to the top of the egg. Teacher gift, anyone? You can also buy nice egg cups to stand them in. After a few years, I amassed enough finished pysanki that I was ready to buy an ornament tree to display them safely.
And now for the gear portion of the post!
Trust me once you’ve used this little hand pump to blow an egg, you will never waste another brain cell trying to blow one out by mouth. Allow 12 hours after blowing the egg out for it to dry on the inside and the outside or you may get liquid running out and ruining your egg.
Then you will need dyes, kistkas, pattern books and wax. You can buy a beginner’s kit, if you prefer. It is well worth it to have a variety of sizes of kistkas. They really do make a difference in the quality of your workmanship.
I prefer black wax because you can see it really well against the egg. The ugly black wax is going to come off anyway, so don’t worry about how it looks in the process.
There are lots of nice ways to display your eggs from cups to single hangers to egg trees. I preserve the eggs year to year by nestling them in the grass of the Easter baskets, though some of my friends prefer to use an egg carton. Once you’ve mixed up the dyes in mason jars, you can seal all the jars tightly and reuse them for a year or two until they get oily and uneven.
If you make Ukrainian Easter eggs this year, please take a picture and send it to me. I may just post a montage of Easter eggs. The patterns I’ve shown are pretty traditional, but you can make any imaginable style of egg.Pin It