Thursday, August 4, 2011

V&A to exhibit spider silk textiles

    The Telegraph reports that the only only naturally golden textile woven from the silk of spiders is to come to London Victoria and Albert Museum in January next year.

    The four metre long woven textile was made from the silk of more than a million female Golden Orb spiders collected in the highlands of Madagascar. It took 80 people five years to collect the spiders, and the naturally golden hand-woven brocaded textile took over four years to create.

    According to experts at the Victoria and Albert Museum, spider's silk has not been woven since 1900, when a textile was created for the Paris Exposition Universelle - but that no longer survives. This will be the first time spider silk has been exhibited in Europe since.

    The earliest recorded weave using the silk of spiders dates from 1709, made by a Frenchman, Francois-Xavier Bon de Saint Hilaire, who successfully produced gloves and stockings and supposedly a full suit of clothes for King Louis XIV.

    Later, in the early nineteenth century, Raimondo de Termeyer, a Spaniard working in Italy, produced stockings for the Emperor Napoleon and a shawl for his first wife, Empress Josephine.
    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.

    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. 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.

    On average, 23,000 spiders yield around 1 ounce of silk. It is a highly labour intensive undertaking, making these textiles extraordinarily rare and precious objects.

    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.

    It will be shown together with a new golden cape, currently being woven and embroidered in Madagascar, at the V&A on 25 January 2012.

    Wow! now there is a date for my 2012 diary!
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