William Morris, Embroiderer
March 24, 1834
William Morris—weaver, dyer, stained glass and embroidery designer, poet, writer, and yes, embroiderer—is born.
Here’s the needlework connection to this date:
“William Morris is arguably the single most important figure in British textile history,” says PieceWork author Margaret Horton in her article, “William Morris: Victorian England’s Medieval Artisan” in the January/February 1999 issue. The role Morris played in the development of the Arts and Crafts movement alone elevates him to star status.
That many of his designs and ideas continue to flourish is another testament. The William Morris Society, founded in 1955, has an active online presence; visit www.morrissociety.org. Today, one can purchase cushions, umbrellas, toiletries, fabrics, wallpaper, pillows, rugs, and towels online from Morris & Co. (www.william-morris.co.uk). The items are reproductions of Morris patterns from the company’s archives. (Who wouldn’t want scented drawer liners and/or a cosmetics bag with Morris’s beloved Strawberry Thief pattern? Just for the record, I do!)
Strawberry Thief inspired crochet designer Robyn Chachula: “This lightweight cardigan was inspired by my two loves: history and craft. The back filet panel is a re-imagining of the Strawberry Thief fabric designed by William Morris. . . . He was inspired by thrushes coming into his kitchen and stealing strawberries.” The pattern for Robyn’s glorious sweater is in Vintage Crochet, a special PieceWork issue published in 2016.
But now, back to Morris and his embroidery. Margaret Horton continues: “In 1856, Morris apprenticed to G. E. Street, an Oxford architect. He studied the church embroideries and furnishings that the firm suppled and visited the French Gothic cathedrals, where he admired the stained glass and tapestries. . . . Morris taught himself embroidery using wool threads, then designed several embroideries and taught his maid and several friends to stitch them.”
You go, William Morris!