Isabella Whitworth

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

Courses and talks


West Dean College (nr Chichester, Sussex)

12th – 16th June 2022

Silk scarves – developing pattern

We all love pattern – it represents order and structure. Pattern can be mathematically ordered – or liberated and unstructured. Isabella will bring examples of her work and sketchbooks to explain something of the way scarf designs, which have pattern as their source, can be developed.

Pattern is an excellent entry point to the development of personal, original design on textiles. Working with vibrant steam-fixed dyes on hemmed silk scarf blanks or lengths of fabric, you can expect to create several scarves (as well as small samples), through the course. There will be guidance sessions on how to plan scarf designs, how to source and develop patterns or themes, and how to transfer working designs to scarves and fabric.

Wax, and paste resist, some shibori techniques such as folding, clamping and tying, and direct application of dyes can be explored. You will be encouraged to use different silk weights and weaves. Although you will work towards making scarves, all skills are transferable to fabric painting, or shibori work on silk fabrics. Trial pieces are encouraged on smaller frames to make initial experiments in techniques. Wax will be applied using brushes and traditional tjantings, stamps and found objects.

During the course the tutor will briefly outline the chemistry of steam-fix dye processes on silk. The practical aspects of wax-out and steaming silks will also be demonstrated. Anyone who doesn’t feel confident about drawing, planning and creative design is very welcome on this course.

The course is also suitable for you if you are starting out in the medium of wax resist on silk and have a little experience but are wanting to broaden your knowledge of developing design through pattern.

Booking and details  here

The Loom Shed, Cullompton, East Devon

May 14th 2022

Twist and Tie, Clamp and Dye

Learn the art of shibori resist-dye techniques at The Loom Shed.

This workshop will give you the chance to make two light, summery scarves in colours and designs of your choosing. Students will use steam-fixed synthetic dyes on gauze silk. All materials will be provided, including the scarf blanks, dyes and postage, to return one of the finished scarves. The other will be steamed at The Loom Shed to take home on the day.

The Loom Shed provides a lovely light lunch and plenty of tea and cake which be provided as part of the course fee.

Booking and details here

RHS Rosemoor, Great Torrington, Devon. 

July 9th 2022

Natural Dyes: A First Dip

Enjoy a hands-on introduction to the world of natural dyes and dye a unique silk scarf to take home. Students will learn how to use a selection of plant dyes including weld (yellow), madder (red), indigo (blue); and cochineal (pink), an insect dye.

Students will learn the basics of fibre preparation and mordanting and some simple dye chemistry will be outlined so that participants learn about the dyes on the course, where they are sourced, how they are prepared and the conditions they need for reliable dyeing.

Using simple-to-learn design techniques students will create their own scarf plus a small selection of dyed silk samples to take home

Scarves vary in price according to silk weights and the size of scarf. Prices from £8.50 – £20, payable to the tutor on the day

Booking and details here

RHS Rosemoor,Great Torrington, Devon. 

September 10th 2022

Natural Dyes: Dyeing the Rainbow 

Learn how to use natural dyes and dye a rainbow of colours. The course will focus on different groups of plants which dye yellows, reds and browns, and learn the basics of making an indigo vat to dye blue.  The course will also offer a brief introduction to the world of natural dyes and their rich history.

Students will dye with a wide selection of plant materials plus cochineal, an insect dye.

Some basic dye chemistry will be outlined as well as the preparation processes which fibre, yarn and fabric must undergo before dyeing. During the course students will dye a selection of reference samples on silk which they will take home. Overdyeing, and varying vat concentrations, will produce a selection of shades and a rainbow of colours.

Booking and details here

7 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!

  3. Hi Isabella,

    I just read about your class in West Dean in June and sadly I can not make this because of work. Will you be offering a similar class in West Dean in the Autumn? If so, I would be very interested. I did a class with Carole Waller a few months ago that I loved and would like to learn more. Thank you!

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