Thursday 9 February 2012

Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On - Golden Spider Silk * V&A London * 25 Jan - 5 June 2012

In 1709, a Frenchman, Francois-Xavier Bon de Saint Hilaire, used the minute, naturally golden thread spun by a Malagasy spider to gloves and stockings for France's Sun King Louis XIV. A hundred years later Raimondo de Termeyer, a Spaniard working in Italy, produced stockings for the Emperor Napoleon and a shawl for his first wife, Empress Josephine using this same magical thread.
Now, we too, some two hundred years later can marvel at this astonishing thread in all its respendent glory at the V&A Museum in London between 25 January and 5 June 2012. Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley, a textile artist and a designer-entrepreneur respectively, have created a shimmering golden cape from spider silk.
They say that 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. After ‘silking’, the silk is taken on cones to the silk weaving workshop where skilled weavers have mastered the special tensile properties of the silk. In the so-called Malagasy textile, each warp is made from 96 spun strands of spider silk and each brocading weft has 10 of those threads together – so 960 strands in total.
It takes the silk from 23,000 spiders to weave 25 grammes of silk, and there are 1.5kg of silk in the cape. The 4 metre long woven textile was made from the silk of more than a million female Golden Orb spiders and it took 80 people five years to collect the spiders to silk for the thread. For more details of the exhibition, click here.
Thank you to Jennifer H and Becky from Washington for pointing out a previous exhibition in the American Museum of Natural History. Now you can see a video!


  1. Jacqueline,

    I almost didn't read this post as I have arachnophobia (sp). But you should see this:

    This is at the Amercian Museum of Natural History - and done with a million of these spiders! It is gorgeous - I saw it myself with my family over the summer last year.

    Hugs and Love,

  2. I was lucky enough to see a beautiful piece of this golden spider silk at the Natural History Museum in NYC two years ago. It is so amazing to see in person. Unbelievable really! And so beautiful. The only spider I might enjoy.

  3. I braved the spider pic *shudders* to see the silk. It`s beautiful, but could I forget where it came from and wear it? Doubtful....spiders give me nightmares!