Isabella Whitworth

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

Courses and talks

West Dean College (nr Chichester, Sussex)

2018 Courses


Handpainted Silk Scarves: Developing Design, Building Technique: for more experienced students

June 18 – 21 2018

The course will offer students opportunities to build on their existing technical skills for handpainting silk scarves and fabrics and will encourage a measured approach to making scarves to students’ original designs. There will be several techniques demonstrated, such as how to select an effective colour palette; calculating and recording dilutions and mixtures of dyes; the importance of well planned backgrounds and how to apply flat and shaded grounds. Some alternative resist fluids to wax (such as gutta and water-based resists) will be available. Students can also experiment with thickened dyes for painting and printing.

In terms of originating design, students should bring some sketches, images or ideas to develop into working designs for handpainted scarves or fabric. This is not a computer-based design course and techniques for interpreting designs and themes will be explored through drawing, collage, images and photos. Students can build up a sketchbook or folder of ideas and designs and make samples and/or scarves as time allows. Steam-fixed dyes will be used.

The course is suitable for intermediate to advanced students with general silk painting experience and familiarity with the use of wax resist. It is therefore ideal for those who have studied with Isabella before.

Silk Scarves: brilliant with Pattern

September 2 – 5 2018

This course will focus on making effective patterns for silk scarves. All students are invited to bring any image, item or textile which they find inspiring in its use of pattern. There will be a short tour of an area of West Dean introducing it as a source inspiration. Students will be shown how to make sketches and studies to identify pattern elements from nature after which the basics of simple pattern-making will be discussed. Students can experiment with original patterns of their own on paper and fabric.

During the course students will work with vibrant steam-fixed acid dyes on silk scarf blanks and can expect to produce at least four scarves through which they will explore various ways of approaching and creating pattern. Students will be encouraged to use different silk weights and types. They will use wax resist, clamped-technique shibori and direct application of dyes. These can be used separately or in combination. Although students will work on scarves, all skills are transferable to fabric painting.

Suitable for beginners, those who have studied with me before, or intermediate students wanting to broaden their skills

Silk Scarves – developing pattern

11 – 14 February 2019

Learn how to plan scarf designs, to source and develop patterns, and to transfer working designs to silk scarves and fabric. Wax, paste resist and some shibori techniques such as folding, clamping, tying and direct application of dyes can be explored. Suitable for beginners, those who have studied with me before, or intermediate students wanting to broaden their skills.

A First Dip into Natural Dyes

29 -31 March 2019

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

Ardington School of Crafts (near Wantage, Oxfordshire)  2018 courses

October 10th 2018: The Vibrant World of Natural Dyes 

A natural dye ‘taster’ day to introduce natural dyes. Students will learn a little about using weld, madder, cochineal and indigo and discover fascinating history from a colourful past. Students can dye silk samples and/or purchase a pre-mordanted silk scarf to dye during the day.

October 11th 2018: Shibori with natural indigo 

Students will learn about making an indigo vat, and some techniques for producing shibori (tied, folded and clamped) designs on silk and / or cotton. This course will be a follow-on to the one-day Vibrant World of Natural Dyes but can also be studied separately.

Please contact Ardington School of Crafts  for bookings for these and their other courses




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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