I’m sure I’m not the only rughooker (aka: lover of patterns) who has wondered about the lovely fern-like designs that frost forms on our windows. Many cultures have a “Jack Frost” or Father Frost mythical figure who is said to be the frost pattern-maker. It’s thought to originate in Anglo-Saxon or Norse traditions. In Russia, he is called “Grandfather Frost”. In American literature, 18th century writer Hannah Flagg Gould’s poem “The Frost” features a mischievous being responsible for the quieter phenomena of winter, the beautiful ice paintings on windows, but who also got upset at the lack of gifts and caused the cold to break and ruin things.
In England, Charles Sangster’s “Little Jack Frost”, (published in The Aldine, 1875) features Jack Frost as a playful being who runs around playing pranks and ‘nose-biting’, coating places with snow before being chased off by Dame Nature for spring.
But what really explains the frost patterns? First of all, ice and frost aren’t the same thing. When water freezes, it becomes ice. But frost is formed by crystals. The crystals are made when moisture in the air comes into contact with a solid surface (like a window) that is colder than the freezing point of water. Instead of passing from its gaseous state (vapour) to liquid (water) and then to a solid (ice), the moisture goes straight from gas to solid. This causes frost crystals to form.
When frost crystals form on a smooth cold surface like glass, the patterns look to some people like leaves, some think they resemble ferns and to others, they look like feathers. Each window will create its own Jack Frost variation. These patterns are the result of changes in the surface of the glass, and the glass’s qualities – tiny scratches, specks of dust or even faint traces of liquid soap can all affect the way that the crystals form and interlink.
So as we head into a weekend of frigid weather, remember to go over to a window and breathe on it – if we all help Jack Frost take a little ride, maybe Spring will come sooner!
We see a lot of great Santa rugs, and Halloween Witch rugs, but are there any Jack Frost rugs out there?
Photos and explanations courtesy of wikipedia, and jumpmag.co.uk. If you would like to watch a nice timelapse of frost forming, here is a nice one on youtube: https://youtu.be/0qA6rmw-Dkc And if you’d like to read Hannah Flagg Gould’s poem The Frost, it is here. Stay warm and hook on!