Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Furnishing fabric - Strawberry Thief

Strawberry Thief

  • Object:

    Furnishing fabric

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1883 (designed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Morris, William, born 1834 - died 1896 (designer)
    Morris & Co. (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Indigo-discharged and block-printed cotton

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs Gubbins

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This printed cotton furnishing textile was intended to be used for curtains or draped around walls (a form of interior decoration advocated by William Morris), or for loose covers on furniture. This is one of Morris best-known designs. He based the pattern and name on the thrushes which frequently stole the strawberries in the kitchen garden of his countryside home, Kelmscott Manor, in Oxfordshire. Despite the fact that this design was one of the most expensive printed furnishings available from Morris & Co., it became a firm favourite with clients.

The pattern was printed by the indigo discharge method, an ancient technique used for many centuries mostly in the East. Morris admired the depth of colour and crispness of detail that it produced. He first attempted to print by this method in 1875 but it was until 1881, when he moved into his factory at Merton Abbey, near Wimbledon, that he succeeded.

In May 1883 Morris wrote to his daughter, 'I was a great deal at Merton last week ... anxiously superintending the first printing of the Strawberry thief, which I think we shall manage this time.' Pleased with this success, he registered the design with the Patents Office. This pattern was the first design using the technique in which red (in this case alizarin dye) and yellow (weld) were added to the basic blue and white ground.

Physical description

Length of block printed cotton 'Strawberry Thief' furnishing fabric, indigo discharge and block printed in eight colours, in a design of pairs of thrushes, strawberries, flowers and foliage.

Place of Origin

London (made)


1883 (designed)


Morris, William, born 1834 - died 1896 (designer)
Morris & Co. (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Indigo-discharged and block-printed cotton


Width: 38 in taken from register, Length: 33 1/2 in taken from register

Object history note

Designed by William Morris (born in London, 1834, died there in 1896); made by Morris & Co. at the Merton Abbey Works, near Wimbledon, London

Descriptive line

printed cotton, 1883, English; William Morris; The Strawberry Thief


Cotton (textile)


Block printing; Discharge printing




Textiles and Fashion Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.