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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 (made)

  • 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 Morris & Co.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 125, Edwin and Susan Davies Gallery, case WS

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

Furnishing fabric of indigo-discharged and block-printed cotton. Strawberry Thief pattern with birds, strawberries and flowers.

The pattern is in brown, yellow and shades of green, blue and red on a dark blue ground.

Place of Origin

London (made)


1883 (made)


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

Materials and Techniques

Indigo-discharged and block-printed cotton


Height: 60.5 cm, Width: 95.2 cm

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

Furnishing fabric, block-printed cotton, designed by William Morris for Morris & Co. "Strawberry Thief", British, 1883

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Morris was inspired to draw this design after finding thrushes stealing fruit in his garden. This complicated and colourful pattern is printed by the indigo discharge method and took a long time to produce. Consequently, it was expensive to buy. Despite this it became one of Morris & Co.'s most commercially successful textiles and is now his most recognisable design. [27/03/2003]

Production Note

The blocks originally used to print this textile are in the V&A collection (T.125 to W-1980)




Block printed

Subjects depicted

Flowers; Birds; Strawberries




Textiles and Fashion Collection

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