Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How Many Golden Orb-Weaving Spiders Does it Take to Weave and 11 by 4 Foot Tapestry?

Answer: One Million!
How long did it take? 4 years
How many people worked on it? 80 (I think those were just the number of people it took to collect the spider silk!)

Back in October, I got a real weaving treat. I went to the Natural History Museum in NYC to see the ultimate labor intensive weaving extravaganza. I was surprised to find there were no signs advertising the weaving. I asked a guard how to find the spider weaving. He said, "Go down this hall until you come to the giant mosquito, turn right and go until you get to the big canoe." And there is was tucked into a corner of a giant room with no hoopla or flashing lights or anything.
Click here to see my first reaction.

What I didn't realize is that is was woven in strips like Kente Cloth. So I imagine many different weavers contributed a strip. Wouldn't you have loved to tried your hand at weaving with this stuff? The main threads consist of 96 twisted silk lines. The brocaded patterns in the tapestry — stylized birds and flowers — are woven with threads made up of 960 spider silk lines.

The band at each edge was woven separately and attached. It looks like the fringe was also attached after the fact. I loved the braided fringe. The braided part of the fringe is about 18" long, and then there is at least 20" of chaos.

I would have give a lot to have been able to touch it. They say it feels like cashmere, but you would think it would be sticky.


Gerri in St Paul said...

I've heard about this but thanks for the report of a personal encounter. It's also more detail on the weaving than I'd read before. Me, as a very neophyte weaver, would be terrified to weave with it.

Dorothy said...

I'm very interested to know it was strip woven.

Like Gerri, I'd have been too nervous to handle this thread, what an amazing task the weavers were given. Thank you for bringing this to us via your blog.

grace lovelace said...

thank you for being such a weaving inspiration & being part of my life

Anonymous said...

Nice report, Bonnie. I just got to the museum yesterday and was as surprised as you were at the complete lack of information. We even elbowed through the gift shop, but to no avail. The piece is spectacular and you were able to capture details of weave extremely well, considering all the lights and reflections.