Sunday, 20 February 2011

Spider silk

A spider's web on a frosty morning woven between a tractor and an old wheel.  Bit of a theme of spiders right now.  Thinking a lot about craftsmanship,  obsession and eccentricity.

In an old copy of (1964 edition) of the Handbook of Textile Fibres by J.Gordon Cook I found the following.

"Many attempts have been made to use spider silk as a textile fibre...a Monsieur Bon of Languedoc in France collected enough silk from spider cocoons to spin into a yarn.  He made silk stockings and gloves from the fine grey silk and exhibited these at the Academy of Science in Paris in 1710."

The feasibility of a spider silk industry was explored, but,

"The spiders were temperamental and unco-operative; they became excited and resented the food received so much that they ate each other instead."

Apparently the idea was revived in 1864 by an American army surgeon, Dr. Wilder who 'milked' the silk from the spider.  A pair of stockings made from this spider silk represented the life's work of nearly 500 spiders and the stockings were so sheer (and so expensive) that they were of little practical value.