Monday, March 8, 2010


Slavic University is but a month away, and I'm looking forward to it! I'm not going to have a perfect kit, but I will try to spiff up a bit (and document my efforts here).

I also think I ought to make some margučiai and bring them to Slavic U. What am I talking about? Well, the singular is apparently margutis -- and margučiai are the same as pysanky -- in other words, decorated Easter eggs. Since the event is the weekend after Easter and the mid-Atlantic region will be bursting with new flowers and plant growth, what would be a better A&S display?

I've been saving yellow onion skins for a while now, and I have a gallon zip-bag filled with them. I look forward to boiling them and mixing in a spoonful of vinegar to create a natural dye. I may also experiment with the cooking water from red cabbage and green spinach leaves. These plant-based materials may not provide the intense color of modern commercial dyes, but I'm willing to try them nevertheless. If they all fail, I've got some dye tablets left over from last Easter!

The more common (and especially Ukrainian) technique is to use hot wax to draw the designs first, then color the eggs. I seem to recall, though, that last year I found some examples of Lithuanian eggs in which the artist dyed the eggs first, then scratched off the designs with a knife. I may experiment with both methods.

There's also the question of whether to draw the designs on raw eggs -- and then blow the contents out, leaving only a varnished shell to keep for the long term, or to decorate hard-boiled eggs -- and then have people peel and eat those artworks. Again, I may try both methods. I am thinking that the scratch-off method may leave the eggshell weak. Maybe I should try that on the hard-boiled potential lunch specials. :-)

So, without further ado, here are some links to eye candy!


  1. Very nice! I didn't know that the Lithuanians had an egg-decorating tradition too. (These eggs resemble a Polish tradition I had heard of, though.)

    Long ago when I had more spare time, I used to experiment with pysanky--the Ukrainian egg-dyeing style. I wasn't all that good but it was fun to experiment.

  2. Thank you! Egg-decorating seems to be fairly widespread in Eastern Europe. Don't forget, Lithuania used to incorporate most of what is now Ukraine and Belarus, and for a while there was the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth....

    The Polish word for pysanky is pisanki. Here's a guide to one Polish method of egg decorating.

    The Ukrainians seem to favor the metal funnel on a stick known as a kistka (plural kistky). The woman who ran the 2009 demonstration at which I made my egg got her equipment at the Ukrainian Gift Shop. From what I'm seeing online, though, Lithuanians who work with the wax-batik method use a solid stylus dipped into hot wax, like the Polish method above.

    The Belarusians (who were once ruled by Lithuanians, after all), Bulgarians, Serbs, Czechs, Romanians, Slovaks, and Slovenes all have their own words for pysanky.