Spinning News: Spider Silk

from American Museum of Natural History

AMNHR. Mickens

A spectacular and extremely rare textile, woven from golden-colored silk thread produced by more than one million spiders in Madagascar, goes on display Wednesday, September 23 in the American Museum of Natural History Grand Gallery. This magnificent contemporary textile, measuring 11 feet by 4 feet, took four years to make using a painstaking technique developed more than 100 years ago.

This unique textile was created drawing on the legacy of a French missionary, Jacob Paul Camboué, who worked with spiders in Madagascar in the 1880s and 1890s. Camboué worked to collect and weave spider silk but with limited success, and no surviving textile is now known to exist. Previously, the only known spider-silk textile of note was exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900, and it was subsequently lost.

Producing the spider silk—the only example of its kind displayed anywhere in the world—involved the efforts of 70 people who collected spiders daily from webs on telephone wires, using long poles. These spiders were all collected during the rainy season (the only time when they produce silk) from Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, and the surrounding countryside. These giant spider webs are a well-known feature of the capital, and frequently surprise international visitors. A dozen more people were needed to draw the silk from the spiders with hand-powered machines, with each spider producing about 80 feet of silk filament.

These are some spiders! There is more to this article, as well as a related video, available at the link above.

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