Dyeing Table


It is best to have a separate area (away from your primary work area) for your dyes. I have a separate table in my “studio” for mine, and, when I teach, I try and keep the dyes a long way away from my students.  Mind you you don’t need and actual separate table–a counter or other such space will work as well.

The dye table should be well covered to keep the dyes from staining it.  Dyes WILL spill, so it’s best to be protected.  A layer of newspapers with a single layer of paper towels on top works quite well. The paper towels keep the newsprint ink from getting all over everything, as plain newspaper can be “dirty” because the ink often rubs off.  Another option is using a cheap plastic table cover for the bottom layer, and this is what I do at home.  I then cover it with brown butcher’s paper (which I happen to have left over from another project). 

It helps to have things placed in a sequential order.

At the left you can see a large plastic container with metal spoons.  The spoons will be placed in the dyes as needed.  The larger spoons and other odd implements are for holding down eggs in the dye–emptied eggs and older eggs tend to float. DO NOT store your metal spoons in a glass container, as they will eventually break it.

I like to use a large black plastic spoon for my vinegar rinse, as I am often submerging several eggs in there at once.  I mix up the rinse frequently, as it gets scummy after a while from the dissolving calcium carbonate.  The small shot glass you can see in front is my tablespoon measure for the vinegar.  I use an empty hummus container for the vinegar rinse; similar containers (e.g. from chinese take out soup) can also be used for the dyes. (For more on dye storage containers look here.)

The dyes should have been mixed up beforehand and cooled to room temperature.  It is a good idea to label the jars, and not just the lids.  I tape the packet label to my jars (bottom arrow), and date it (top arrow), so that I will know when the dye was prepared:

Dyes can be stored in either glass of plastic jars.  If using glass jars, plastic lids are needed, as the metal ones will rust from the vinegar. Jars should have water-tight lids and be heat resistant.  The jar pictured above, an older one, is not heat resistant, so I mix up my dye in a pyrex measuring cup and transfer it into the jar once it has cooled.  My newer jars (Zip-Loc, Gladware and the take out containers) are all heat resistant.

I place my jars in a more or less light-to-dark sequence1, both at home and when I teach classes.  At home I do it to keep organized, so I can find the colors when I need them.  In class I organize them this way to help my assistants and my students know which dyes come before or after which. When the dyes are in use, I place the lid in front of the jar, and rest the spoon on it.

I try to keep the dyeing (and the work area) are as free of paper towels as possible. 

When teaching, I keep a roll of white paper towels on the table2, and a paper bag or wastebasket below.  Towels are used to dry the egg, and then dropped into the receptacle.  In a small class, when another egg of that color needs to be dried, the previously used towel can be reused, if it isn’t sopping wet.  In larger classes, I usually don’t bother reusing in class, as it can bee too chaotic.  In either case, the dried out towels can either be reused later (after class) for dyeing or
for wax removal.

I generally use either Bounty or Costco brand paper towels for classes–they are absorbent without being too expensive, and are also great for use in removing wax3, so they serve a double function.

At home I use the three basket system.  I have two tallish waste baskets under the drying table, and one next to the drying table.  One of the baskets under the table is filled with yellow and red spectrum used towels.  The other basket stores the rest of my used towels: greens, blues, dark colors. I grab an appropriately colored used towel from one of the baskets, gently dry the egg(s), and then drop it into the third basket, for “wet” towels.  When the third basket fills up, and after the towels have dried out thoroughly, I sort them (by color) back into the first two. 

It helps that, at home, I use Viva towels, as they are thick, absorbent, sturdy, and seem to last forever. They are more expensive than ordinary paper towels, but are cheaper in the long run. I’ve been using some of the same towels for  more than five years. I keep a stack of clean, white Viva paper towels near the dye table as well, but rarely use them, and then only if I run out of yellow towels, or need a towel for a pastel shade.

It also helps that I fold my paper towels into quarters (in half twice) before I use them.  This allows neat stacking in the two storage baskets, easier use, and easier sorting afterwards from the “wet” basket.


  1. 1.I use several different dye sequences depending on the class. For more advanced students, i.e. those who have made pysanky before, the dye sequence I usually use for classes is (all UGS dyes) Yellow -> Light Green -> Light Blue -> Orange Rinse -> Orange -> Red Mix -> Royal Blue -> Black.  For absolute beginners, or very young students, I use the much simpler sequence of  Yellow -> Orange -> Red Mix -> Black.  Limiting the number of dyes simplifies teaching, and is a good idea when teaching classes, particularly for less advanced students.
    Red Mix is simply a red dye bath made by mixing together one packet each of UGS Scarlet and Red.  It gives a deeper, richer red than Scarlet, which can be kind of orangey.
    (NB: Royal blue should only be used after light blue or light green; using it after orange or red results in a muddy purplish color. This would be the color sequence for a Royal Blue egg:  Yellow -> Light Green -> Light Blue  -> Royal Blue.)

  2. 2.If you have time, it is quite helpful to prepare the paper towels ahead of time by tearing the individual squares off of the roll, folding them into quarters and stacking them.  This improves work flow, and avoids having wadded up towels littering your work area.

  3. 3.Paper towels are sturdy and absorbent, and are great for removing melted wax from pysanky.  I use the less expensive towels for this, and can usually clean 2-4 pysanky with one paper towel, by unfolding and refolding and using all sides of the towel, depending on how much wax is on the egg. Viva towels absorb well, too, but using them for this purpose would be a waste.
    Kleenex type tissues are usually too flimsy to do a good job of wax removal, but are good for use with solvents for removing residual wax.

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