Cotton in the Far East and south

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Erfaron
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Cotton in the Far East and south

Post by Erfaron »

So I was doing some research on the history of various cloths and where they originated, in my research I found that cotton was used in around 3000BC in Egypt, and was introduced to the Mediterranean area in about 800 AD by Arabic traders. I know that Tolkien said paraphrasingly “even thought tobacco is a thing that doesn’t mean cotton is” however my interpretation at least is he is saying that cotton didn’t come from the americas like tobacco did, however since cotton first came from the Middle East I feel that it could be around the same frequency, or lack thereof, as silk. Not common in clothing but it could be found in specific areas.
Anyway, just food for thought
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Cimrandir
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Re: Cotton in the Far East and south

Post by Cimrandir »

So my first question is what do you intend to use cotton for? Cotton trousers underneath a tunic and cloak might pass muster for most but a cotton tunic or cloak looks far too modern to my eye.

So the exact quote from the Professor is as follows -
Cotton. This is a place-name in origin (as are many modern surnames), from cot, a cottage or humble dwelling, and -ton, the usual shortening of 'town' in place-names (Old English tūn 'village'). It should
be translated in these terms.
It is a common English surname and has, of course, in origin no connection with cotton the textile material, though it is naturally associated with it at the present day. Hobbits are represented as using tobacco, and this is made more or less credible by the suggestion that the plant was brought over the Sea by the Men of Westernesse (I 18); but it is not intended that cotton should be supposed to be known or used at that time. Since it is highly improbable that in any other language a normal and frequent village name should in any way resemble the equivalent of cotton (the material), this
resemblance in the original text may be passed over.
I think it's pretty clear that however he thought of tobacco, cotton was definitely not present in northern Middle-earth at the period of the War of the Ring. How far you wish to go afield to Harad or into the Fourth Age is up to you. It is after all, your interpretation. I would say that if you do intend to use cotton, that it might be worthwhile to seek out an older type of weave so as to avoid the modern broadcloth look. I’m not sure what type that would be otherwise I’d list them here. I’m sure some Near Eastern period reenactment groups would be able to point you to a supplier.
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Erfaron
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Re: Cotton in the Far East and south

Post by Erfaron »

I was more just curious what other people thought, and for things like tarps it might make it easier / cheaper to make the kit out of a linen cotton blend
"There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go." -Gandalf, Chapter 7, The Hobbit
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Yavion
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Re: Cotton in the Far East and south

Post by Yavion »

I'm personally of the opinion that things like tarps, ground cloths, etc. should be made of things that are affordable. Natural, yes. No need to bust out the plastic! But as far as expense goes, I don't think you'd every catch me using a linen, hemp, or silk tarp. XD
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Re: Cotton in the Far East and south

Post by Eofor »

Erfaron wrote: Tue May 10, 2022 9:38 am I was more just curious what other people thought, and for things like tarps it might make it easier / cheaper to make the kit out of a linen cotton blend
While personally I wouldn't use a cotton shelter I can see the appeal of the cost. I would strongly recommend against it for clothing though on the grounds Nathan stated above and also due to it's inability to insulate when wet.
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Elleth
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Re: Cotton in the Far East and south

Post by Elleth »

I think these are two different questions -

"Is cotton available in Middle-earth at the place and time of the Lord of the Rings?"
I have to agree with Cimrandir here - no. That reference is about as categorical as we see for any of the material culture in Middle-earth.

"Can I use cotton canvas for shelters?"
Sure! Linen canvas wasn't even realistically on the US market at all until just a little over a decade or so by my memory, and it's still crazy expensive compared to cotton canvas historical tentage - let alone dropcloths and the like.

This is a silly hobby, for goodness sake. If the choice is between a nice linen geteld with Rohirric painting on the side and tuition or food for the kids - by all means, go the cheaper route! And better to get out at all with what one has than wait until everything's perfect.
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Re: Cotton in the Far East and south

Post by Iodo »

Eofor wrote: Tue May 10, 2022 11:16 pm While personally I wouldn't use a cotton shelter I can see the appeal of the cost. I would strongly recommend against it for clothing...
...and also due to it's inability to insulate when wet.
That is very true, I personally try to avoid cotton even in my modern clothing for this reason, it's good in hot weather, but the UK has far to much wet/cold, but for tarps/bags/ground-cloths etc... providing the weave isn't obviously modern, I see no problem with using cotton, I know it's not Middle earth authentic and all that but no one can see that something is cotton and not linen

you would just be using a cotton canvas tarp to "represent" a linen canvas tarp in a Middle earth setting, it will function exactly the same
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Jack
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Re: Cotton in the Far East and south

Post by Jack »

Eofor makes a good point regarding clothing, anyone who has backpacked (most of us i imagine?) has heard the expression "cotton kills" which has merit in temperate, mountainous,& desert regions where the temperature drops drastically at night.
But if I may play Morgoths advocate, in climates like Florida's where Erfaron is located ( i hope im remembering that correctly) where winter is virtually non existent, cotton's inability to insulate or dry quickly isn't really a problem and instead keeps you cool via evaporative cooling due to its breathability.

So while cotton definitely didn't seem to be a commodity of Middle Earth, I think Elleth said it best- dont let having to substitute items or materials keep you from going out and having fun. I myself am certainly substituting cotton canvas for linen in my shelter element and my snapsack/haversack for the time being.
Iodo wrote: Thu May 19, 2022 11:52 am you would just be using a cotton canvas tarp to "represent" a linen canvas tarp in a Middle earth setting, it will function exactly the same
That's the way I like to look at it.
Last edited by Jack on Thu May 19, 2022 10:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cotton in the Far East and south

Post by Erfaron »

Jack wrote: Thu May 19, 2022 4:51 pm Eofor makes a good point regarding clothing, anyone who has backpacked (most of us i imagine?) has heard the expression "cotton kills" which has merit in temperate, mountainous,& desert regions where the temperature drops drastically at night.
But if I may play Morgoths advocate, in climates like Florida's where Erfaron is located ( i hope im remembering that correctly) where winter is virtually non existent, cotton's inability to insulate or dry quickly isn't really a problem and instead keeps you cool via evaporative cooling due to its breathability.

So while cotton definitely didn't seem to be a commodity of Middle Earth, I think Elleth said it best- dont let having to substitute items or materials keep you from going out and having fun. I myself am certainly substituting cotton canvas for linen in my shelter element and my knapsack/haversack. The knapsack will be replaced in time but I don't think I'll be replacing my oilcloth tarp anytime soon unless a ton of money falls out the sky and into my lap lol

Iodo wrote: Thu May 19, 2022 11:52 am you would just be using a cotton canvas tarp to "represent" a linen canvas tarp in a Middle earth setting, it will function exactly the same
That's the way I like to look at it.
Honestly I think that linen is better than cotton for clothing even in the heat, my linen tunic which is heavier than some t shirts I wear is way more breathable and more comfortable than cotton, like I said it’s mostly for a hammock / tarp / equipment use vs clothing. And having a “stand in” item that is supposed to be linen seems like a good idea
"There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go." -Gandalf, Chapter 7, The Hobbit
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Elleth
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Re: Cotton in the Far East and south

Post by Elleth »

For what it's worth by the way, for lighter use a regular grade linen isn't that expensive if you're just getting enough for a smaller tarp - say five-ish yards (cut in half and pieced to ~7.5x7.5). You're in striking distance of an off-the-shelf bushcrafty oilskin tarp of about the same size. (Of course you still need to sew it)

Here's one I stitched up from a coarse osnabrig, dyed, and did the regular mineral-spirits/linseed treatment on:

Image
and my first attempt (and honestly this one gets more use, because it's lighter. I don't do many overnights anymore I'm afraid)
http://middleearthrangers.org/forum/vie ... =27&t=3550

Now would I go that way again? Hrm.. I kind of think not. If I recall Taurinor found evidence suggesting linseed oil soaked cloth was a surprisingly late invention, with beeswax and animal fats being more prevalent earlier.

I'm actually inclined to think if one wants the whole "deep authenticity" thing, wool might actually be the way go to, cf the HandsOnHistory viking tents. Or if one just wanted close-enough authenticity and a readily available source, either bushcrafty tarps or canvas tentage

although... hunh. If you're looking at full size tents, the price delta between historical linen/wool and later period canvas has really dropped. As an example -
https://www.etsy.com/listing/717014971/ ... tent-linen

Are you looking at small "dropcloth" type shelters, or full on tents?
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Erfaron
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Re: Cotton in the Far East and south

Post by Erfaron »

Elleth wrote: Thu May 19, 2022 7:17 pm For what it's worth by the way, for lighter use a regular grade linen isn't that expensive if you're just getting enough for a smaller tarp - say five-ish yards (cut in half and pieced to ~7.5x7.5). You're in striking distance of an off-the-shelf bushcrafty oilskin tarp of about the same size. (Of course you still need to sew it)

Here's one I stitched up from a coarse osnabrig, dyed, and did the regular mineral-spirits/linseed treatment on:

Image
and my first attempt (and honestly this one gets more use, because it's lighter. I don't do many overnights anymore I'm afraid)
http://middleearthrangers.org/forum/vie ... =27&t=3550

Now would I go that way again? Hrm.. I kind of think not. If I recall Taurinor found evidence suggesting linseed oil soaked cloth was a surprisingly late invention, with beeswax and animal fats being more prevalent earlier.

I'm actually inclined to think if one wants the whole "deep authenticity" thing, wool might actually be the way go to, cf the HandsOnHistory viking tents. Or if one just wanted close-enough authenticity and a readily available source, either bushcrafty tarps or canvas tentage

although... hunh. If you're looking at full size tents, the price delta between historical linen/wool and later period canvas has really dropped. As an example -
https://www.etsy.com/listing/717014971/ ... tent-linen

Are you looking at small "dropcloth" type shelters, or full on tents?
Either more of a drop cloth type, but honestly since I’m in swampy terrain I’ve been looking into canvas / cloth hammocks. My current idea is literally to wrap the bottom of my lightweight backpacking hammock in a lightweight bedsheet to give it a period look, while keeping the weight and durability.
"There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go." -Gandalf, Chapter 7, The Hobbit
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Jack
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Re: Cotton in the Far East and south

Post by Jack »

Elleth wrote: Thu May 19, 2022 7:17 pm For what it's worth by the way, for lighter use a regular grade linen isn't that expensive if you're just getting enough for a smaller tarp - say five-ish yards (cut in half and pieced to ~7.5x7.5). You're in striking distance of an off-the-shelf bushcrafty oilskin tarp of about the same size. (Of course you still need to sew it)

I just priced out some linen at local shops and thats actually significantly more affordable than I was anticipating, I might be upgrading my tarp sooner than i thought lol
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Re: Cotton in the Far East and south

Post by Elleth »

ooh hammocks!

There is a neat idea in the traditional space - there's a couple variations, but this is the one that comes to mind.

edit - wait. Wrong video. This is the one I was thinking of:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76_FuL6t6s0

... I got to play with one once and it's awesome but SOOOOO HEAVY.

I've wondered if you can do something similar in a lighter linen, but the way a person's weight is hanging on the cloth... I kinda think you need all that sturdiness. I have too many memories of tearing linen pattern pieces to want to use something much lighter than canvas to hold weight.
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Erfaron
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Re: Cotton in the Far East and south

Post by Erfaron »

Elleth wrote: Thu May 19, 2022 11:13 pm ooh hammocks!

There is a neat idea in the traditional space - there's a couple variations, but this is the one that comes to mind.

edit - wait. Wrong video. This is the one I was thinking of:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76_FuL6t6s0

... I got to play with one once and it's awesome but SOOOOO HEAVY.

I've wondered if you can do something similar in a lighter linen, but the way a person's weight is hanging on the cloth... I kinda think you need all that sturdiness. I have too many memories of tearing linen pattern pieces to want to use something much lighter than canvas to hold weight.
That’s why I’m thinking of just covering my modern hammock so it looks more period appropriate, I’ve tested my canvas waxed tarp and it holds up well as a hammock but then I lose any overhead cover, and carrying two would be a bit much I feel. This is mainly for summer/spring/ early fall treks because in the winter the ground is better for a simple tarp lean too
"There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go." -Gandalf, Chapter 7, The Hobbit
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