A golden cape made of silk from 1.3-million spiders is set to go on display at Canada’s Royal Ontario Museum this weekend. The garment, made from the silk of Madagascar’s Golden Orb Weaver spider, will be a part of the exhibit “Spiders: Fear & Fascination.” It will be the cape’s first time on display in North America and only the second time being displayed ever. It was last on display at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.
The cape was created by fashion designer Nicholas Godley and textile designer Simon Peers. They were interested in creating the piece after learning of a 19th century French Jesuit priest who created a technique for “milking” silk from the spiders. The designers had to “reinvent” the technology for their design.
“One hundred years had passed before anyone had tried so we thought, ‘Hey, we’re in Madagascar, this is an incredible opportunity to do something that hasn’t been done in a significant way ... for a long time,’ ” Godley said. “We didn’t know what we were going to get, we didn’t know how many spiders we would need. There was no handout that would tell us how to do this, beyond some archival material from the priest.”
The cape was hand-woven and just the embroidery alone took one year to finish. The silk isn’t like regular silk either. Godley notes “it’s incredibly strong” and stretches to 140 percent of its weight. Its golden color comes from the keratin of the silk.
It will be on display at the “Spiders: Fear & Fascination” exhibit, which looks to explore people’s fear of the critters. You can catch it at the Royal Ontario Museum beginning Saturday.