Friday, 19 May 2017

Needlefelting Wool and Silk Mermaids

I have been gambling on a frost free May this year. My most advanced young plants are already braving the weather out in the dye garden and another load of seedlings are hardening off on the patio. This week we have had plenty of rain after a very dry spell, so next week should be perfect for gardening. Poised on the brink of summer.

"Fancy going down the beach for a swim, Elinor?"
My companion gathered her shawl around her shoulders.
"You want to die of hypothermia? My core temperature is dangerously low as it is. Five minutes of sunshine and you've turned off the central heating, packed away your long underwear and planted out the geraniums. Far too soon, Beaut."
Just to get her blood circulating, we walked the dog on the dunes, coming home with a few gnarly lumps of driftwood.
"Himself will have a fit if you try to hide those in the garage. He's just reorganised all his bike stuff, I think he even had the hoover out there."
"Have no fear, Elinor, these are going straight up to the craft room. This week, I shall be mostly making mermaids."

The idea of modifying basic wool fairy making into a mermaid shape had occurred to me before, though I hadn't worked out all the details. I started with the usual strip of white merino tops, tied with a thread at the centre. Rather than twisting a pipe cleaner round the felted ball of wool that forms the core of the head, I used a 20 gauge green florists wire, which is strong, but flexible enough to bend easily. Twirling a thin length of white roving to cover the pipecleaner arms, I had to go back and add an extra layer, since the mermaid wouldn't be wearing a dress and her bare arms looked weedy. The white merino was then folded in half over the head and tied at the neck with another thread.
Thinking the nude shoulders and torso might look scrawny, I added a shorter, second layer of white wool with a hole pushed through, to drop over the head in place of the usual dress. For the tail, a section of merino/silk blend in blues and purples was laid flat with a strong thread across it two thirds of the way up.

The top third of the coloured wool was folded over the thread and the mermaid placed face down with the thread at waist level. Tying the thread firmly at the small of her back brought the coloured tops round her circumference and allowed me to stretch and fluff the lower coloured fibres in towards the midline ready to start needlefelting her tail.
Despite intensive stabbing at her torso with the needle to compress the fibres tightly, this mermaid ended up with a fine pair of shoulders.
"Not much in the way of tits, though, Beaut. How's a girl supposed to lure sailors onto the rocks if you don't give her the right equipment?"

"Beauty comes in many forms. She'd be very successful modelling a Spring Collection in Paris."
"Not with no legs, she wouldn't."

Agreeing that the androgenous look might be better suited to the catwalk, my next mermaid was given no extra layer over her shoulders. Instead, a strip of white tops was knotted round the florist wire then flipped up and wound around the upper arms to add substance where it was needed.

Making the tail narrow down before flaring into fins also proved a challenge. Tying it with silk or ribbon spoiled the sleek shape. Twisting the entire bulk of fibre, then needlefelting into the spiral gave a better effect. The lowest section was easy to open out and divide into two fins which could be needlefelted flat.
This mermaid also got a padded bikini top, needlefelted separately before fitting it onto her chest. Sewing a bead into her cleavage cinched the centre down for a considerably more buxom result.
Once long ringlets of Black Wensleydale wool locks had been needlefelted onto her head, the first mermaid's torso was mostly concealed. Drilling two holes through a piece of driftwood, the florists wire was passed through and twisted firmly to fix her in a sitting position, followed by some glue to keep her hand and tail and a few decorations in place. 
"Doesn't look very chirpy, does she?"
"She is a pensive mermaid, Elinor. Fathoms deep in thought."
"Probably wondering where her boobs are."

The other mermaid cheerfully adopted a more confident pose.

Since it had started raining again, Elinor left me to walk the dog while she offered her personal assistance with a smidge of extra wool for one of the new arrivals.
"There we are then, feeling better now? Buck up, girl, accentuate the positive."

Then the mermaids began to sing and within moments, Elinor was fast asleep.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Making Leaf Contact Prints with an Iron Blanket

The arcana of the ecoprinters seem Byzantine to the facebook observer. The images they post of leaf and flower prints on silks and cottons are lovely to admire while drinking tea in front of the computer, understanding the comments exchanged below requires a bit of prior knowledge. Researching the nature of the 'iron blanket' or carrier cloth, such a thing is variously described online. Typically, it is cotton fabric that has been wrapped round pieces of rusty iron and soaked in a solution of vinegar and water for a few weeks. Some mention using paper towels to carry iron onto their fabric. I decided surely paper would go soggy and fall apart during a long soak, maybe I could take a shortcut and simply soak my piece of old cotton sheet for a couple of hours in a diluted bowl of some iron solution I have been keeping in a jar. While I have no idea how much iron was absorbed into my iron blanket (the off white fabric in the first photo), the experts aren't precise about theirs either. I suppose they had to try out what would work for them and this would just be my first trial.
Anyway, to my understanding, once created, an iron blanket the same size as the fabric you want to dye is laid flat on a non permeable sheet, such as plastic or greaseproof paper. In these photos, you can just see the edges of my greaseproof paper, aka baking parchment, lying underneath the iron blanket. The first photo shows just the iron blanket with a selection of leaves with interesting shapes, which I hoped might prevent iron from reaching the silk scarf I laid on top, giving a resist pattern. The second photo shows the silk scarf with leaves of brambles, hardy geraniums and new shoots of lycestra laid face up on top, plus a scattering of dried coreopsis and chamomile flowers, to add a bit of colour.

Rolled around a section of plastic downpipe and tied up with string, the bundle was simmered in plain water for a couple of hours, left to cool overnight, then dried for a day. Steaming seems to be the standard method, but I haven't got to grips with sorting out a trivet to hold up the bundle and the lids for my dye pots are not remotely tight fitting.

At the grand unrolling I could see at once that my iron blanket had worked. Bramble and hardy geranium leaves seem to hold iron to print their own shapes in grey on cloth and they had definitely attracted iron from the iron blanket. The random selection of leaves I had picked from the garden hoping for resist patterns had actually left pale colours.
The aquilegia leaf made the best resist effect. The cotton iron blanket is lying on the left, with the silk peeled away from it to the right of the photo. Other leaves left subtly coloured shadow shapes rather than giving any dramatic resist effects. The photo below shows a faint fern print on the washed and ironed scarf.

Though the geranium and bramble leaves had made iron prints, and the flowers had added bronze and yellowy green splotches, the general impression is muted. Even printing throughout the roll, more professional than my usual iron soaked string results, yet neither as wild a palimpsest as my original method gives, nor as crisp and clear and rich as the photos on facebook.

Lately, some beautiful green ecoprints of horse chestnut leaves have been shown online, described as being made using an iron blanket on wool. This week, seeing the horse chestnut trees in flower, I picked leaves to try making some myself, using two pieces of wool gauze. One print would be made by sandwiching leaves between the wool and an iron blanket on greaseproof paper, the other would use my old method of simply rolling the wool up round the leaves and tying it with string that had been soaked in iron solution. The first was sprayed with white vinegar, a method frequently mentioned on the facebook group, then it was simmered in water. 
The second was heated in a plant dye bath made by simmering a bunch of dried meadowsweet, with a teaspoon of soda ash to alkalinise it. I expected an olive green background from meadowsweet and iron, rather surprised to see that gingery colour when I pulled it out of the dye bath this morning and stood it in the sun to dry. The mystery of the iron blanket bundle is, of course, hidden by its greaseproof paper wrapping. Today is Wednesday. I shall be strong and leave them both til Friday before unrolling.

Hmmpf, sigh. You may as well stop reading here. The mystery of the clearcut, deep green chestnut leaf print has not been resolved. 

This morning I unrolled my meadowsweet and alkali bath bundle, which had dulled down near to the expected olive green overall colour while drying out. There were wiggly iron string prints, nice red marks from some bits of fresh madder root, the vaguest of pale green stamps from the chestnut leaves and a modest print from a young bracken frond. Even the hardy geranium leaves hadn't grabbed enough iron to make a decent print.
How about the iron blanket and vinegar bundle?
Only marginally better colour from horse chestnut leaves. Bugger all prints from acer leaves and cotinus, though these are often shown used to great effect on the photos on facebook. 
Maybe I should try steaming the bundles, or pay for one of those online courses. Or just wait til my proper dye plants have grown this summer.

Time for a bacon sandwich and a day of planting out in the garden. Perhaps I'll do some embroidery on these this evening, while the cloth is still ridged by the leaf skeletons.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Moths Which Eat Wool - a Tragedy

Tineola bisselliella copied from Wikipedia
A small insect fluttered into my face, startling me half off the chair I was standing on to reach into the back of the cupboard above the wardrobe. My companion, Elinor Gotland, let out a bleat of alarm.
"A moth, a moth!" She backed off sharpish as it settled on the floor. "Away! The foul fiend follows me!"
"Calm down, Elinor. Moths are bigger than that, they have brown wings with patterns. That insect's nothing to get upset about."
She stepped closer and bent toward it.
"Nothing will come of nothing. Speak again."
The little thing was translucent and drab, it did not look much like the creatures that flap around lampshades or immolate themselves in candles. As I fetched out a small drawstring bag of wool - one of several remnants of whole fleeces I have spun in years gone by and not wanted to throw away, just in case I might want them one day - a few more fluttering things circled back into the darkness of the cupboard. Elinor took the bag from my horrified hand. She looked grave.
"The quality of nothing hath not such need to hide itself. Let's see. Come, if it is nothing I shall not need spectacles."

Once the bag was untied, we found the fleece inside was littered with little dried white papery cases and a fine black grit. Deeply revolting evidence of the life cycle of the clothes moth.
"I'll get a bin bag and throw the whole lot out at once."
"Good plan, Beaut." Elinor lifted her chin, waved a hoof and declaimed "Upon such sacrifices, the gods themselves throw incense." 
The rest of the day was spent hoovering every crack in the woodwork and splashing lavender oil on the shelves. Although they are called clothes moths, the ones in my cupboard hadn't touched the clothes in the wardrobe below, or eaten the carpet or curtains. They definitely preferred the bags of sheep fleece and the less thoroughly the wool had been washed, the more infested it was. Though there was no sign of damage to clothes, I took the opportunity to clear out the wardrobe of things that hadn't been worn in years. With the windows wide to the north wind and all the cupboard doors open, both the bedroom and I felt cleansed.
"Not such a catastrophe after all, eh Elinor? Time for a cup of tea, I think." My companion was not to be jollied along.
"Not a catastrophe, no, Beaut. This is a tragedy."
"Oh, go on, the moths only ate a few leftover bits of fleece, nothing special."
"A catastrophe strikes out of the blue. The bitterness of this tragedy is that, as usual, you have brought it upon yourself. Poorly washed, inadequately packaged and left undisturbed in the dark, that wool was bound to attract moths some day. The battle is not over, mark my words." Elinor shivered theatrically. "Take heed o' the foul fiend; empty that hoover bag: keep thy knitwear fresh; relax not; forget not to change the moth papers in six months; set not thy sweet heart on spinning in the grease. Elinor's acold."

Over the past four years, I have spun a fair number of fleeces into yarn, only never quite as many as I have bought. Those that didn't inspire me to start some new project straightaway got hidden in pillow cases under the spare bed. I made a card index of them last year and the process did curb my fleece shopping habit temporarily. Though I knew I shouldn't do it, when I saw a beautiful Blue Texel for a bargain price at Wonderwool last weekend, I succumbed once again. No prizes for guessing what I found when I looked under the spare bed.

Elinor and himself came home to find Bedlam on the blasted heath, the mattress upturned, every slat taken off the bedframe, the duvet and sheets drying on the line and me going full blast with the vacuum cleaner.
"Suck, hoover, and crack your pump! rage! suck! You flysprays and detergents, spout Till you have drenched our spare room, drowned the moths!"
Elinor put a hoof on my arm.
"Could'st thou save nothing, Beaut? Would'st thou give the bin men all?"
"Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are a ewe of stone. Had I your tongue and hooves, I'd use them so That heaven's vault should crack. My fleeces are ruined forever."
Himself gathered up their remains and headed back downstairs.
"I'll take these bags down the skip for you, shall I, love?" 
Meantime, disturbing some moths that had taken cover behind the books on the shelf, my vacuum cleaner hose swung desperately in their wake.
"Do poor Fran some charity, whom the foul fiend vexes." I shook off Elinor's grip on my arm. "There could I suck one up - and there again - and there!" 
My companion switched off the power at the plug and spoke softly into the sudden silence.
"Yet have I ventured to come seek you out And bring you where both tea and toast is ready. Come downstairs, Beaut. These moths will turn us all to fools and madwomen."
"Peace, Elinor!" I brandished the hose of the hoover toward her. "Come not between the dragon and her wrath."

No heap gives shelter, no place That guard and most unusual vigilance Does not attend moth massacre. Whiles insects may have escaped, I will preserve my stash of yarn; and am bethought To make the cleanest and most spotless store That ever calamity, that appetite of moths, Brought near to ruin. That's something yet! Slovenly I nothing am. 
This week, I have mended my grubby and cluttered ways. No more piles of abandoned projects in corners nor yarn displayed in open baskets - they now contain only dyed tops within sealed plastic bags. I had no idea how much handspun yarn I had accumulated until it was all bagged up and formed into an orderly queue, each bag spending 24 hours in the freezer. Though the balls and skeins looked unblemished, this precaution was intended to kill any hidden moth larvae that might possibly be lurking inside them. Before it had a chance to defrost, the wool went straight into clear plastic boxes with lids, which are now sitting on open shelves where the light can get in. Every box has its own moth paper.
My companion gazed around the room.
"Fair play, Beaut, it is unnaturally tidy in here. I'll buy you some lavender soap to put under the bed. Good moth deterrent because the smell lasts for ages. As long as you keep an eye out for trouble, I'd say the worst is over."
"And worse it may be yet. The worst is not, So long as we can say 'This is the worst.'" I muttered grimly. "How can I ever be sure there are no moths still sneaking about?"
"Ah, now what you need is a 'Modd y Ffyca'. An old Welshman taught me this. Fetch some of that raw Blue Texel fleece."
"But I've vacuum sealed it in a plastic sack."
"Nothing can be made out of nothing." 
Putting the unwashed locks in a black box, she propped the lid open with a stick and shoved the whole thing under the bed. "If there are any moths about, they'll nest here. Just check the box every week and you'll know." 
"Gosh, thanks Elinor. All I have to do now is defrost the freezer and I can get back to spinning. You've been so brave about your own fleece, with all those moths about. What would I do without you?"
"You'll have to manage by yourself tomorrow, Beaut. I'm off for a cold spa treatment then a wash, set and blow dry."

Friday, 28 April 2017

Shawl Joy by Sylvia McFadden - a Review

When I saw this picture of 'The Rain Outside', after much browsing through shawl knitting patterns on Ravelry, my heart swelled with sheer delight. It was perfect, perfect, perfect. 
In all three of her 'Rain' shawl designs, Sylvia McFadden incorporates short row segments of lace patterning into the long, narrow, crescent shape, making them ripple with organic asymmetry. Though lace knitters commonly confine themselves to very fine yarns, this pattern used double knitting weight, which fortuitously, was exactly what I had brought home from my holiday in Tacoma. The destiny of that yarn was quite decided when I read that Sylvia lives in Vancouver, which is not so far north of where I had been visiting. 

I knew traveling back with some of the hand blown glass they make in the Pacific Northwest would have been a fabulous disaster, shattering my bank balance, if nothing else. I think just gawping at all the Dale Chihuly work around the Museum of Glass fired me up to choose flaming colours when shopping for a rather more portable souvenir of wool.

Sylvia McFadden's shawl shape reminded me of the organic curves I had watched being blown and drawn out from molten glass. By changing her subtle two toned grey stripes for my red and brown Targhee yarn from Brooklyn Tweed, I hoped to enhance my shawl's resemblance to bright, wriggling glass ridges.

'The Rain Outside' pattern has a clear structure, starting with an overview of the order of things, so that the knitter understands how the work should progress with each step. I am not great with charts and really appreciated also having a row by row written version of the lace inserts. Whenever I got to one of these sections, I knitted it with handspun Abstract Fibres Targhee topswhich had been burning a hole in my knitting basket. Although I messed up getting pure colour changes while spinning, each of the six short row segments did knit up with differing overall shades. I remain mystified by the pattern instruction to work the repeat four times for inserts 4, 5 and 6. The pdf download for 'The Rain Outside' has alluring images of the finished shawl being tossed in the air. Unfortunately, these don't help when you need a visual clue as to how the whole shawl should look when laid out, good job I could go back to check the photos on Ravelry.

My 100g of red Brooklyn Tweed ran out a couple of rows before the true pattern ending, but no-one is going to notice. By luck rather than judgement, there was still plenty of handspun to knit the clever bind off, which is worked in rows at 90 degrees to the body of the shawl, eating up the live stitches sideways. Finally, washing and blocking revealed the final shape.

Delighted with my Tacoma shawl, I named it 'The Fire Inside' and wore it to show off at Wonderwool, having already sent my money to Canada for a copy of Sylvia McFadden's printed book of six patterns, which is called 'Shawl Joy'. This only took a week to arrive in Wales and was worth the wait, being a substantial A4 size with lots of beautiful and useful pictures on thick matte paper. It includes two top down triangle shawls and a centre-out square shawl as well as the three crescent shawls of the Rain series. Sylvia calls the combination of charts, short rows and lace she dreamed up for these 'a lovely, new unvented thing'. I heartily agree and applaud most of all the generous spirit which led her to include pages in the book which share the method and enable her readers to design their own versions. 

Did I mention I brought home two lots of Targhee tops and more Brooklyn Tweed yarn? I spun the orange and grey tops straight from the undivided braid and navajo plied the single, to keep the different colours as clear as I could
and in the longest possible stretches of yarn. Quailing at the thought of charting my own lace inserts and deciding that while he will cheerfully tart about in lycra outfits to go cycling, himself might baulk at wearing lace anyway, I used the basic shawl construction and the short row ideas given in 'Shawl Joy' to knit my husband a simpler, but unique scarf.
100g grey Brooklyn Tweed dk yarn made one set of plain garter stitch ridges and 100g hanspun Targhee made the alternate ones, into which I added short row inserts of stocking stitch, whenever it looked as though the yarn would have a long run of orange near one edge or grey near the other. Except when I got mixed up.

I'm calling this one 'Hot Coal'.
Sexy if you're Welsh.

Many thanks to Sylvia McFadden. Shawl Joy indeed.
ISBN 978-0-9952734-0-5 
Published by Hemlock Printers, B.C. Canada in 2016

Friday, 21 April 2017

Dandelion Flower Dye on Wool and Cotton

I straightened up slowly after wrestling a particularly recalcitrant weed out of the lawn. Crumbs of earth spattered up against the back of my companion's newspaper as I flung the beast down onto the patio.
"April really is a cruel month for dandelions, Elinor. This one put up quite a struggle." 
She dusted off her crossword puzzle, regarding me with some irritation.
"You might look very savage all covered in mud, but I see the plant won. Carry on digging in that slap dash fashion, snapping off half the root and the dandelions will grow back in no time." Elinor stomped across the lawn. "Look, this one is already setting seed. Soon you'll have a whole new generation to contend with."

I flopped into a chair. 
"I've been saving the flowers, though I suppose I could have another go at dyeing with dandelion roots, lots of online sites list them as a source of magenta red. Don't know if I can be bothered, though. Last time I tried, I got no colour at all. Not even beige."
"Which of the 234 species of dandelion root did you try?"
"I have no idea."
"Well, consider this a great opportunity for a controlled trial, Beaut. I should think most kinds of dandelion have found a home in your garden."

My dandelion dyeing objective was much simpler, just the April project from the Plant Dyes for All Seasons 2017 Calendar. Though I've heard you can also dye with the leaves, it was only too easy for me to gather 300g of dandelion flowers, this being about five times the total weight of the small skeins of wool I planned to dye. All of them had been mordanted in advance with 10% alum. Wanting to double check the effects of shifting pH and modifying the dye colour with iron and copper, I decided I was already confident enough of the necessity of using a mordant for dandelion dye.

After simmering the flowers for an hour and sieving them out of the bath, I added the soaked yarn, simmered it for another hour and left it in the dye pot overnight. Next day, the wool had taken on a pale greenish yellow colour and I put one skein aside as my reference point. In the photo above, it is on the far right, with the other skeins described anticlockwise. The pH of the dye bath was already naturally slightly acidic and soaking the second skein in water with vinegar made it only marginally paler. Soaking the third skein in water with dissolved soda ash to alkalinise it made the yellow come up much brighter and clearer. Pouring the remaining dye bath into two pots, I added some iron dissolved in water to one and copper to the other. The fourth and fifth skeins were warmed for half an hour in these two pots before rinsing, iron modified the original colour to a grey green, while copper made it go bright green. I think that last is the nicest colour I got, very vernal.
Having gathered another whole kilogram of dandelion flowers, I remembered a previous occasion, when I wished I hadn't squandered expensive woollen fabric on such an unremarkable plant dye. This time, I used a long offcut from some cotton and linen mix curtains, which had been mordanted with aluminium acetate. Well wetted and rolled up around some blackberry, hardy geranium and lycestra leaves with some dried flowers of coreopsis and chamomile and bits of fresh madder root to add splashes of yelllow, bronze and red, the bundle was tied with string soaked in dissolved iron. Expecting the iron to turn the dandelion dye a dull green, I simmered the loose fabric at the top of the roll in the
pot of dandelions on its own, before standing the roll up the other way in the pot with the business end submerged.
After an hour or so simmering, overnight soaking and a day or two to dry, the roll was unrolled. Dandelion dye had made the loose part of the cotton/linen mix go a similar colour to the first sample skein of wool, the roots and flowers had contact dyed the colours I had hoped for and the leaves had made iron prints.

In this photo, the fabric is folded in half, with the part which was innermost on the roll showing. The outer portion gets a bigger dose of the iron from the string and the colours are thus more saddened and the leaf prints more dense.

It has been one of those months. Good in parts. Plenty of dry weather and a fair amount of sun, but not many of my dye plant seeds have done well. The coreopsis seedlings mostly curled up due to thrips in the greenhouse and three successive sowings with no germination have convinced me my saved weld seeds are no good. No use grieving. I have ordered a new packet of weld seeds and some plug plants of other kinds of coreopsis. With some embroidery, the duller end of the cotton print made a cushion to thank my friend BG, who gave me the curtain material. 

At last, the time is ripe.

Tomorrow we are off for the weekend of all wool festival weekends!

 Awake BG and with my Mum,
The happy road to Builth Wells run;
Shake off dull sloth and joyful rise,
For Wonderwool at half past five.

(Poetic licence there, we shan't actually leave til quarter to eight and I shall be driving.)

Friday, 14 April 2017

Dyeing Plant Prints on Boiled Eggs

With family staying over the Easter holidays, I have enjoyed coercing visitors into trying natural dyes on hard boiled eggs. A friend showed me this video, which makes plant printing on eggs look like child's play. In practice, the first challenge was to find eggs with shells that weren't naturally brown already. After opening boxes all along the supermarket shelves, I bought a dozen white duck's eggs, a red cabbage and one onion, which I bagged together with all the loose brown onion skins in the tray. Next, to take my visitors for a hearty dog walk in the great outdoors, armed with a tub for collecting small leaves and flowers. Then another trip to the supermarket to buy a multipack of cheap nylons - none at home, I forgot that I haven't had to wear tights for years.

Cutting 20cm lengths off each leg of the tights, we tried to flatten leaves and flowers against an egg, then pull the tube of nylon over and stretch it away from the egg to tie the spare material in a knot. Keeping more than one flower flattened in place did not go well. Plant material has a tendency to roll itself up during the stretching and the egg may catapult off.

"Cracking start, Oscar." My companion, Elinor Gotland, considers my younger relatives fair game for her rapier wit. 
"Did you fancy an omelette?" 

In the video, the process only takes a second, but on close observation, you can see that the tube of tights starts off stretched over one hand, the egg and the plant material go into that palm, then the spare nylon is brought over the back of the hand and knotted on the other side of the egg.

"There now, I said just to use one leaf or flower, keep it simple, eh, stupid?"
Elinor went over to critique the dye pots.
"Sure you've got enough onion skins in here? Don't want to mess anything else up, butty bach." 

Unfortunately for Elinor, she had underestimated my nephew, who is quite hardened to cruel and disparaging remarks. 

Half the red cabbage was chopped into a casserole pot and our remaining eggs were wrapped and put in with it. All we had to do now was rescue Elinor, add water and boil.

After ten minutes, the eggs inside must have been boiled, though their shells still looked pale. After twenty minutes, the onion skin eggs looked seriously sunburned, while the cabbage eggs had only the merest tinge of frostbite, as shown in the photo. Turning off the heat after 30 minutes, we left the pots to cool. 
The video says they should be refrigerated for another unspecified period, maybe the extra time helps dye uptake. Since the red cabbage eggs did look quite blue once cool, without refrigeration, we went straight in there with the scissors, snipping off the tights and peeling away the bits of plant.

The fine leaves of fern and fennel made my favourite effect, though broadly speaking, I think the best results came from thicker and more substantial bits of plant material. I ought to warn you, the whites of the eggs take up a bit of dye through the shell, though no taste of onion or cabbage.
Only two days time and there will be chocolate eggs. Face it, nothing else compares.