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Furnishing fabric
  • Furnishing fabric
    Morris, William, born 1834 - died 1896
  • Enlarge image

Furnishing fabric

  • Date:

    1884 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Morris, William, born 1834 - died 1896 (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Indigo-discharged and block-printed cotton

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the British Institute of Industrial Art

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 122, case 1

This indigo-discharge printed furnishing cotton took some time to develop. Drawing began in September 1883 and trial printing was still in progress in March 1884. The design was finally registered on 28 July 1884. This large-scale design was named after the river running through Morris & Co.'s Merton Abbey Works. Morris wrote to his eldest daughter saying, 'if it succeeds I shall call it Wandle: the connection may not seem obvious to you as the wet Wandle is not big but small, but you see it will have to be very elaborate & splendid and so I want to honour our helpful stream.'

The repeat on this cotton is the largest Morris attempted for a printed textile, and the striped barber's-pole decorative effect has definite medieval origins. However, the main source of inspiration is a Genoese brocaded velvet of the 17th century acquired by the V&A Museum in 1883 (museum no. 442a-1883). The coincidence in timing of Morris's first drawings with the acquisition of the velvet by the Museum cannot be ignored. There are also strong similarities in design between 'Wandle' and the Italian velvet, with Morris substituting large stylised chrysanthemum heads for the crowns in the original pattern.


1884 (made)


Morris, William, born 1834 - died 1896 (designer)

Materials and Techniques

Indigo-discharged and block-printed cotton


Height: 165 cm, Width: 92 cm

Object history note

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

Descriptive line


Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Parry, Linda, ed. William Morris. London: Philip Wilson Publishers Limited, 1996. 384 p., ill. ISBN 0856674419

Labels and date

British Galleries:
FURNISHING FABRIC and the velvet that inspired it

William Morris's design for a printed cotton was almost certainly inspired by this Italian brocaded velvet. The Museum purchased the velvet in 1883 at a time when Morris was acting as an advisor on textiles and he would certainly have seen it during one of his frequent visits. He has taken the strong diagonal pattern as the basis for his more elaborate pattern of formalised flowers. [27/03/2003]




Textiles and Fashion Collection

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