Rare Spider Silk Cape Shimmers like Gold

By Meera Dolasia on January 27, 2012

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Madagascar, an island country located in the Indian Ocean is known for many things - its namesake super hit movies, beautiful beaches, amazing wildlife and . . . . . . . Golden Orb Weaver Spiders. While these arachnids are similar to the rest of their species, they have one unusual talent - Their silk shimmers like gold!

It is this shimmer that first attracted textile artist Simon Peers and fashion entrepreneur Nicholas Godley to these tiny, almost blind spiders, about eight years ago. The two decided to embark on an almost impossible project - Creating a textile from this golden silk, using old fashioned weaving techniques.

While collecting enough silk from any spider is an arduous process, accumulating it from the Golden Orb Weaver Spiders is even more so. That's because only females produce gold silk and they do it, only during the winter months. However, that did not seem to deter the two.

To collect the silk, a team of 80 locals scoured Madagascar's telephone phone wires each morning, looking for the special spiders. Using long sticks to draw them down, the locals would bring the spiders to the workshop. Once here, a hand powered machine was used to gently pull the silk strands, out of each creature's multiple spinnerets. Once the silk had been extracted, the insects were released back to their natural habitat - And, the process would begin all over, the next day. 

Once enough silk had been collected it was twisted into individual threads by combining anywhere from 96 to 960 strands. Only then could the designer begin to weave the beautiful textiles.

In 2009, they revealed their first complete gold accessory - An exquisite 11ft. by 4ft. shawl. However, they were not done yet. Encouraged by their success, Mr. Godley and his partner embarked on an even more ambitious project - A full cape, embroidered with images of spiders, plants and flowers - A process that took over 6,000 hours to complete.

While the beautiful garment, which just went on display at London's Victoria and Albert Museum, is winning many design accolades, both Mr. Peers and Mr. Godley know that these are one-of-a-kind creations, that can never be mass produced. This unfortunately means that all of us will just have to be content admiring these beautiful masterpieces - Sigh!

Golden Orb spiders are a member of the Nephila madagascariensis family, which are prevalent in tropical countries. The tiny creatures that are small enough to fit on the palm of a human hand, are almost blind, which means they have no idea of how beautiful their silk is. To catch their prey they rely on their sense of touch to feel the vibrations of any prey  that gets caught in the web. The beautiful golden webs that can be found on telephone and electric wires are sometimes so big, that they stretch over entire roadways.

Resources: CNN.com,newscientist.com, telegraph.co.uk

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223 Comments
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  • MagnificentThursday, October 16, 2014 at 2:06 pm
    The spiders are ugly, but the dress is but beautiful.
    • coolnicki477
      coolnicki477Wednesday, October 1, 2014 at 5:38 pm
      so pretty!
      • kell-bell
        kell-bellWednesday, October 1, 2014 at 4:04 pm
        I think that that was mean. spiders have a limited amount of silk and to steal it is mean. But also, why not just make and ordinary cape? It would save everyone's time, and they could still make it gold.
        • spinnypeeps
          spinnypeepsWednesday, October 1, 2014 at 6:14 pm
          Yeah. Without their silk, they'll be hoboes for life! :(
          • coolnicki477
            coolnicki477Wednesday, October 1, 2014 at 5:38 pm
            good point
          • parker818332
            parker818332Tuesday, September 16, 2014 at 4:26 pm
            I want one
            • loveTuesday, June 10, 2014 at 6:52 pm
              I've seen one of them
              • ethanMonday, March 17, 2014 at 6:22 am
                I need that stuff
                • sberry1234
                  sberry1234Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 7:31 am
                  cool and eww
                  • BookWormWednesday, February 5, 2014 at 12:27 pm
                    This is very cool!
                    • z360Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at 12:10 pm
                      I have aracnophobia
                      • kell-bell
                        kell-bellMonday, January 6, 2014 at 9:43 am
                        this is really awesome

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