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Printing block - Strawberry Thief
  • Strawberry Thief
    Morris, William, born 1834 - died 1896
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Strawberry Thief

  • Object:

    Printing block

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1883 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Morris, William, born 1834 - died 1896 (designer)
    Barrett's (maker)
    Morris & Co. (made for)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pearwood and metal, with felt inlay

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Stead McAlpin & Co.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Physical description

Printing block made to reproduce the William Morris textile pattern 'Strawberry Thief'. This block was used to print red dye.

Place of Origin

London (made)


1883 (made)


Morris, William, born 1834 - died 1896 (designer)
Barrett's (maker)
Morris & Co. (made for)

Materials and Techniques

Pearwood and metal, with felt inlay


Length: 30 cm, Width: 23.5 cm, Height: 5.3 cm, Weight: 1.54 kg

Object history note

Acquired by the museum in 1980 from Stead and McAlpin & Co. Ltd.
Stead and McAlpin acquired these from Morris & Co. in 1940, along with the full range of Morris & Co. print blocks for textile designs. Stead and McAlpin produced Morris & Co. printed textiles for various companies including Liberty, Cavendish Textiles and the John Lewis Partnership, by whom Stead & McAlpin were eventually taken over by.

It is difficult to date the individual blocks precisely, but it appears that parts T.125:F&G-1980 (dark blue) and T.125:P to S-1980 (light blue) were cut post 1940 by Stead & McAlpin, to change the blue printing technique from indigo discharge to surface printing.

T.15: to C-1981 are the blocks used by Morris & Co. for indigo discharge printing. During this process, the whole cloth is dipped in a vat of indigo dye, then washed and left to dry. Solvent-coated print blocks would then be used to pick out sections of both light blue, and other colours, from the dark blue cloth. A half solution of solvent is used for light blue/ green, full strength for red and yellow (to make the section completely white first)

Morris’s preferred technique for printing red was to print mordant onto the cloth in the right places, then dip it completely in a vat of madder. The madder would only fix to the cloth in areas with mordant- the rest would wash out. The process would then be repeated with weld (yellow). This was a lengthy process of several days. It is probable that the firm quickly switched over to surface printing the madder and weld directly onto the cloth- in that order- using the same blocks.

T.125 to E-1980 are the blocks for printing madder
T.125:L-O-1980 are the blocks for printing weld
T.125: H-K- 1980 need more research to establish their role in the print process- they appear to surface print the brown sections of the design, but the dye/ colour used hasn’t been established. These are likely to be Morris & Co. originals but the possibility of them being post 1940 shouldn’t be ruled out.

The original blocks were cut in pear wood in 1883. Because this is a soft wood these will have been replaced by Morris & Co. as they wore out. Precise dating of the individual blocks is hard, but it is likely that those with metal parts are more recent.

Descriptive line

Printing block, 'Strawberry Thief', possibly designed by William Morris, made by Barrett's for Morris & Co., London, 1883

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

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


Pearwood; Felt; Metal

Subjects depicted



Woodwork; Textiles


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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