William Morris Fabrics and Textiles
William Morris as a Craftsman
In his design career, William Morris produced textiles of several types, all emphasizing a return to hand-made values. He taught himself tapestry weaving, and – in the Victorian age of industrialization and mechanization – re-established hand-blocked printing for cotton and linen fabrics.
‘Wild Tulip’ printed cotton
At Morris & Co.’s Merton Abbey works, both woven and printed fabrics were made. The woven fabrics Morris designed were generally made in wool a variety of in tapestry weaves, which were used for heavy curtains, wall hanging or upholstery. The weaves often were a combination of wool and linen or wool and silk.
Carpets were also hand made at Merton Abbey, although Morris had other companies produce his designs that used weaving machines, and produced carpets.
Morris was a very hands-on developer of the manufacturing process, endlessly trying out printing and dyeing techniques. Friends recounted meeting him on the street with dye-stained hands. He experimented with a variety of naturally derived dyes to get the subtle shadings that he found so attractive, and which were being widely replaced by the more harshly-coloured coal-tar dyes that were becoming popular in the burgeoning fabric industry during the industrial revolution. By the 1870’s he was dying his own wools for weaving his own textiles, and while teaching himself the art of tapestry weaving, he had a loom set up in his bedroom.
May Morris and the Embroidery Workshops
Morris’ daughter May was instrumental in heading up the Morris & Co. embroidery workshops, which produced a variety of hangings, cushions and other decorative panels.
Initially Morris had a manufacturing works in Queen Square in London, but Morris did use outside manufacturers for much of his production. Woven fabrics were made at Macclesfield and Halifax, while carpets were being made by outside manufacturers as well.