The Golden Spider Silk Garments

An exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London is showcasing the world’s largest pieces of cloth made from spider silk, including a cape.

Simon Peers, left, and Nicholas Godley stand beside Bianca Gavrilas as she shows off a cape made from the silk of the golden orb spider.
Reportedly several years in the making, the pieces (which include a shawl and cape) on display are made from spider silk and Simon Peers and Nicolas Godley, who worked with the garment makers, say it took approximately 1.2 million spiders to make the entire exhibition.


London’s Victoria and Albert Museum put on display a remarkable cape woven from silk extracted from about 1.2 million female spiders in the highlands of Madagascar, an island off Africa’s southeastern coast. The project was the work of English textile expert Simon Peers and U.S. designer Nicholas Godley. For three years, dozens of workers collected spiders every morning and harnessed them 24 at a time into special “milking” contraptions that allowed workers to extract their silk. The museum notes that it takes about 23,000 extractions to create one ounce of silk thread.


To produce the stunning garments, Madagascar golden orb-weaver spiders were milked daily in order to produce enough fibers for the clothing. The golden color is all natural and no treatments or dyes were used in the making of the apparel. The entire display showcases the world’s largest pieces of cloth made from spider silk and includes background material and a short film revealing the spider silk making process.


Godley is an entrepreneur who met Peers, an art historian and textile expert, in Madagascar. The Golden Orb spider is quite common in the region and has silken threads that are stronger and more durable than fibers from other types of species that can be “silked”.

Godley and Peer have a workshop in Madagascar that has several hand-powered machines with 24 female spiders in each. Handlers pull and spool strands from each spider’s multiple spinnerets. The spiders are eventually released, unharmed.




Peers says, “It’s like an invisibility cloak because you can’t fell spider silk. If we hadn’t made the cape, this silk would be webs in the wind. That’s part of the magic. It’s something so ephemeral and yet somehow we’ve managed to capture it.”

The golden orb spider (Nephila madagascariensis) spins a unique silk, naturally gold in color. Last week, it made a memorable debut in the fashion world.

The silk produced by the golden orb spider has a sunny yellow hue.

The Golden Spider Silk exhibition is taking place at the Victoria and Albert Museum from January 15 through June 5 in room 17a. Admission is free.

 

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