The weaving of Spanish moss doesn't begin with the Civil War, but rather, at least a century before. It was used in the place of horsehair for stuffing furniture, a filler in wall plasters and bricks, and in a variety of horse equipment.
The most obvious advantage of using Spanish moss was the abundance of it in the south. It didn't chafe the horse, cause overheating, and the weave allowed for the sweat to evaporate from the horse. The items woven from Spanish moss proved to be durable and waterproof, and best of all to the Confederate government, it was inexpensive.
With wool blankets being routed to Infantrymen, the cavalry turned to an old standby of the South, the weaving of Spanish moss into saddle pads and blankets. By the end of the war, it was the most commonly issued type of blanket.
The original saddle pad is seen on the right (from Confederate Saddles & Horse Equipment, by Ken R. Knopp). Glenn Pier Depot's saddle pad is seen in close-up on the left. Both are weft-faced weave.
Spanish moss blankets have not been seen before in the reenacting market due to the amount of research, time and labor needed to produce them.
The saddle blanket, measuring approximately 89" x 60", is 1/8" thick, and is made of 2 panels sewn together with waxed linen thread.
Artillery Mats, similar to the saddle pad, measuring 34" x 60" (Twice the length of the saddle pad), meant to be folded once.
These saddle mats and blankets are the result of a long process in Florida and Louisiana which begins with nine months of retting, the process by which the outer portion of the Spanish moss is removed to reveal the core. This core material resembles horsehair and undergoes cleaning in a moss gin, not unlike a cotton gin. Once it is thoroughly cleaned, the next step is the spinning, followed by the actual weaving.
is Master Weaver Dawn Klug weaving the finished Spanish moss.
Special Thanks to Dawn Klug for doing the hard part, Jason Klug for all of his assistance, and to Ken Knopp (www.confederatesaddles.com) for all of his technical expertise on this project.