Janet Major

 sustainable styling, sustainable textiles


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link to acid dyeing

link to procion dyeing for vegetable fibres


Natural Dyeing

Of all my textile interests  one I love a lot, and spend much time on in the summer, is Natural Dyeing. I was encouraged when many years ago I entered my first skeins for public judging at Masham Sheep Fair and was awarded first prize! In 2014 I entered my Solar Dyeing (of chamomile) in the National Association of Weavers, Spinners and Dyes  Biennial Exhibition in the Hostry at Norwich Cathedral and  was awarded  the dyeing prize - image further down the page! That was special too as the entries for the exhibition had undergone selection to start with so it was an achievement to have some work in the exhibition, but then to be awarded a prize was great.

I often get comments - even from dyers- such as 'How do you get such strong colours'; 'How did you get your dyeing so even'; 'How did you get that many colours'? I would like to think that my many years of doing and teaching science contribute to my success with dyeing.


Natural Dyeing  is sometimes incorrectly referred to as 'dyeing without chemicals'. Water is a chemical and we are made of thousands of chemical substances!

It must be remembered that not all plants are non toxic - beware if mordanting with rhubarb or dyeing with lily of the valley or laurel for example!

Natural Dyeing is such a lovely activity to do outside. Now that we are back in Norfolk, with quite a large garden and close to beautiful countryside I have a plentiful supply of plants to use.

Ideally I like to prepare a supply of mordanted yarn ready over the winter but even so I never have enough! One of the pleasures of natural dyeing is that it is slightly unpredictable, the amount of colour available will depend on the individual plant and to my mind the degree or preparation of the yarn.

This is an example of dyeing from 2015 where I used meadowsweet from the nearby lane and then used additives along with the meadowsweet dye to give a range of co-ordinating colours. The aim of this set is to knit another fair isle yoked jumper ( see here) for the one I did as a trial design and fit.
I usually dye wool yarn and sometimes silk - both protein fibres. Nylon would work as well but I don't knit or weave with nylon!


Here is a picture of me wearing the yoked jumper that I knitted with this are on my blog - posts of 17Aug16, 26 Aug 16,12 Sept 16

       Picture taken at Aith's Voe, Shetland


 Skaw Beach set

This set is very special. The hat was knitted to a Shetland Wool Week pattern . I spun the Shetland fleece then dyed it to match the colours on this beach - the most northerly of Shetland. The first picture shows the seaweed which was the inspiration for these.



I knitted the fingerless mitts to use up some of the remaining yarn.
It is challenging to naturally dye to get exact - or even- close colours but I was pleased how this project turned out. (More here blog August 2014 on 14, 20 and 22nd, also 24 Sept 14 and 27 Oct 14

Recent Dyeing:

a. From an apple tree

As a challenge to myself I aimed to see if I could produce a set of naturally dyed colours from the old  Laxton Superb apple tree in our garden. This took quite a bit of planning but i was pleased to obtain some lovely colours. These were chosen for the National Association of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers Exhibition in 2016. Here they are and there is more on my blog of 7Sept16, 16 Sept 16


b. From ground elder

A plant that loves my garden but was unloved by me!

Perhaps I like it a little bit more now.


Solar Dyeing

These are a selection of plants from the garden set up  ready for solar dyeing. I like to leave the jars  for at least a month, but turn the jars and invert them regularly. I usually use natural dyes but have used acid dyes too.


This is my set of chamomile dyeing. These 4 balls of wool were solar dyed with chamomile. The jars were left for a month in my greenhouse

The yarn was originally as the ball in the centre ( ie natural coloured) and the one to the left of that is the chamomile on its own ( although it is brighter than shown here!)

Additives were added to the chamomile to give the 3 other colours.





Links to other pages about natural dyes



3 core dyes of indigo, madder and weld

designer yarn

I often get asked what I do with my dyed yarns - the answer is endless things!
Examples are :
In the pansy jacket ( see here) cochineal and dyeing in the exhaust of cochineal

A birthday card - even tiny lengths are useful. The    weaving was done on a rigid heddle loom. The dyed yarns are a mixture of natural and acid dyed. The warp and weft yarn is hand spun fine Shetland lace yarn.




I am still adding more information here  and I regularly blog about current projects.

Individual or group teaching; demonstrations, talks, presentations and workshops available.



janet major carleton rode norfolk 07990 702223     info@janetmajorimage.co.uk