as we know them extend back to at least
New Kingdom Egypt
(think King Tut), and have been occasionally appeared on cloth since at least medieval times.
In fact the word 'map' derives from 'mappa' which was Latin for cloth or chart.
figure from World War II where they were provided to soldiers and airmen, and also covertly to prisoners of war.
They were first called Escape and Evasion maps, and were printed on acetate rayon, not real silk, to provide something light, durable, silent to use (no rustling of paper), waterproof, and multiuse (try using a paper map as an arm sling).
The term Silk Map, however, stuck and became the most common name for them.
They were laminated between layers of playing cards or cardboard boxes for smuggling into POW camps.
Millions were made by the US and UK governments, and some of these are available for sale today.
There are lots of interesting stories about these, and searching the Internet for 'Escape and Evasion Maps' or 'Silk Maps' will reward the curious. Search Google for more
don't have all the same goals.
For one thing they don't have to be smuggled into POW camps, so ours can be a little more robust.
We still want them to be light, durable, waterproof, and multiuse however.
We can add an additional requirement - they look good, too.
Ours are printed on a 22 inch square bandana.
The bandanas are cotton/polyester blend, cotton for absorption and polyester for dimensional stability when wet.
We use silk screening because it is much more durable than, for example, iron-on transfer. It also has a nicer feel or 'hand' as it is called.
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