Spider-silk cape by Simon Peers
and Nicholas Godley

| 13 comments

A golden cape woven from the silk of over a million wild spiders is on show at the V&A museum in London.

Spider-silk cape by Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley

Working in Madagascar, Simon Peers from the UK and Nicholas Godley from the USA created a hand-operated machine for harvesting silk from the spiders based on a design from over 100 years ago.

Spider-silk cape by Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley

Golden orb spiders were collected from the wild, harnessed to the machine so the silk could be extracted and set free again at the end of each day.

Spider-silk cape by Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley

It takes about one week for the spiders to regenerate their silk so the same spiders can be used again and again.

Spider-silk cape by Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley

23,000 spiders are needed to create about 28g of silk, which is naturally golden in colour.

Spider-silk cape by Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley

The display also includes a four metre-long piece of fabric woven from the same spider silk and is on show at the museum until 5 June 2012.

Spider-silk cape by Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley

See a scarf made by silk worms crawling across pieces of card in our earlier story.

Spider-silk cape by Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley

Here are some more details from the V&A museum:


The only large textiles in the world to have been created from the silk of spiders will go on display at the V&A in January 2012.

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. The hand-woven brocaded textile is naturally golden in colour and took over four years to create. It will be shown together with a new golden cape, woven and embroidered in Madagascar, which will go on public display for the very first time at the V&A.

  • michelle

    somebody call PETA!

  • http://thebarenecessitiesblog.blogspot.com/ Zee

    One small sample of fabric + displayed bobins of thread would have been enough amazement. Just the fact that they did it once.

    The number of spiders and man hours 'milked' in the 'developping world' in order to produce this one costly garment photographed on the shoulders of a fashion model (and whose design and purpose are completely unclear – is this to be worn, sold, made to attract the garment industry, satisfy the egos of a couple entrepreneurs from the 'western world'?) raise mixed feelings.

    I see a story of exploitation there. Not only a technique from the 19th century, but also some social framing from that era too.

    • Scramble

      Is there something I missed in this article? Or did you read another article somewhere else about this same project? Because I found nothing mentioning whether or not the workers or the animals were exploited and abused in this process. And, use of old technology does not in any way equate emloying an oudated mindset.

      As for the purpose of the work being completely unclear, I can attest that many students and practitioners of textile design and textile science have wondered about such a thing as spider silk fabric for a good long time. Someone decided to investigate the possibility. Is simple curiosity and a desire to experiment no longer a good reason to embark upon a design project?

  • gerald

    If Michelle and Zee would stop eating all meat based products (milk and gelatine is in almost every single product we consume :) and stop wearing all leather, silk and wool I would truly have respect for their opinions. If not then they are simply self rightous egos with little common sense.

    Personally I am really happy that Madagascar after all the hardships that poor country has had to endure finally has something so wonderful and brilliant to show to the rest of the world. Putting the country back on the map and being part of our global community again is good step for all.

    • xtiaan

      I think youll find milk is not a "meat based product",
      I also think youll find a person doesnt have to be a vegan for their concern for the welfare of third world people or animals to be valid.

  • xtiaan

    omg, worst job evar "spider milker"

    As long as the people in charge of the spiders were paid a decent living wage and no spiders were harmed I think this is pretty cool.

  • Dave

    I think this is decadent and in bad taste. I don't like it.

  • Pedro

    This is a work of art and an important incentive to keep researching the potential of spider silk. By the way the Madagascar Orb-weaber is a stunning and beautiful aracnid. The design of the cape is very elegant and the embroidery of fine detail. It would be wonderful to be able to capture the texture, touch and feel of this silk.

  • Nick

    I honestly don't understand.
    Has Dezeen taken the place of WWF or Greenpeace?
    Instead of discussing on the artistic value of a project, every time I attempt to read the comments they are FULL of "poor spiders", "poor birds", "poor fish".
    Poor designers!
    Following these, in my opinion, very futile extremisms we'll arrive to the: "nice chair, but it's made of wood. Trees have been torn down to make it, I'm so disappointed!" crap.
    This garment here it's clearly an experimentation. A very interesting one indeed, I believe. The well being of the spiders is honestly my last concern. Haven't you ever crushed a spider in your entire life? Or a fly? Were you so utterly shocked for having killed an innocent insect that you embarked on a trip to India to purify your guilty soul?
    I don't know, but I believe that artistic experimentation must be considered differently than mass production.

    • The Great Flood

      Right on Nick you big design loving hero you!

  • alessandro

    betcha this is greener than your toyota prius. not an amazing design, but certainly an amazing feat. Love the color, especially if it really is the natural silk color.

  • Raj

    Now humans have gone to another level.Even wild spiders are our slaves now.

  • http://hammerheadstoneworks.com Marc

    An important subtext, not mentioned in this article, is the strength, durability and potential utility of spider silk in human endeavors, which may have great, beneficial consequences to life on Earth. Scientists are endlessly amazed at how spiders can create one of the strongest materials in the world out of bug guts. Our strongest materials now are primarily made at great resource cost from quarrying, refining steel etc.
    It's an important proof of concept.