Fibre in woven tapestry – surface and texture with Rachel Johnston

Ref: S3D32757

Book now

Places available

About this course

This course will offer you the opportunity to take a highly personal and experimental approach to weaving using textural techniques such as soumak and ghiordes knots. A range of materials will be provided allowing you to explore surface and structure.

Course Description

This course will allow for an individual and expressive approach to weaving, connecting with the dynamic processes associated with fibre art and the work of artists such as Magdalena Abakanovic and Sheila Hicks. The connections between material, surface texture and structure will be the focus - movement, weight and substance can be described through the use of historical techniques such as soumak, ghiordes knots, hitch knots, wrapping and twining.

Starting with some exploratory mark-making, you will translate these marks into a series of woven samples, using raw and more refined materials to create a highly textural surface. A variety of fibres and yarns will be available for you to experiment with and we will dye some of these at the start of the course, giving you a palette to work from. Working on a large frame, you will use a heavy warp to build quickly over the surface. You will aim to make a number of contrasting small pieces that experiment with visual and material languages and have the capacity to be expanded into three dimensions and at a larger scale.

During the course you will be able to look at samples using these techniques, as well as relevant contextual material. During the course, Rachel will give two talks, one focusing on her own work and another that will introduce you to a number of artists who have pioneered this exciting area of textiles. The course will be interactive and discursive, with lots of freedom in developing an individual approach to these ancient ways of making.


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 tutor will supply some of the materials, including natural fibres such as jute, sisal, hemp stricks and recycled fabrics – this will be a shared resource. The College will also supply frames for weaving, which may be retained after this course (external measurements 85cm x 65cm approximately), plus heavy cotton warp, dyes and coloured woollen yarns.

What students need to bring

  • List items to bring: visual references (drawing or photograph) – something that inspires you, possibly based in the landscape or a detail of a natural object, but this is very open-ended and can be developed during the course.
  • Please bring any materials that you have collected and would like to try using – this could include dried plant material, old clothing/cloth, yarns, threads or fibre.
  • A notebook and pencil
  • A good pair of scissors
  • Any other weaving tools you have and wish to bring (frame, bobbins, etc.)

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Some standard warp thread, if required

Additional information

Wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear i.e. no open-toes or sandals. Safety boots, if specified.


Rachel Johnston

Rachel studied painting before completing an MA in Fine Art Tapestry at the Royal College of Art. She has explored visual practice with communities around the UK to produce commissioned and public art and was a senior lecturer in Fine Art at the University of Chichester with a specialism in textiles and socially engaged art projects. She has exhibited widely including in the Cordis Prize for Tapestry exhibitions. 


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.