Natural dyeing – further techniques with Isabella Whitworth

Art textiles

Ref: S3D12435

Book now

Places available

About this course

Use your basic natural dye knowledge to experiment with creative techniques, exploring pattern and colour. Learn shibori techniques, use wax resist and a variety of mordants, and dye scarves and fabric samples on a variety of fibre types.

Course Description

If you already have basic knowledge of natural dyes, this course introduces how to use your knowledge to achieve creative pattern and natural colour. The course will use the four historic core dyes of weld, madder, cochineal (an insect dye) and indigo, but there will be several other dyestuffs available, which all derive from plant material, in dried or extract form. Mordants such as tannins and iron will also be available, in addition to alum, so that you can explore the individual colour differences achieved with each, and also mordant a variety of fibres. An organic indigo vat will be available to use and study, and a back-up vat will require the use of a commercial reduction chemical. The two vats can be compared for colour and outcome, and you will gain confidence to make your own vats at home.

Two main creative resist techniques will be demonstrated and taught. Shibori techniques will include tied, folded or clamped methods, which create patterns of various kinds. You can also learn to work wax resist onto fabric, and learn how to dye with a wax resist, because it requires particular care in heated natural vats. Several work outcomes will be on offer, such as: producing individual and experimental samples on fabrics of several fibre types; dyeing silk scarves and dyeing wool or silk yarns.

The course is suitable for those with some basic knowledge of fibre preparation, mordanting and natural dyeing, including making and using an indigo vat.

Please note that some of the dye materials and equipment used on this course will have come into contact with various nuts, so may not be suitable for those with nut allergies or sensitivity to dye plants.


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 most of the materials, including: dyes, mordants and chemical assistants, such as modifiers, as well as tools for applying wax and shibori.

What students need to bring

  • An apron or cover-all shirt
  • A pair of kitchen-type gloves
  • A reel of dental tape (tape is better than floss!)
  • A small pair of sharp scissors
  • Small samples of natural fibres, fabrics or yarns (optional)

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Additional fabric or silk blanks, if required
  • Available from tutor:
  • A variety of silk scarves, fabrics, etc.
  • Any additional materials that you may purchase from the tutor should be paid to her before the end of the course, by cash or cheque.
Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear (no open toes or sandals).


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 a Diploma in Art and Contemporary Crafts (10 three-day study blocks, over two years). 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.

Sign-up to be the first to know

Sign up to our Short Course enews to hear about new courses, late availability and get creative inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.