Silk painting – brilliant pattern with Isabella Whitworth

Art textiles

Ref: SLW12578

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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: it represents order and structure. The patterns we create can be mathematically ordered or loose and unstructured. Many textile patterns derive from nature and a close study of the natural world is rewarding when creating designs for hand painted items.

The tutor will discuss some of the elements of pattern-making through her own work and show how to make simple sketches and studies to identify and use pattern elements from nature and elsewhere. You can then experiment with original ideas of your own, as you learn how to create designs for painted silk scarves.

The course is suitable if you are starting out in the medium of wax resist on silk, or if you have a little experience of silk painting, but are looking to widen your 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 you explore various ways of approaching and creating pattern. Wax resist, clamped-technique shibori and direct application of dyes are all explored, used separately or in combination. All skills are transferable to fabric painting, although, on the course, you will work on scarves.

Trial pieces can be made on smaller frames. Wax will be applied using brushes and traditional tjantings, stamps and found objects. Complex patterns will be produced by layering the wax and dye. The wax-out and steaming processes will be demonstrated and explained. The tutor will give two half-hour presentations during the course, which may cover design, 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 to her 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, cheque or bank transfer.
  • 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
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: 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.

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