It turns out that the beautiful Island of Madagascar is not just home to escaped zoo animals from New York, but also the home of the Golden Orb Spiders, renowned for their gold silken threads. Now, for the first time ever, the spider threads have been woven into a stunning, never before seen piece of textile.

The shawl was the brainchild of textile artist, Simon Peers and fashion entrepreneur, Nicholas Godley. The two were inspired by French missionary Jacob Paul Camboue, who unsuccessfully tried to create something similar in 1890.

As they found out, weaving this 11 by 4ft piece of silk was not easy. For one, only the female spiders produce the golden thread and that too, only during the rainy season.

Accordingly, Simon employed a team of 70 people, who used long sticks to pull down as many spiders as they could off the telephone wires of Madagascar each day. Another dozen or so were responsible for gently drawing out the silk from each and then releasing them. With each spider producing about 80ft of silk, the whole effort took four years!

Once collected, the spider silk was twisted into individual threads by combining anywhere from 96 to 960 strands. These were then woven into a shawl using a 100-year old traditional weaving technique. The result? - A rare, never before produced piece of textile, complete with intricate patterns of birds and flowers.

The spiders are a member of the Nephila madagascariensis family, which are prevalent in tropical countries. The female species are famous for their beautiful golden webs that can be found on telephone and electric wires and are sometimes so big that they stretch over entire roadways.

The shawl will be on display at the New York museum until the end of the year, after which it will be transported to London. To read and view more pictures, go to

sources:American museum of modern history,,