Silk painting – brilliant pattern with Isabella Whitworth

Ref: S3D29852

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About this course

Use vibrant steam-fixed dyes to develop brilliant silk painted patterns. Inspiration for original pattern-making is discussed and techniques used include: wax resist, shibori, direct application or a combination.

Course Description

We all love pattern, and pattern can be mathematically ordered or loose and unstructured. Textile designs on this course might derive from observation of nature, or be based on a geometric manipulation of cloth and materials.

Using her own work as an example, the tutor will discuss some elements of pattern-making, and you can experiment with your own ideas and learn how to create original work on silk scarves.

This course is suitable when starting out in the medium of painting and dyeing silk, or when looking to widen experience and knowledge. Those who do not 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 three to four scarves, as well as samples, through which to explore various ways of creating pattern. Wax resist, tie-dye and direct application of dyes can be explored, used separately or in combination. All skills are transferable to fabric painting, although on the course, you will work on scarves.

Trial pieces with wax can be worked on small frames, using brushes and traditional tjantings, stamps and found objects. Complex pattern and texture will be produced by layering wax and dye. The wax-out and steaming processes will be demonstrated and explained, and a variety of tie-dye methods will be demonstrated.

The tutor will give two half-hour presentations during the course, which may cover design, inspiration, techniques, tools or materials.

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


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


  • Dyes, wax, tools and accessories required for use during the course.

What students need to bring

  • A mixed pack of rubber bands
  • A sketchbook or pad, minimum A4 in size
  • Favourite silk painting brushes, if you have any
  • If you have already done some silk-painting or wax-resist work, you are warmly invited to bring samples or images. You can also bring favourite brushes, tjantings, etc. A range of hemmed scarf blanks can be bought from the tutor or you can bring your own oblong scarf blanks, not larger than 45cm x 2m, and of a minimum 8mm weight. 10mm is a recommended weight. If you prefer to work on fabric (which you can hem yourself later), you can bring this with you.
  • For certain techniques it may be necessary to purchase specific scarves from the tutor.
  • You can pay the tutor by cash or BACS.
  • You are also invited to bring any image, item or textile that you find inspiring in its use of pattern.

Available to buy

  • Available from tutor:
  • A range of silk scarves in various weights. Payment by cash or BACS.

Additional information

Please note: The College supplies oblong frames for students, which will take scarves (or fabric) up to a maximum 45 cm wide and 2 metres long. Smaller scarves can also be stretched on these frames. If you wish to work to a larger size than mentioned above, or a different proportion to the frames, please contact the tutor to discuss requirements and check this is viable by email: [email protected] While every effort will be made to accommodate such requests, allocation of space for all students needs to be considered. Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio. This includes stout covered footwear, i.e. no open-toes or sandals, and safety boots, if specified.


Isabella Whitworth

Isabella trained as a graphic designer and worked in industry before 'discovering' textiles during extended travels in Asia. She specialises in resist-dyeing, enjoying an international following as artist and tutor. Isabella is also known for historical research into natural dyes, and is a member of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen.


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.