How to Turn Abandoned Spider Webs Into Thread

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Here's a weekend project for the intrepid and meticulous only.

A young woman is making usable thread out of spider silk. The woman, who goes by the handle Persona, posted a detailed account of her web-to-spool process on the how-to site Instructables. I was struck by how painstaking the work is. The first step, collecting webs, is probably enough to put off most people, but it's after they are in hand that the real work begins. They have to be cleaned, combined into longer fibers, and rolled together. (There are photos of the whole process at the site.)

The fascinating project is a wild DIY twist on biomimicry, a field dedicated to using nature's evolved designs to solve human problems. The painstaking craft isn't going to be commercialized any time soon, as Persona freely admits. "The reason for making spider silk thread is not for making a lot of thread," she wrote, "but is instead for having thread out of making the strongest, stretchiest material on earth."

We tried to contact Persona multiple times, but to no avail. We'll update you with more details if she gets back to us.

Collect-Webs.jpgthread.jpg

Images: persona/Instructables


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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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