Silkspan is a thick, strong tissue that hobbyists use to cover all types of models, including model airplanes and ships. Silkspan is also used as sails on model ships. Typically, it's reserved for large, heavy models, while lighter tissues are used for more delicate replicas. There are a few ways to adhere the silkspan tissue to the model: It can be stuck on wet with dope adhesive, with a glue stick or with regular white glue such as Elmer's.
You can get silkspan in good hobby shops, normally in the model airplane section. Whether you apply the tissue wet or dry is up to you. Many people like to use wet tissue so that as it dries, it shrinks and wraps itself tightly around the model. To wet it, you can spray it with a water and alcohol mixture or nitrate dope. The catch to using wet tissue is that it tears more easily. The inexpensive tissue comes in a few different grades. The lightest grade is what hobbyists use to make the sails on their model ships.
To use white glue and silkspan to create the sails for ships, first you need to tape the tissue to a frame of some sort. Mix the glue with water-soluble paint and water and paint the mixture onto the tissue using a foam brush. Although the tissue will get saggy, when it dries, it will be stiff and smooth instead of fuzzy like before. Then you can draw the sail shape you want and cut it out. Once you attach the sail to the ship, you can dampen it again slightly with a wet brush; the paint will remain as is, but the glue will soften and turn rubbery so that you can get the sail how you want it. When it dries again, it will remain stiff and in place [source: Majewski and Tilley].