Because I mentioned it only briefly in my post Halloween Ambiance, I'm coming back to this exquisite spider silk fabric presented last year at the Victoria and Albert for those of you who are interested.
The above fabric was a project of Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley and its threads, the product of more than one million female Golden Orb weaver spiders of Madagascar. The color belongs to Nature; no dying was necessary. The above image is a detail of the cape shown in the previous blog post. It is a plain taffeta which has been embroidered with more of the same spider silk.
In the myths of many cultures, the spider is the creator of the Cosmos, creating seemingly something from nothing. Stronger than steel, stronger than Kevlar, the silk issued from the spider has been considered an interesting but difficult pursuit for quite some time. Spiders are not the most amenable creatures on the earth and they have an incorrigible cannibalistic tendency when brought together for production purposes.
|image Victoria & Albert|
The blog, Balades Entomologiques, reports that in 1610 Réaumur noted it down as important to study its possibilities as a material of the future. Francois-Xavier de Saint Hilaire (1678-1761) wrote a Dissertation sur l'araignée which taught how to spin spider silk. His work was translated into all European languages as well as Chinese. The only sizable known example of spider silk weaving dates to the Exposition Universelle of Paris 1900 where bed hangings of spider silk were on display. As resistant as they were, these seem to have disappeared. The Economist reports that it "was never designed as a commercial venture it cannot be cleaned and shrinks in contact with water." Maybe the 1900 hangings were washed somewhere along the line --several times.
|photo The Economist|
Incredibly soft Peers says "you literally cannot feel it, it’s quite extraordinary. I think one of the reasons for that is that if you get a cross-section of the silk you can see it’s perfectly cylindrical, the silk, unlike the Chinese Silk Worm which has got this sort of irregular, triangular cross-section." But it is the spider silk's qualities of strength and elasticity that interest scientists most. With numerous applications in medicine and engineering and even music (chord instruments), many attempts to make artificial spider silk are underway.
more information here