Spinning Spider Silk into Gold

What do you do if you are textile artists in Madagascar and want to promote traditional Malagasy weaving techniques?  You make a scarf and a golden cape spun from spider silk.  Using half a million dollars of your own money.

The story has been making the rounds lately, but these videos about its creation were so captivating I had to post them!  A team of people labored for years to capture spiders, and then persuade them to produce enough silk to weave a garment.  It’s a rather mind-boggling process:

“The spiders are harnessed … held down in a delicate way,” Godley says, “so you need people to do this who are very tactile so the spiders are not harmed. So there’s a chain of about 80 people who go out every morning at four o’clock, collect spiders, we get them in by 10 o’clock. They’re in boxes, they’re numbered, and then as they get silked, about 20 minutes later, they get released back into nature.”   (NPR interview)

The Madagascar Golden Orb Weaver Spider is the spider-goose that laid the golden…er, thread.  It’s estimated that  1,063,000 spiders contributed silk.  The color of the silk is amazing–I had no idea!  The embroidery is also beautiful, with a spider motif.

This second video has more info about the history of trying to make textiles out of spider silk, footage of the apparatus they used to collect the spider silk, and some natural history information about the orb weavers.

Enjoy!

I also scored a copy of the book Spider Silk:Evolution and 400 Million Years of Spinning, Waiting, Snagging, and Mating, so I’ll be posting a review soon.