Silk scarves – developing pattern with Isabella Whitworth

Art textiles

Ref: S4D11831

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About this course

Nurture your love of pattern and learn how to plan scarf designs, to source and develop patterns for silk scarves and fabric. Wax, paste resist and some shibori techniques and direct application of dyes are explored.

Course Description

We all love pattern – it represents order and structure. Pattern can be mathematically ordered – or liberated and unstructured. The tutor will bring examples of her work and sketchbooks to explain something of the way scarf designs, which have pattern as their source, can be developed.

Pattern is an excellent entry point to the development of personal, original design on textiles. Working with vibrant steam-fixed dyes on hemmed silk scarf blanks or lengths of fabric, you can expect to create several scarves (as well as small samples), through the course. There will be guidance sessions on how to plan scarf designs, how to source and develop patterns or themes, and how to transfer working designs to scarves and fabric.

Wax, and paste resist, some shibori techniques such as folding, clamping and tying, and direct application of dyes can be explored. You will be encouraged to use different silk weights and weaves. Although you will work towards making scarves, all skills are transferable to fabric painting, or shibori work on silk fabrics. Trial pieces are encouraged on smaller frames to make initial experiments in techniques. Wax will be applied using brushes and traditional tjantings, stamps and found objects.

During the course the tutor will briefly outline the chemistry of steam-fix dye processes on silk. The practical aspects of wax-out and steaming silks will also be demonstrated. Anyone who doesn’t feel confident about drawing, planning and creative design is very welcome on this course.

The course is also suitable for you if you are starting out in the medium of wax resist on silk and have a little experience but are wanting to broaden your knowledge of developing design through pattern.


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 are included in the course fee: use of pins, tapes, dyes, wax and general accessories supplied for use of the group.

What students need to bring

  • 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. and oblong silk scarf blanks to paint.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Some scarf blanks
  • Available from tutor:
  • You can purchase hemmed scarf blanks for final projects from the tutor, or the college shop. Scarf blanks of various types and weights are available, as is silk on the roll. Alternatively, you are welcome to bring your own scarf blanks, preferably oblong in shape.
  • Work that is completed late on in the course can be steamed by the tutor in her studio and later returned to you by post for the for the cost of postage and packing, payable directly to her.
Wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear i.e. no open-toes or sandals. A NOTE ABOUT FRAMES: West Dean supplies oblong frames for students to use 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. You are welcome to bring your own scarves but, if you wish to work to a larger size than mentioned above, or a different proportion to the frames, you should first contact the tutor, Isabella (via to discuss requirements and check this is viable.


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.

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