Strawberry Thief is one of William Morris’s best known designs. He based the pattern on the thrushes that stole the strawberries in the kitchen garden of Kelmscott Manor, his country home in Oxfordshire. It was originally printed as a cotton textile for home furnishings.
The pattern was printed by the indigo discharge method, an old technique that Morris spent many years perfecting, finally succeeding after he moved his printing works to Merton Abbey in 1881.
In May 1883, Morris wrote to his daughter May “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”. 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 background.
Strawberry thief remains one of Morris’s most enduring designs and is still used to decorate many different objects from fabric, to bags, stationery and homewares such as this modern travel mug.
In collection(s): Merton Heritage Centre - Common Sense Project - Handling Connection 1
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