Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Golden Cape

When I was little I used to imagine what a dress made out of spiderweb would look like. In my mind it was a vision of shimmering gossamer fabric...Then, just the other day, I actually found a cape made of the silk produced by Golden Orb Weaver spiders from Madagascar! Voilà!:

It took the silk from 1.2 million of these spiders, and eight years to create!

The hand-woven textiles are naturally golden in color, and the cape was made by Simon Peers, an Englishman who has lived in Madagascar for more than twenty years, and Nicholas Godley, an American who has also worked for many years in Madagascar.

Inspired by 19th century accounts and illustrations, these two men started experimenting with spider silk in 2004 to see if they could revive this forgotten art, which hasn't been used in more than a century.

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. The spiders are then returned to the wild at the end of each day.

It took 80 people to collect all the silk from the 1.2 million spiders to create the brocade textile.

After silking, the silk was taken on cones to a silk weaving workshop where skilled weavers have mastered the special tensile properties of the silk. In the silk, the main weave is of 96 strands, the lining 48 strands, and a large part of the embroidery is made using unspun 24 strand silk. 

On average, 23,000 spiders yield around one ounce of silk. So it's understandable how rare and precious these textiles are, and I love how they paid homage to the spiders by embroidering them on the cape!

The Golden Orb spider! I can't say I'm so fond of these animals myself, at least not when it comes to handling them, when one needs to be taken out of the house for example...But if you take away the creepiness the way they look produces in so many people (including me) I find spiders so fascinating! It's amazing what they can do! And I could never kill one on purpose! If I find one inside, I take it outside - unharmed...Or, actually, I usually ask someone else to do this for me. But still... 

Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian


  1. The cape is amazing, as are spiders that produced the silk. But I have to tell you that most spiders in your house cannot live outside. :-( So putting them outside doesn't do them any favors. Besides think about it, they eat the other bugs in your house, for free and they don't use dangerous chemicals either. So be a friend to a spider. ;-)

  2. Most of the spiders I find inside and take out are spiders that actually have come in FROM the outside, so they'll probably make it in their normal environment after I put them back in it. I only do this when it's warm outside tho. If I find one inside in the fall or winter I put it downstairs in the boiler room! I don't mind them being here. I just need to keep them out of my sight. Have tried to convince myself they're not THAT creepy, but it doesn't seem to work... ;)

  3. Marvelous..I want one - the cape that is!! I'm not really fond of spiders, although when I think on it too much that's when I get frightened, but they don't try and bother people really. But, I wouldn't mind some making me a cape :)) Cinderella had mice, I could have spiders ;) xx

  4. The silk from 1.2 million spiders? That's amazing, as against spiders as I am I love this.

  5. In my old flat I used to have spiders arriving in my bath tub from the plumbing. I don't mind spiders, but those were so big they stomped!

    The coat is amazingly beautiful, though!

  6. gorgeous and fun!!

  7. Wowww, that's so amazing! Thanks for sharing :D

  8. I have no idea where you find all these amazing things! The cape is so pretty, and such a curiosity! Ultra cool!

  9. That cape is so amazing! Your blog is lovely, if you want to take a look at mine it’s at, if you’d like we should follow each other! :)

    xo Gillie

  10. Let's all be nice to spiders in the future! If we collect them all and put them in a little house of their own, we can make our own spiderweb-capes in a few years! ;)

    Helen: The reason I find all these amazing things is because I don't have a boyfriend, and so spend far too much time in front of the computer looking at pretty stuff instead of cuddeling! ;) xo

  11. My husband recently read an article that there has been some progress in the spidersilk producing business. The silk produced by spiders are superior from that of the silkworm, the problem with spiders is that they are very territorial and they actually kill each other if they get to close-thus making the larger scale production impossible. But now they have manipulated the genes in these spiders so that their not so aggressive. Shall we congratulate the scientist for creating a new gene-modified spider? I say hell YES!
    I don´t particularly care for spiders but if they kill other bugs and produce silk, they are my new favorite bug.
    I can also tip you girls on something great to keep the spiders away! Citronella spray ! Spray the doorway and window edges. Spiders hate citronella!

  12. Interesting facts! I don't usually like gene manipulation. But in this case it might actually do some good - since it takes away aggression. I could definitely wear spider silk! Will remember that Citronella tip too. Thanx! :) xx

  13. *gasps* That is divine. Can you imagine owning, or wearing it?


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