I met Betty in 2004. A petite, soft-spoken 85 year old who was very active. She had a lovely condo, drove all over, ate out with friends, and helped care for her husband. Hubby was in an assisted living facility. She was visiting him every time I stopped. With memory issues, he had ceased to join our conversations on most days. His input consisted of, “what should we do now Betty?” She was most patient answering him a dozen times during my visit. After she left him, she went to a nursing home to see her grade school friend who had fallen off a swing 75 years before and was paralyzed. Every day.
|Such exquisite Easter eggs. Made simply…|
This was a second marriage for him, but the first for Betty some 20 years before. Betty had no children, but was immensely fond of her 3 grown step-daughters. One of the girls lived a few miles away, the other 2 near the east coast. They came to visit their dad and Betty often. After he passed away, I would occasionally stop to visit Betty. She really wasn’t on my Parish Visitor’s list yet. She was doing fine, but we enjoyed each other’s company, so we continued our visits together.
|Betty, 92 who taught me how to do Easter eggs. Simply but with some flair…|
In 2009 Betty was celebrating her 90th birthday in a very big way. Her step-daughter Joan had come to Muskegon to pick up Betty and take her to South Carolina for 2 weeks. There were many parties, get-together’s with friends, family and neighbors. Joan had a special hard cover book published on Betty’s life adventures. Betty was quite an accomplished painter of porcelain dishes, so the book included many pictures. She was so proud of that book. I need to get my kids on board with that idea once I hit a milestone in my life (hopefully before I reach 90, but after I figure out my special gifts).
|Start with old silk ties. Silk part is a deal-breaker…|
It was soon after Betty returned from South Carolina that I happened to stop to see her. She had many stories to tell how her Joan had spoiled her with parties and sight-seeing. Then she said, “oh Denise I almost forgot. I have something to show you.” She brought out a tiny basket with 3 Easter eggs in it. Not like any Easter eggs I had ever seen before. Simply exquisite. Joan’s friend, Vaida had invited several neighbors over to teach them her mother Emilija’s version of dyed Easter eggs she had done as a child growing up in Latvia years ago. They saved every scrap of silk material throughout the whole year so every child could have at least one colorful dyed Easter egg.
|Cut he ties apart and into strips…|
Well you all know by now that I am the least crafty person/grandma on the planet. Give me a food recipe and I can usually make it work, but any craft project is totally out of my realm and comfort zone. But I was intirgued. After I got home that night, I wrote down everything Betty had explained about these cool eggs. Easter was almost a year away and I knew my brain would not retain this info. Every few weeks I’d stop at the second hand shops in town. Realized quite soon that Goodwill did not have good-deals for what I needed. I didn’t want to go to fabric stores to buy silk material. I decided that silk ties would be used for my egg project. A couple places here in town had silk ties for 50 cents each. I ended up with 20 ties, different patterns and colors. Though most ties are rather dark with navy and black being the dominant colors. Who knew ties are sewn together with about 10 stitches? Not me. I bought one of those whatcha-ma-call-its that rip out stitches. Cut out the small lining piece, then just cut the tie into strips. Stored them all in a big zip-lock bag.
|Bowl with water. Toss in some silk strips…|
As Lent was upon us the next year, I began having misgivings. The project sounded kind of complicated. My youngest granddaughter Peyton was then 5 and I could envision broken eggs all over the kitchen table and floor. When my oldest granddaughter Ariana and boyfriend were here a couple weeks before Easter, I asked them to help me for a trial run on the eggs. The 2 of them and John and I each did 3 eggs one afternoon. Holy moly did they turn out fantastic! We were tickled pink. We each had our own little work station. Water in a small bowl, silk strips, and a towel laying on the table in case an egg got dropped. And for all the water drips.
|The wet silk adheres easily to the egg…|
When Landon and Peyton came and wanted to make some, we had the best time. It’s really funny. At first we tried to differentiate each of their own wrapped eggs. The kids didn’t tie the eggs up, John and I did that part. When the eggs were done and being unwrapped, Landon and Peyton would get into some pretty heated arguments about which egg was theirs. (Are you kidding me)? No I am not. When one turned out extra pretty they argued. They each won this argument one time. Eight yr. old Landon decided he wanted an egg with all the same material. Into the big bag of silk strips he carefully sought out enough of one pattern material to finish an egg. He did it with a kooky orange and red striped tie. No doubt about that one. With PJ’s different pattern, she chose a tie I had found that had teddy bears all over. She painstakingly cut out several teddys, so her egg was easy to spot after it was unwrapped too. But they still fuss and fume about the rest of them. Each wanting credit for the ones that turn out striking. Goofy kids. Not one egg was dropped. Graham was putting on the silk strips when he was 2. He was OK not doing the muslin wrap or tying it up with string. He unwrapped them all. Flinging soggy silk strips all over and having a ball.
|Snug in muslin with crochet thread wrapped everywhere…|
I always made a dozen to take along on my visits once we were into Lent. I bought a fancy Easter basket, filled it with pretty grass and 8 or 10 different patterned eggs. Kept it in the fridge until I was heading out the door for a day of visits. If I was walking down the hall of a nursing home or hospital, doctors, nurses, visitors would stop and ask if they were real? Then how do you make them? After I got past the part where the wet silk strips were covering the egg, it was time to wrap it in a piece of muslin. Taking crochet thread and wrapping it snug, so the silk pieces didn’t come loose when you boil them. At this point their eyes would glaze over. Shoot, I lost em. Finally started carrying around one egg still wrapped in muslin with string wrapped around it. And several copies of written instructions to hand out. What a conversation starter! I’ve given classes in nursing homes. My neighbor is a special needs teacher. I spent a half day in her class room helping her students to do the eggs. They each got to bring home 3. They were by far the most thrilled with the project.
|During boiling, some dye sneaks out. Not to worry…|
This will be my 6th year making silk dyed Easter eggs. Graham just asked if eggs were one of our “craft projects” this year when we were face-timing? “Yup Buddy, we’re doing them this weekend,” I assured him. My friend Jane is having her granddaughter stay with her for spring break. I suggested Easter eggs as a project for them to do some afternoon. I’m bringing Jane the directions and enough silk to wrap a few eggs with Camila. Although I’m not very crafty, this is a old world craft I want to live on in children’s lives. And in mine. Thanks Betty, Vaida and Emilija. So much prettier than the horrible store kits Shannon used to bring over Easter weekend. Why did those kits always include glitter? I’d still be vacuuming up glitter 3 weeks later. Argh. With silk dyed eggs we spend time together doing a craft we all enjoy, making something gorgeous. For this grandma that’s a win-win…
|Bringing both baskets to friends for their Easter decorations…|