Tracing a Lineage

Part of the fun of finding a treasure at the thrift store is learning a little more about it.  There’s a thrill to searching for an artist’s signature or a maker’s mark, and it’s so fun to put together a story for how an item came to be at a thrift store in Eugene, Oregon or Anchorage, Alaska – or wherever you may be.  We thought we’d share the stories of a couple thrifted goodies with you today – happy Monday!

From Mera:

I recently found this stoic lady at a thrift store for $10.

Red House West || Tracing a Lineage

I was drawn to her fancy gown and her serene but direct face.  I brought her home, gave her a place of honor in the living room, and started trying to find out more about her.

It turns out she is Margaret Bernard Peyton, first wife of Thomas Peyton.  This is a rubbing from a brass plate in the St. Andrew’s Church in Isleham, Cambridgeshire.

She is also known as the “Lace Lady” because of her ornate gown (the second wife of Thomas Peyton is less ornately adorned).

Margaret Peyton died in 1445 at the age of 25 following the birth of her fourth child.

Red House West || Tracing a Lineage

Red House West || Tracing a Lineage

I love to think about how this rubbing made its way to a thrift store in Alaska, and I’m really glad she’s living with us now.  I love her!

From Katie:

About six years ago I was at a thrift store on the Oregon coast that had a truly remarkable fabric selection. (After just a single visit the store disappeared, but every time I drive that way I hope to see it appearing from the Oregon mist – a thrifter’s Brigadoon.) I bought this delightful folk-art pattern that day, and used it to make throw pillows.

Red House WestThose ostriches! The red wing blackbirds! The colors! One day, when looking at a favorite design book, Details by Lili Diallo, I saw my beloved fabric in a different colorway:

Red House WestHard to see? Let’s zoom in:

Red House WestI was so excited, but unfortunately the book doesn’t contain any information about the fabric itself. I resigned myself to loving it without understanding it (a difficult but important lesson) until about a month ago, when a familiar pattern in a pile of thrift store frames caught my eye. I was in a mad rush that day, so I just snapped a photo of the poster – elated that I’d finally have search terms to learn more.

quilt poster

The photo quality sucks, but that information? Priceless.

The images on my pillows are from a quilt top made by an unknown person around the time of the Civil War. It’s also called the Civil War Bride’s Quilt, and there are a number of blogs devoted to a whole host of ambitious quilters who are replicating the design. Here’s a recently-completed version of the quilt (in insanely beautiful colors):

It’s speculated that the paired animals, fruits and foliage are symbols of union and fertility, and that some of the other quilt blocks depict current events from the time. The block with the elephant is thought to be Hannibal, who escaped his keeper and went on a rampage in Brooklyn in 1859.  Here’s another modern version of the quilt, but this one includes a male figure in the top row:

In the original quilt, on display at the Museum of American Folk Art, only the woman is depicted.  Apparently a newspaper template of the groom was found with the quilt, but never finished.  My morbid, romantic heart agrees with those who say that the quilt was never completed because some tragedy occurred before the wedding could take place.

I still can’t find the fabric with the printed motif like my pillows, but it’s fun to know more about the history of the images and to learn about a whole subculture devoted to recreating it!

Thanks for joining us – come back on Wednesday for a collection of ideas for homemade Valentine’s Day gifts!

17 responses on “Tracing a Lineage

  1. Laura (PA Pict)

    Thank you for sharing the stories of your objects. They made for a fascinating post. I have very fond memories of creating just that type of brass rubbing. As a kid, my parents, siblings and I visited many castles, churches and historic buildings up and down Britain and often children were encouraged to make brass rubbings using that thick black paper and metallic wax crayons. It was immense fun. I wish I still had them now having seen how good it looks on your wall.

  2. Carol Crump Bryner

    What interesting research you did. The pillow fabric and the stoic lady are such finds! It seems amazing that that rubbing made its way to Alaska, and it looks great in your house, Mera. Of all the different iterations of that fabric, Katie, I like your pillow covering the best.

  3. y2knina

    This is such a great post, guys! Your finds are amazing and the research and information you turned up is really interesting. Thrifting is so much more fun, and satisfying, than buying new. Since I am away in a place where i can’t thrift, i thank you for this vicarious fix!

    1. meramatthews

      In other respects we are living vicariously through you (warmth! sunshine!) so I’m glad we could return the favor, at least a bit. I agree, there is a special thrill in thrifting that you just can’t get from buying something new. Thanks!

    1. meramatthews

      Thanks for the rave review, I’m so glad you like it! Engaging with thrifted treasures by researching their origins, both humble and fine, definitely makes me love them more!

  4. Brynne@The Gathered Home

    I love searching out the histories of my vintage and thrifted pieces! I agree that knowing a little back story makes them even more special! I absolutely adored the stories behind the two pieces you shared here – that civil war quilt pattern is simply incredible!

  5. Susan

    Women’s lives and stories come into focus in these lineage searches — I’m wondering, Mera, how did you find your way to the rubbing center and the church? Did your recent time in England assist you in “seeing” this as a brass rubbing? I’m amazed at the poster in the thrift store frame, Katie.

    Search terms, indeed! Thanks for searching, Red House bloggers…love the journey as much as the finds.

    1. meramatthews

      Thanks, Emily! Alaska isn’t usually a hotspot for thrifted treasures, so I got a real thrill from finding such a noble lady. She does a fine job of holding court over the other thrifted riff-raff in the house. 🙂

  6. Mikey

    I have the Margaret Peyton rubbing, too! Incidentally, my sister found it years ago at a thrift store she worked at in our hometown on the South Texas border. Funny how these things end up on opposite ends of the earth, huh?! Mine isn’t framed though, and I have been trying to envision the right kind of frame for it for years… Now I see what she needs!

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