The Ceresilk tarp

Hard Kit is all other accoutrements that are not clothing, weapons or armour. This includes pots and tents, and flint & steel, and other things like that.

Moderators: caedmon, Greg

User avatar
SierraStrider
Silent Watcher over the Peaceful Lands
Posts: 281
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 8:54 pm
Location: California
Contact:

The Ceresilk tarp

Post by SierraStrider »

A while back I looked into oiled silk as an option for lightweight, water-resistant material for something like a sheltercloth or cloak. Silk is attested in the literature, though a tarpaulin made of that fabric may admittedly be a bit like a solid-gold frying pan, for all we know. Deciding that that particular level of ambiguous authenticity would be offset by the protection from hypothermia such an item could provide, I decided to go ahead and make one.
Image
I started with 6 yards of 45” wide (5.5m x 1.15m) spun silk broadcloth—23 momme/3.15 oz/100g/m². I used an acid dye to dye it green, soaking it only briefly and unevenly to produce a mottled pattern that would hopefully be more unobtrusive in the underbrush. It came out rather light and undersaturated, but I expected—correctly, it turned out—that it would darken considerably with the application of my waterproofing agent.

I then cut it in half with the aim of making a finished piece half the length and twice the width of the original cloth. I sewed the two halves together with a flat felled seam, then hemmed the entire edge. All the stitching was done with silk thread, because why not. The tarp came out to 6’6” x 8’5”, (2m x 2.6m). The total weight of the finished cloth was about 1lb8oz, or 680g…which, for those of you fastidious enough to check that against the numbers above, makes it even lighter than the listed weight of the cloth would suggest.

It was at this point I decided to wax it. I used a mix of 2 parts beeswax and 1 part lanolin, though this came out a bit tackier than I’d like. I might halve the amount of lanolin next time, or forego it altogether. It definitely makes the dressing more pliant and plastic, less prone to cracking at creases, but the texture of the cloth is rather tacky and greasy when warm. At least it’s lovely on your hands…

Permeating the cloth proved…challenging. Coating a large area of cloth with just enough wax, but not too much, when it's dripping messily and hardening even as you try to apply it...even after my best efforts with a brush, it was highly uneven—caked in some places, totally dry in others. In order to get an even distribution of wax, I folded it up tightly, endeavoring to sandwich dry areas between caked areas. I then used the traditional primitive technique of sealing it up inside a vacuum bag and throwing it in a stewpot of boiling water for 45 minutes. (sitting my folded-up bundle in a warm oven for a long time could’ve had a similar outcome, but would’ve been messier and run a higher risk of damaging the cloth).

When I unsealed it, it was pretty much perfect. The wax had coated every square inch (6.542cm²) of the cloth, and made the color dark and even. It’s also much more waterproof than my test swatches indicated—rather than the “soaks through but at least doesn’t drip” level of waterproofing I saw with this cloth previously, water just beads off the surface, maybe due to more dressing. The tradeoff is that it’s not as self-extinguishing as more lightly-waxed silk; this will sustain a flame, unlike the previous test swatch, though it’s still much more fire-resistant than, for example, polyurethane-coated nylon. The wax also muted the slight sheen the silk had prior to treating, making it look a lot less out-of place in an outdoorsman’s kit.

Then it was time for the grommets. 2-part rivet-style grommets are neither authentic nor robust, so I bought some ¾” (2cm)Ø cast brass rings and embroidered them to the cloth. Rather than cut out a circle from the cloth within the ring and in so doing leave an uneven fraying edge, I cut an X, folded the tabs back over the ring and embroidered another layer of silk thread over the ring to keep them in place. These grommets are incredibly strong and wide enough to easily accommodate a whittled stake or a bight of my rope. I put one at each corner and one on each edge equidistant between the corners. I may also add a tie-out at the center point, haven’t yet decided.

My one worry is that the thread is a bearing surface on the inside of the ring, and sewn as a continuous loop all the way around its circumference. If it frays to breaking at any one point, it could unravel all the way around. Not 100% sure what to do about that.
Image
The final weight of the tarp is 2¾lbs (1.25kg), meaning it’s more wax than cloth. That’s incredibly light for something using only historical-ish materials.
Image
How is it justified in the context of Third-Age Eriador? Simple: I don’t want to die in the 21st century Sierra Nevada. But if I have to put a backstory to it, Moardon, my character, served as a member of the southern dúnedain in his younger days. If a tarp like this could be found anywhere in Middle Earth, I’d say it’d be issued to the Gondorian special forces, Gondor being relatively wealthy and well-connected in terms of trade routes. Alternately, Moardon might’ve commissioned it when working as a caravan guard and traveling scribe around Dale after leaving the military

One way or another, this is a fantastic piece of kit that I expect to last a long time and work quite well while still allowing for light, fast foot travel, free of too great a burden of weight.
Last edited by SierraStrider on Wed Oct 07, 2020 11:51 pm, edited 3 times in total.
RangerofAngmar
Wanderer
Posts: 34
Joined: Sat Apr 18, 2020 10:14 am

Re: The Ceresilk tarp

Post by RangerofAngmar »

that came out really nice man.

I might have to look at doing something similar in the future.

the sealing in the vacuum bag and boiling is a great idea
User avatar
Taylor Steiner
Amrod Rhandir
Posts: 542
Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2018 7:31 pm
Location: Great Falls Montana
Contact:

Re: The Ceresilk tarp

Post by Taylor Steiner »

Great work!
Frodo lives!
Straelbora
Haeropada
Posts: 922
Joined: Mon Feb 11, 2013 7:00 pm
Location: Indianapolis, IN USA

Re: The Ceresilk tarp

Post by Straelbora »

Nice job. It looks great.
Vápnum sínum skala maðr velli á
feti ganga framar því at óvist er at vita
nær verðr á vegum úti geirs um þörf guma
Hávamál
User avatar
Udwin
Vendor
Posts: 684
Joined: Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:00 pm
Location: banks of the great River, Kaintuckiana
Contact:

Re: The Ceresilk tarp

Post by Udwin »

Well damn. That is downright awesome! I've never packed an oilskin or ground cloth, but you might've just convinced me to give it a try. What's your source for the silk yardage, and how much did it cost you? When I've made waxed linen lids for crocks, I rubbed a brick of beeswax across the cloth, and then used a hair-dryer to melt it in. Rinse, repeat. Not sure if that would be easier or harder with a wax/lanolin mixture, but might be fun to experiment.

FWIW, your Gondorian conclusion IS book-supportable; silk is mentioned twice in Gondor, and we can extrapolate from the clues that it would be an 'upperclass' textile...makes sense that the 'special forces' Rangers might get issued some. Not sure if it's being produced in Gondor or somewhere further south or east (or as we've discussed here, possibly by Mirkwood Elves?), but would definitely be valuable.
Personae: Aistan son of Ansteig, common Beorning of Wilderland; Tungo Boffin, Eastfarthing Bounder, 3018 TA
User avatar
Iodo
Haeropada
Posts: 1251
Joined: Mon Sep 25, 2017 5:58 pm
Location: North west england UK

Re: The Ceresilk tarp

Post by Iodo »

Such a good idea :P it looks great :mrgreen:
Gimli: It's true you don't see many Dwarf-women. And in fact, they are so alike in voice and appearance, that they are often mistaken for Dwarf-men.
Aragorn: It's the beards.
User avatar
Greg
Urush bithî 'nKi ya-nam bawâb
Posts: 4187
Joined: Tue Dec 02, 2008 8:50 pm
Location: Eriador; Central Indiana

Re: The Ceresilk tarp

Post by Greg »

Very well done! Looks great, and very functional.
Now the sword shall come from under the cloak.
User avatar
caedmon
Balku'npâ
Posts: 837
Joined: Sat Feb 16, 2008 4:30 am
Location: Palmer Alaska

Re: The Ceresilk tarp

Post by caedmon »

Man, that's perty. I agree with Udwin, this seems reasonable for Gondor Rangers and Elves. But I think probably not for Bree. My rule is, if I have to do mental gymnastics to explain how I got a piece of kit, it's not appropriate.

...But... we do have recovered silk in northern dark age & viking contexts, so since that's how it got there in historic times, trade routes and is a plausible explanation for elites. So a case could be made for Northern Rangers (especially elites in contact with Rivendell). But then why wouldn't Aragorn have had one? Probably because hardiness and self-deprivation seems to have been a Northern Dunedain virtue.




That said, I think I will be using this for my modern bushcrafting kit. I don't have to explain that.

Any steps you left out or glossed over?


Also since, in bushcrafting you're often looking to shave off extra 1/2 ounces, why the brass grommets? The x and foldover is pretty standard with medieval eyelets.



14c T&C 164, DETAIL eyelets.jpg
14c T&C 164, DETAIL eyelets.jpg (40.06 KiB) Viewed 2922 times
-Jack Horner

----------------------------
Impression: Boater Wesman ( Balku'npâ Adúnerama ) bronze founder living in Archet, Breelander of mixed dúnedain descent. c. 3017
User avatar
SierraStrider
Silent Watcher over the Peaceful Lands
Posts: 281
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 8:54 pm
Location: California
Contact:

Re: The Ceresilk tarp

Post by SierraStrider »

Udwin wrote:FWIW, your Gondorian conclusion IS book-supportable; silk is mentioned twice in Gondor, and we can extrapolate from the clues that it would be an 'upperclass' textile...makes sense that the 'special forces' Rangers might get issued some. Not sure if it's being produced in Gondor or somewhere further south or east (or as we've discussed here, possibly by Mirkwood Elves?), but would definitely be valuable.
Really? My keyword search (In the main Trilogy+Hobbit) turned up one mention of silk which occurred in Gondor, but not specific to that region--Gandalf saying no silks or linens could be more honorable than the rags the Hobbits wore in Mordor. The only other mentions that I was able to find were in Rivendell (Elrond gives Bilbo a silk handkerchief at the end of The Hobbit) and the Shire (Bilbo has a silk waistcoat in FotR, plus the handkerchief which Elrond was replacing, which may or may not have been silk).
Udwin wrote:What's your source for the silk yardage, and how much did it cost you? When I've made waxed linen lids for crocks, I rubbed a brick of beeswax across the cloth, and then used a hair-dryer to melt it in. Rinse, repeat. Not sure if that would be easier or harder with a wax/lanolin mixture, but might be fun to experiment.
This is also how I've applied dressing to my oilskin duster in the past, but it's an ORDEAL with 50+ft² of cloth to cover.

I got my silk from Dharma Trading Company, specifically their 23mm spun broadcloth. They also have an excellent selection of raw silk fabrics which, in addition to being much cheaper, look much less refined and might be less out of place in the setting. My previous tests showed that they were far less suitable for this application, though, being heavier to start with and absorbing more wax and more water when tested, resulting in a much heavier tarp.
caedmon wrote:Man, that's perty. I agree with Udwin, this seems reasonable for Gondor Rangers and Elves. But I think probably not for Bree.

Surprisingly, (see above) Eriador is the only place I could find definitive documentation of silk. That's The Shire and Rivendell rather than Bree, but still.
caedmon wrote:My rule is, if I have to do mental gymnastics to explain how I got a piece of kit, it's not appropriate.
Entirely fair. I view this as a bit closer to the autoinjectors in Eofor's need wallet or the satellite beacon in my own--obviously not 'period', but needed to feel safe. This one just happens to be a little more plausible than those.
caedmon wrote: Any steps you left out or glossed over?
Also since, in bushcrafting you're often looking to shave off extra 1/2 ounces, why the brass grommets? The x and foldover is pretty standard with medieval eyelets.
Nope! That's all the steps.

I got the idea of the ring from Horace Kephart's Camping and Woodcraft. He cites a metal ring stitched to the cloth as the best grommet available. The total weight of the grommets is 1.5oz/40g, so 3% of the tarp's total weight, and they really are delightfully robust. That said, that eyelet stitch is pretty lovely...could well be the better choice.
User avatar
Elwindil
Silent Watcher over the Peaceful Lands
Posts: 197
Joined: Sun Dec 01, 2013 6:34 am
Location: Kansas

Re: The Ceresilk tarp

Post by Elwindil »

I wonder if a piece of oiled leather around the rings that's stitched and riveted through the silk would work as well. Rivets would exist in situ, as they're used in the making of armor, and for making other metal goods as well, so it's a plausible design...hmmm...*goes to make plans*
Cimrandir
Silent Watcher over the Peaceful Lands
Posts: 335
Joined: Thu Oct 07, 2010 2:44 am

Re: The Ceresilk tarp

Post by Cimrandir »

Oh, that's so cool! Very nicely done!
User avatar
SierraStrider
Silent Watcher over the Peaceful Lands
Posts: 281
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 8:54 pm
Location: California
Contact:

Re: The Ceresilk tarp

Post by SierraStrider »

Elwindil wrote:I wonder if a piece of oiled leather around the rings that's stitched and riveted through the silk would work as well. Rivets would exist in situ, as they're used in the making of armor, and for making other metal goods as well, so it's a plausible design...hmmm...*goes to make plans*
Like, to protect the thread from abrasion? I had thought about using leather loops as tieouts anchored in the grommets. You could also just use leather grommets, for that matter.
User avatar
Udwin
Vendor
Posts: 684
Joined: Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:00 pm
Location: banks of the great River, Kaintuckiana
Contact:

Re: The Ceresilk tarp

Post by Udwin »

The extra references to silk come from semi-obscure sources, so they're easy to miss. The innkeeper in "The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon" (Adventures of Tom Bombadil #6) says that he lacks silver and "silk to my back"...so he knows of the material, but doesn't have any.
The deleted Epilogue to the LotR has Ellesar coming to visit Sam and family, and his letter he sends to Sam comes "wrapped in silk".

So we have silk in Elvish (Rivendell), Gondorian, and post-2942 Shire contexts. Where it's coming from, it's hard to say.
Personae: Aistan son of Ansteig, common Beorning of Wilderland; Tungo Boffin, Eastfarthing Bounder, 3018 TA
User avatar
Darnokthemage
Silent Watcher over the Peaceful Lands
Posts: 133
Joined: Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:02 pm

Re: The Ceresilk tarp

Post by Darnokthemage »

My money is that it's actually sea silk, which is a textile made from the hair of the Byssys oister. They traditionally appear around greece, but i think it is likely they could have adapted for the colder water of Lindon.

So basically the shire gets it silk from dwarves trading with the elves of Lindon, same with Rivendell.
Gondor probably produces sea silk itself, maybe down around Dol Amroth?

This is ofc not supported by any book facts, it is only supported by that i think the idea of normal silk feels too alien to a "nordic" world. Like western ME
Artist, larper and history lover.
User avatar
SierraStrider
Silent Watcher over the Peaceful Lands
Posts: 281
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 8:54 pm
Location: California
Contact:

Re: The Ceresilk tarp

Post by SierraStrider »

Udwin wrote:...So we have silk in Elvish (Rivendell), Gondorian, and post-2942 Shire contexts. Where it's coming from, it's hard to say.
Excellent sleuthing! This is very interesting indeed.
Darnokthemage wrote:My money is that it's actually sea silk...only supported by that i think the idea of normal silk feels too alien to a "nordic" world. Like western ME
WHUT. I had never heard of sea silk and I'm kind of baffled by it...I don't know why, but the thing that gets me the most is that clothes moths will attack it just like wool. It's just baffling that it's an entirely different substance than animal hair with an entirely different evolutionary origin and purpose, yet it's close enough that moths will chow down.

Caedmon asserts, "we do have recovered silk in northern dark age & viking contexts, so since that's how it got there in historic times, trade routes and is a plausible explanation for elites". I think insect-derived silk is as good a fit as Mediterranean mollusk-derived silk, for the context.
Post Reply