American fashion designer Nicholas Godley and textile expert Simon Peers have teamed up and produced a cape and shawl made entirely of golden silk “milked” from female spiders. For more than four years, almost eighty workers gathered over 1,000,000 wild Madagascan golden orb spiders. Next, another dozen workers individually attached each spider to a silking machine where approximately eighty feet of naturally golden-colored silk was extracted from each arachnid. The workers then used hand-operated machines to carefully weave the collected silk into thread. After each spider was silked, she was released, unharmed, back into the wild, where it takes them about 10 days to regenerate their supply of silk.
Today, scientists are attempting to replicate the properties of spider silk, which is stronger and more flexible than steel or Kevlar; but this isn’t the first time these spiders have been captured and relieved of their prized silk. In the 1880′s, French missionary Father Jacob Paul Camboué and an associate created a spider silk industry in Madagascar when they designed a machine to extract the silk from 24 spiders simultaneously. The duo even later presented a set of bed tapestries at the Paris Exposition in 1898. Those tapestries have since been lost, but the ingenuity and inspiration have surely remained.
-Carl Ayers (@ECCA1980 on twitter)