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Tiny Panes

If you like antique samplers, you may have noticed that many of them include cross-stitched images of houses. But have you noticed the fenestration?

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This design is reminiscent of an antique sampler. Note the grid pattern on the windows. Look for the kit for this design in the Featured Pattern section of this update.

Fenestration is a five-dollar word that refers to the design and arrangement of windows. (Defenestration, on the other hand, means to be thrown out of a window. I hope I don't get defenestrated for getting off-topic.) Since the homes depicted in samplers are generally not meant to appear modern, they shouldn't show modern windows. The sure sign of a modern window is a large expanse of glass, which would have been impossible, or much too expensive, to manufacture until rather recently.

Windows date back at least to first-century Egypt, when the land of the pharaohs was part of the Roman Empire. The glass windows of the time were made from round globs of glass, or from oiled paper or animal skin scraped thin enough to admit a little light. Flat glass was not available until the Middle Ages, and even then, glass was laboriously ground flat from larger chunks. It was expensive, and the available panes were small.

By the 19th century, glass was being blown into cylinders which were then reheated, cut lengthwise, and flattened into panes. This was an improvement, but panes (or "lights") were still small. To produce a large window, craftsmen took several panes and joined them at their edges with strips of metal or wood into larger windows. Those strips are properly called "muntins," but most people today call them "mullions." In antique samplers that include a house, the windows will most likely appear to have a grid pattern since it wasn't until the 20th century that flat window panes could be mass-produced in sizes large enough to fill an entire window opening.

So if you're stitching a sampler, be sure to mind your fenestration!

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