Morris Magic by Brenda Sortwell

22nd January 2021

To this day, there is still so much admiration for the sinuous, repeating patterns which characterised William Morris textiles.

Indeed, many Morris motifs are instantly recognisable thanks to their ongoing use on all manner of present-day items including fabrics and designs.

But Morris was also a poet, a novelist, an architect, a painter and illustrator, as well as a translator and political activist. His incredibly busy life resulted in a broad and varied range of work, of which the familiar textile patterns form only a small part.

One can’t help but be astounded at how much the man achieved during his lifetime. It is particularly gratifying that his legacy continues to live on, even if predominantly via the famous William Morris textiles which formed such an important part of his extensive creative output.

The Strawberry Thief is possibly the best known and most famous of his designs.

The cheeky thrush, stealing plump, ripe strawberries, has been one of the most endearing characters created by Morris and has appeared over and over in textile design and embroidery. 

However, no matter how many times we encounter this familiar design, we never tire of seeing different interpretations of it.

Brenda Sortwell’s unique project ‘Morris Magic’ from the book A Passion for Needlework | Blakiston Creamery, is yet another wonderful creation featuring Morris’s purloining bird.

Brenda’s knowledge of the original design is evident in this fabulous piece of crewel embroidery.

Selecting one section of the repeating design, Brenda has created the two characteristic thrushes, facing away from one another, with a fat strawberry hanging from each of their beaks.

The gorgeous symmetry of the piece is highlighted by the brilliant scarlet of the hanging fruits and the elegant lines of the circular shape. Employing muted colour and a range of stitches, Brenda has produced a beautifully tactile design which finds the perfect balance between realism and symbolism.

Worked on heavy cotton/linen twill with Appleton’s wools, Brenda has combined the traditional techniques of crewel embroidery with this more contemporary design.

She has selected stitches which are commonly found in traditional crewel pieces, such as long and short stitch, Ghiordes knots and trellis couching as well as introducing more unusual, textured elements, in particularly the stunning needlelace strawberries.

If you are a lover of crewel embroidery, then this project offers pure enjoyment and something a little bit different in terms of design and finish.

Morris Magic is guaranteed to be a head turner once it is mounted, showing just how effective the combination of design, technique and colour can be in the hands of a talented needle artisan, such as Brenda.

Make Your Own Morris Magic

Step 1 – Purchase Project Instructions

Morris Magic by Brenda Sortwell from the book A Passion for Needlework | Blakiston Creamery is a splendid crewel embroidery of thrushes with strawberries, inspired by an iconic William Morris design.

Printed Books

A Passion for Needlework 3 | Blakiston Creamery

Step 2 – Purchase Ready-To-Stitch Kit

The Inspirations Ready-To-Stitch kit for Morris Magic includes everything* you need to re-create this delightful image: Fabric (unprinted), embroidery threads and needles.


Morris Magic – APFN3 Kit

*Please Note: To cater for flexibility of purchase, instructions are not included with our kits. For step-by-step directions on how to create this project, please refer to the book.

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