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 – 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


RHS Rosemoor, Great Torrington, Devon. 3rd and 4th October 2020 

Natural Dyeing with Plants 

The course offers a hands-on introduction to natural dyes and their rich and ancient history. Students will learn how to prepare fibres, yarns, fabrics and dyes, and mordant items before dyeing. Weld, madder, cochineal and indigo dye will be used, as well as some material from the woods and gardens at Rosemoor.  Students will take away a set of dyed samples as well as their own individually-dyed silk scarf.

Bookings will be through RHS Rosemoor: see 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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