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Furnishing fabric - Strawberry Thief
  • Strawberry Thief
    Morris, William, born 1834 - died 1896
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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:

    Block-printed cotton, indigo discharged

  • Credit Line:

    Given by London County Council

  • 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 Asia. 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 not 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 furnishing fabric, indigo discharge and printed in eight colours with a design of pairs of thrushes, strawberries, flowers and foliage. The thrushes are in yellow, brown and blue. The flowers are in pink, brown and yellow with green leaves on a blue background.

Place of Origin

London (made)


1883 (designed)


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

Materials and Techniques

Block-printed cotton, indigo discharged


Width: 36 in, Length: 53 in

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

Length 'Strawberry Thief' of block-printed and indigo discharged cotton furnishing fabric, designed by William Morris, made by Morris & Co., London, 1883


Cotton (textile)


Block printing; Discharge printing


Textiles; Interiors


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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