Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hippety Hoppity, Easter's on its Way

Easter is on its way and as a child, that meant dying eggs the night before.  Actually, with children of my own, it still means that.  We were a pretty standard egg dying family and stuck with the old reliable Paas tablets. The effervescent tablets bubbling in vinegar is an image (and a smell) etched in my memory.

Comedian Patton Oswalt does a pretty funny bit about Paas Easter egg dye kits  (warning: language) and how they're the only game in town.  And though it might seem that way, it wasn't and it still isn't. 

 I found these vintage Easter Egg dye kits at the same estate sale I found the Police Circus film.  The first is Chick-Chick brand which appears to have been lost to the ages. This kit probably dates from the 1970's.

Unfortunately, the Space Station originally included wasn't present.

The kits were all mixed together, so it was a little hard to tell what went with which kit.  These circus cut-outs are pretty neat, but I'm not sure what company produced them.  Based on the art, they probably date from the 1950's or '60's.

The animal cutouts would wrap around your egg.  Feel free to print out the full-sized versions and create your own Easter Egg circus.

I assume the Ringleader and Strongman share the same head.

Unfortunately, I'm missing the goose's head.

White Rabbit Dye was produced in my hometown of St. Louis.  It appears to  be a no-frills kit, simply food coloring.  Started in 1888, they are remarkably still in business.

The many shapes of egg dippers.

RIT also produced Easter Egg dye featuring Tweety Bird.

Transfers for unknown kit

Instant Egg Art wasn't a dye, but rather plastic sleeves that could be placed over the egg.  Dipped into boiling water, the wraps shrunk to fit. They are still sold.

The ruling champion of Easter Egg decoration is, of course, Paas.  The process to concentrate Easter Egg dye into tablets was invented by a drugstore owner William Townley  in 1893.  He chose the name Paas after the Dutch word for Easter "Pasen".

Your typical (or is that "stereotypical") crazy Indian graces the front of this kit which probably dates from the 1970's.

This later Paas kit probably dates from the early 1980's.

I recall not liking the switchover to the "cutesier" Feathers, Cotton and friends.  I preferred the Richard Scarry-esque art of the earlier kits.

Despite what Patton Oswalt says, Paas isn't the only game in town.  There's an abundance of dye kits available and a myriad of ways to dye them.  Easter is on its way -- you'd better get hoppin'.


  1. i had an entire post for this written up last night, and when i hit "publish", it vanished into the void. (sigh!)

    anyway, here goes again: wow, PAAS. i never liked easter, and i hate hard boiled eggs, but i always liked making them with PAAS. patton oswalt is awesome and so very funny, but he had one detail wrong: the tablets went into vinegar, not water. anyway, i like the little detail of how they tried to get people to make them for other occasions throughout the year -- but you can't get the kits at any other time of the year. sort of a catch-22. the pumpkin carving kits are trying to do the same thing now, haha.

    i think the plastic shrink sleeves are pretty ingenious, actually. and those water-soluble egg tattoos... man. i never could get them to transfer right. they always were blobby, smeared, or off-kilter.

    i prefer the richard scarry style of PAAS illustrations, too -- the last ones definitely look early 1980s to me. too cutesy. also, nice comparison of the egg dippers. i wonder if it was aesthetics that drove the different designs, some sort of trial and error in egg-dipping science in progress, or was it purely financial, with one kind using less material than another?

    ok, thinking way too much about dying easter eggs on a monday morning, haha. back to work!

    1. > i never liked easter
      You never liked Easter??? Candy, man! Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs? Coconut Nests? Marshmallow Bunnies? I admit, I never liked Jelly Beans, except the black ones.

      >when i hit "publish", it vanished into the void.
      I always cut and paste to a notepad document just for such occasions.

      >also, nice comparison of the egg dippers.

      Yeah, I'm not sure why the different shapes. Did one company have the patent on the octagonal dipper forcing the others to resort to hexogonal and quadrilateral styles?

    2. yeah, never cared for it. i like the candy ok, particularly malted milk eggs and the jelly beans (esp. the black ones) -- but the rest is meh to me: chocolate bunnies? whatever. and peeps can die in a fire. (in fact, that's how i like them best -- toasted to blackness). i have been burned before typing up longish posts that have gotten eaten, and i usually do twitchily copy it before posting just in case, but sometimes i forget : (

  2. Wow, amazing post. Love all the imagery. I never used any of the dye kits as a kid: just basic food dye, cotton balls (useful for making bunny tails) and whatever else I could find. The egg dippers would've made things a lot easier. :) I used to have a book called "Things to Make and Do for Easter" and just had a blast with all the arts and crafts. We used to dye the eggs the night before too!

  3. Replies
    1. Hi Chelly, hope you had a Happy Easter as well. I believe we used plain food dye one year, but I argued with my mom that they didn't turn out as well, so we returned to Paas. I was always looking for that magical kit that would make our eggs look spectacular. I recall rubbing them with Crisco one year, blotching them multicolored another year with a washcloth and straight dye, shrink wraps yet another. I was never satisfied with the results and we always came back to Paas!


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