Isabella Whitworth

probably more than natural and synthetic dyes, wax, resists, and history

Courses and talks

West Dean College (nr Chichester, Sussex)

2019 Courses

Silk Scarves – inspirational with dyes, shibori and wax resist

21-24 June 2019

Students at all levels are welcome on this course. Beginners will learn the basics of wax resist, some shibori techniques such as folding, clamping and tying, and direct application of dyes. If you have more experience you will be encouraged to develop your existing skills in applying design and pattern to silk. You will be encouraged to make experimental samples to explore tools and techniques before working on finished scarves. There will be guidance on planning scarf designs, transferring designs to scarves and fabric, and the use of different silk weights to effectively express individual designs. Anyone who doesn’t feel confident about drawing, planning and creative design is especially welcome.

You will be able to create several scarves, although you may choose to work on just one or two pieces. You are welcome to bring ideas, swatches or sketches and designs for discussion with the tutor before beginning finished pieces.

The course will feature a general session on sourcing inspiration, developing it into designs, and learning from examples of surface pattern designed to occupy a set shape. This will consider aspects of colour schemes and balance, mood, negative space, texture etc from a selection of books, images or samples. There will be an informal discussion of thoughts and ideas on the theme of inspiration for silk scarves and textiles. The tutor will bring examples of her work and sketchbooks as a further means to illustrate how ideas can be channelled into finished work.

Silk Scarves – brilliant with pattern

22 – 26 September 2019

We all love pattern, it represents order and structure. In terms of items that we create or decorate, pattern can be mathematically ordered – or loose and unstructured. Many textile patterns derive from nature and a close study of the natural world is rewarding when creating patterns and designs for hand painted items.

Isabella will discuss some of the elements of pattern-making and show how to make sketches and studies to identify and use pattern elements from nature. You then experiment with original patterns of your own on paper and fabric as you learn how to create effective patterned designs for painted silk scarves.

The course is suitable for those starting out in the medium of wax resist on silk, or with a little experience wanting to widen their knowledge. Those who don’t feel confident about drawing, planning and creative design are especially welcome!

Working with vibrant steam-fixed dyes on silk scarf blanks, you can expect to produce 3-4 scarves, as well as samples, through which you explore various ways of approaching and creating pattern. Wax resist, clamped-technique shibori and direct application of dyes, are all explored, used separately or in combination and on different silk weights and types. Although on the course you will work on scarves, all skills are transferable to fabric painting.

Trial pieces may be made on smaller frames, wax will be applied using brushes and traditional tjantings; stamps and found objects. Complex patterns will be produced by layering the wax and dye. The wax-out and steaming processes will be demonstrated and explained.

All students are invited to bring any image, item or textile which they find inspiring in its use of pattern.

Work that is completed late on in the course can be steamed by the tutor in her studio. She will return it to students by post for the cost of postage and packing, payable direct to her.

A First Dip into Natural Dyes

27 – 29 March 2020

A hands-on introduction to the word of natural dyes and their rich and ancient history. Weld, madder, cochineal and indigo will be used: all of these derive from plant material except cochineal, an insect dye. Students will use raw dyestuff as well as natural dyes in extract form and will learn vital essentials of preparing materials before dyeing. There will be a session on mordanting with alum and cream of tartar, and tannin. An indigo vat will be made and the associated processes explained. Students will create a starter library of colour samples. There will be the option to dye a scarf or individual samples and some basic creative techniques will be demonstrated.

Bookings through West Dean College

World Textile Day West Of England: Saltford Hall, Wedmore Rd, Saltford, Bristol, BS31 3BY

5 October 2019, 10 am – 4.30 pm


Deeper than Dyeing: A presentation by Isabella Whitworth on how World Textiles have inspired and influenced her work over the last forty years. With grateful thanks to Jenny Balfour-Paul for allowing Isabella to plagiarise her book title

See World Textile Day website here


Devon Events:

Hatherleigh Festival

Drop-in indigo workshop at Hatherleigh Festival 11 am – 4 pm July 20th 2019. Details here




5 thoughts on “Courses and talks

  1. Please advise if you offer any classes in the frozen North?? Scotland or north of England.
    I just love your work!
    With thanks. Therese

  2. Hi Isabella, Where is your course 20-23 July? It is not listed on the West Dean website.

    • I will check for you today. There is certainly a course scheduled for then!

    • I just called West Dean to clarify the situation. They do not release all courses for booking at once. Summer School can now be booked and also short courses up to the end of June. My course in July will be available for booking after Christmas: if you want to check the exact date may I suggest you call them to check? Very best Christmas and season’s greetings!

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