Art textiles

Gathering and using dye plants with Penny Walsh

Ref: S1D08928

Suitable for all

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About this course

Learn about botanical dyes as you gather plants from West Dean's Gardens and combine with an indigo dye vat to colour a range of fabric samples.

Course Description

We will cover methods and techniques of using natural colour, exploring the opportunity to use West Dean Gardens containing hundreds of plants - to extend design and colour work. Accentuating that using plant colour on textiles can be simple and straight forward.

After some initial preparation in the workshop where we will make an indigo vat - we will ramble through West Dean Gardens (with the gardener's permission) and gather small responsible amounts of plants to make botanical dyes. There will be some guidance in identifying plants used in historic dyes and to experiment.

Back in the workshop we will prepare dyes from the plants and colour a set of sample pieces. We'll then plan a larger piece for a scarf or bag - using clamping, folding and wrapping and using the indigo vat for overdyeing and to extend the colour range.

During the course you will learn the necessity to sample and record all processes when making botanical colour, as you begin to understand how to make natural colour predictable and repeatable. It will illustrate that very few harmful or environmentally undesirable ingredients are needed for this method of dyeing textiles.


Timetable for one day courses

Students should arrive by 9am for registration.

Classes are from 9.15 - 5pm

Lunch is included.

Course Materials


  • All essential materials mordants, indigo, madder bath, sample pieces of fabric, simple cheap cotton for one larger piece as supplied by the tutor.
  • Basic cotton squares to make a bag or cushion

What students need to bring

  • Overall/apron to protect clothes
  • Covered footwear
  • Notebook and pen
  • Dye-protective gloves if you are allergic or uncomfortable with ordinary kitchen gloves

Available to buy

  • Silk scarves or cotton squares for those who want them
  • Fine linen, cotton or silk by the yard


Penny Walsh

Penny Walsh trained at the Royal College of Art and travelled to Norway and Poland on British Council scholarships to study tapestry weaving and dyeing. After returning she worked in tapestry studios and subsequently for fashion and textile companies. Penny is part of the design group 'AO Textiles' which has the aim of producing environmentally conscious ecologically sound furnishing fabrics dyed with natural colour. She has published work including; Yarn and Self Sufficiency in Weaving Spinning and Dyeing.

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