Wild textiles – foraging and natural dyeing with Sarah Burns

Ref: S2D29871

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2 places available

About this course

Learn how to make a wide range of natural dye colours from foraged materials. You will gather seasonal flowers, fruits and leaves from West Dean Gardens and the surrounding estate to make your own natural dye recipe books.

Course Description

This course will enable you to explore the process of natural dyeing by foraging for your own plant matter. You will learn how to forage sustainably and identify common and rare flora.

Using seasonal flowers, fruits, leaves, bark and roots from different habitats around West Dean, you will create over 20 natural dye baths and learn how to extract the dye colour from the plant. You will also learn how to mordant your fabric in a range of mordants, so that it is receptive to the dye.

As well as dyeing sample pieces of silk, you will have the opportunity to experiment with a range of after baths and modifers, enabling you to create many shades and tones from one plant.

You will be creating accurate records of your own learning through the creation of your own Natural Dye Recipe Book. This will enable you to continue your journey of discovery in your garden/studio and develop your own practice.

This course will have a special emphasis on sustainability, looking at seasonal, local materials, and working towards having a zero-waste impact on the environment.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • On this course, the following items will be supplied:
  • Plant identification books, lining paper and pens for the plant ID; small dye pots, stirrers and labels and recipe sheets. Mordants (and mordant baths) and after baths; one metre of silk for mordant and dye sampling, and a hemmed silk square to dye in your favourite dyebath.

What students need to bring

  • For the foraging: foraging bags (a clean cloth bag or basket), secateurs and gardening gloves
  • For the dyeing: an apron, Marigold gloves and a waterproof pen (for writing labels)
  • Also, a stapler (for affixing samples to the recipe sheets) and a notebook
  • An apron and covered, non-slip footwear is advised

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Additional fabric, if needed

Additional information

Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear (no sandals or open toes).


Sarah Burns in the factory

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a pattern-maker and textile printer. She studied politics at Jesus College, Cambridge, and Textile Design at Chelsea College of Art. She teaches natural dyeing and printing in her West Sussex studio as well as at Ditchling Museum. Her designs can be seen at the Guy Goodfellow Collection in Chelsea, at Dartington Hall, and as part of the Virginia White Collection. 


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

Courses of interest

Further study options

Take the next step in your creative practice, with foundation level to Masters in Fine Art study. 

Depending on your experience, start with an Online Foundation Certificate in Art and Design (one year, part-time), a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design made up of 10 short courses taken over two years (part-time) or advance your learning with our BA (Hons) Art and Contemporary Craft: Materials, Making, and Place (six years part-time). All will help you develop core skills, find direction in your practice and build an impressive portfolio in preparation for artist opportunities or higher-level study. See all degree and diploma courses.