Fabric made from spider silk

This 13-foot-long textile was woven from silk produced by more than a million Golden Orb spiders from Madagaskar. It's currently on display at the Art Institute of Chicago and moves to London's Victoria and Albert Museum in January 2012. From The Telegraph:
According to experts at the Victoria and Albert Museum, spider's silk has not been woven since 1900, when a textile was created for the Paris Exposition Universelle - but that no longer survives. This will be the first time spider silk has been exhibited in Europe since.

The earliest recorded weave using the silk of spiders dates from 1709, made by a Frenchman, Francois-Xavier Bon de Saint Hilaire, who successfully produced gloves and stockings and supposedly a full suit of clothes for King Louis XIV. Later, in the early nineteenth century, Raimondo de Termeyer, a Spaniard working in Italy, produced stockings for the Emperor Napoleon and a shawl for his first wife, Empress Josephine.

To create the textiles, spiders are collected each morning and harnessed in specially conceived ‘silking’ contraptions. Trained handlers extract the silk from 24 spiders at a time.

Unlike mulberry silk from silkworms, in which the pupa is killed in its cocoon, the spiders are returned to the wild at the end of each day.

"Rare spider silk textile to come to V&A"


  1. For some reason I have the impression I’ve seen this on BoingBoing before… but maybe I’m wrong.  Awesome and wonderful all the same.

    1. I thought I remembered seeing it here, too, but Google can’t find the old post.  I think in my case I was thinking of of this Wired piece.  Et tu? 

      I actually saw the textile at the American Museum of Natural History a year or two ago and it is definitely really cool.

  2. I would’ve preferred a web themed pattern, perhaps a spider-man suit would be fitting no?

  3. A friend of mine went to Madagascar ~ 12 years ago and returned with handkerchiefs made of spider silk.

    1. The tapestry is cool, of course. But you mean it’s available to us little guys, too? That is just superior. I would love to own anything made from spider silk, just for the perception of rarity I associate with it.

  4. How strong is this stuff? I’ve always heard the spiderweb threads are stronger than steel by weight. Can this be the new kevlar?

    1. This stuff was being discussed as the new Kevlar maybe 15 years ago.

      In fact, just Google spider silk bulletproof vests and you’ll get a ton of returns.

  5. “The Spiderians, though weak and girly in combat, are masters of the textile arts. Taste like king crab, by the way. The lazy bugs actually wove this tapestry celebrating my victory as I was killing them.” 

  6. @facebook-607675355:disqus , if they let them live the grubs chew through the fibers to get out once they transform into moths.  I think you can sometimes find something called ‘peace silk’ or similar that does not involve slaughtering innocent insects, but it is quite uncommon.  

    1. Tussah silk is gathered from the wild worms after the moths emerge, in fact, rather common.
      Bombyx silk is the cultivated silk, where they are killed before emergence.

  7. Zapp: The Spiderians, though weak and woman-like on the
    battlefield, are masters of the textile arts. Taste like king crab, by
    the way. Crazy bugs actually wove this tapestry of my heroic conquest
    while I was still killing them.

    [Zoidberg scratches the tapestry and sniffs it.]

    Zoidberg: What? It’s not even scratch and sniff? But if
    rich people think it’s good, I’ll buy it. [He waves his $300 around.]
    One art, please!

    [Mom laughs.]

    Mom: What a clever impersonation of a stupid, poor person. How much is that placemat actually worth, Brannigan?

    Zapp: Exactly $1 billion.

    Mom: Now that’s walking-around money!

    [She blows her nose on her $300.]

    Nixon: [on bill] What? Hey! Wait! Aroo!

  8. So you’re a busy female golden silk orb-weaver, walking along, planning your day — maybe thinking about how you’re going to weave some more stabilimenta into your web, or about that cute guy you met last night — what was he, a writer? — when blam! Out of the blue, there’s this voice telling you, “Sorry, lady, you’re comin’ with us. You get to produce silk all day today. Don’t put up a fuss or — you see this rolled-up newspaper I’ve got here?”

    Oppose forced golden silk orb-weaver enslavement! Make your voice heard today!

  9. Trouble with spider silk is that’s it’s easy to put on, but a pain in the ass to take off.

  10. Re: “Unlike mulberry silk from silkworms, in which the pupa is killed in its cocoon, the spiders are returned to the wild at the end of each day.”:

    So they may starve to death at their own leisure.  They’ve just been drained of protein, with no prey-capturing web to show for it.

    While I’m at it: they’re not “Nephila madagascariensis“, they’re Nephila inaurata madagascariensis.

    1. They’ve survived millions of years, I’m confident they’ll be just fine. The kids continue to be alright.

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