Introduction: How to Make Spider Silk Thread

Picture of How to Make Spider Silk Thread
During the summer months, spider webs cover every corner, and every open space of my yard. These webs are humongous, the largest ones being about 5 feet wide. The webs I encounter in my garden are webs are from several kinds of Orb spiders. None of the spiders that build the giant webs in my garden are poisonous. This is lucky for me, because I have walked into countless numbers of webs.

I have also encountered many abandoned webs, which gave me the idea of harvesting these out-of-use webs for their silk. Having walked into so many webs, I know how unbelievably strong and stretchy their threads are. Spider silk, in fact, is the strongest fiber ever discovered. Spider silk is stronger than steel, for its diameter; that is, a thread of steel would be weaker than a thread of spider silk of the same size.

Scientists have been working on how to entirely artificially duplicate spider silk in the lab for a while, but have not yet been able to make the silk entirely without spiders. I have included some websites of some recent research on the subject at the end of the instructable.

In this instructable, I will show I how I harvested abandoned webs and turned them into threads that I could use to sew.
 

Step 1: Understand Which Species Make the Right Webs

Picture of Understand Which Species Make the Right Webs
Where I live, in southern North Carolina in the USA, there are about four types of spiders that make good webs for collecting:

1) golden orb spider,
2) black and yellow orb spider,
3) crab orb spider, 
4) orchard spider


All of these build large, regular orb shaped webs, with strong fibers. None of these spiders are dangerous, but I recommend avoiding their bites anyway, because it could be painful, and there may be those who are allergic to their bites. I have never heard of anyone being allergic to orb spiders, but it's not impossible. Also, if you got close enough to one of these spiders to actually get bit by it, you were probably seriously annoying it (I have actually poked a giant golden orb spider once to show my uncle that it was harmless).

Before collecting webs from any spider, please make sure you know what kind of spider it is. There are poisonous spiders in the USA. Outside the USA, I cannot speak with authority about the kinds of spiders, so you should do you own research about spiders before collecting their webs. Especially in Australia (home of the most poisonous spider in the world)! In the USA there are two web building spiders that have a deadly venom, and should be avoided at all costs:

1) The black widow (and brown widow) spider
2)The brown recluse


I have not seen these in my yard, but I have avoided their habitats on purpose. The picture I have of them are not mine, because I did not want to stick my face in them to take their pictures. Luckily, these spider's webs look completely different than the four spiders I mentioned earlier. While the four spiders I mentioned all build webs in the open, above ground, and in regular orb shapes,the poisonous spiders build irregular webs in piles of wood, rocks, bricks, and other things. These spiders are often found in garages, for instance, or firewood piles. I will say it again that these spiders are very dangerous! If you are bit by one ever, go to the emergency room!

I have included pictures of the spiders I mentioned, and their webs.
 

Step 2: Find Abandoned Webs

Picture of Find Abandoned Webs
Collect only abandoned webs for spinning into thread. Not only is it nicer to the spiders, who are excellent predators of evil bugs such as mosquitoes, it prevents a chance encounter with a spider, whom you do not want to piss off. Certain spiders will build new webs everyday, such as orchard and crab orb spiders. Others, such as the yellow orb spider will maintain the same web as long as possible, sometimes building on new additions, and making humongous multi-story webs. Only when a yellow orb weaver spider decides to move to a new spot does it abandon its web.

Its not that hard to tell if a web is abandoned -- there is no spider in the web. Be careful, though, because it could be hiding off to the side where you don't see it at first.
 

Step 3: Collect Webs

Picture of Collect Webs
To collect webs, I first snagged one  side of the web, and carefully twisted the web,  carefully pulling off silk threads from the leaves, until I had a the fibers in a length. I avoided breaking any threads whenever possible, in order to keep the original threads as long as they could be, before having to twist on a new length of silk.

I then wound the length of silk on a smooth stick (the stalk of a lily) temporarily, while I gathered more silk.
 

Step 4: Clean and Untangle the Silk

Picture of Clean and Untangle the Silk

The silk from old spider webs will inevitably have things such as leaves, twigs, dust, and most often, leftover insect parts. These will need to be cleaned out of the silk. To do this, use a pair of tweezers and extract the debris and insects, all while trying not to break any of the fibers. 

Next, in order to keep the length of the thread as even in thickness as possible, untangle the fibers and try to distribute the fibers from thicker parts of the length to the thinner parts of the length.


Step 5: Combine Fibers

Picture of Combine Fibers

In order to combine the all the lengths of thread into two long lengths, I placed the lengths next to each other, overlapping by 2 to 3 inches on the ends, depending on how thick the fibers were. I then twisted them together in the same way that I twisted the fibers when I collected the silk.

I ended up with two lengths of silk thread, that I wound together in the next step.

Step 6: Twist Thread

Picture of Twist Thread

Next, in order to make the thread stronger, I twisted together the two long fibers I had twisted. I did this not in the same way I collected the fibers, as in the last step. I did this by winding the threads around each other individually. That is, first I crossed one fiber over the other, and then crossed the other fiber over the first fiber, and so on. This has to be done this way in order to keep the already twisted fibers together.

After twisting the whole length, I folded the length in half and twisted it again. It was too thin and weak otherwise. While spider silk is very strong for its width, it is incredibly thin, and needs to be strengthened by making it wider.

Step 7: Wind Onto Spool

Picture of Wind Onto Spool

I had many many empty spools around, because my grandmother was an obsessive seamstress who had a house full (truly FULL) of sewing materials. If you don't have a spool, winding the thread around a piece of cardboard, or even a folded piece of paper will work as well.

As you can see, I have very little thread from this whole process. The reason for making spider silk thread is not for making a lot of thread, but is instead for having thread out of making the strongest, stretchiest material on earth.

Your seams could be stronger than the fabric itself!

Step 8: Others Who Have Used Spider Silk, and Some of the Research Done on It

Picture of Others Who Have Used Spider Silk, and Some of the Research Done on It

This is an exhibit on a piece of textile made entirely out of spider silk:

http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/spidersilk/


These are all scientific articles on spider silk:

http://www.sciencentral.com/articles/view.php3?article_id=218392167&language=english

http://www.accessexcellence.org/WN/SU/spider.php

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100514151853.htm

This is also a scientific article on spider silk, but its about how scientist have combined metallic thread with spider silk. This could make the perfect conductive thread:

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE53M5OG20090423

Comments

Richmoney_Alex (author)2016-06-11

how much can one of these threads hold in weight?

Richmoney_Alex (author)2016-06-11

Iis this spider silk sticky?

naklafshdmam (author)2015-10-20

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lukemarq (author)2015-03-01

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-16554357
Spidergoat
Never underestimate the mad scientists.

احمدع (author)2015-01-17

A spider web farm would be awesome,but sadly spiders get cannabalistic when near other spiders. They are very aggressive.

http://www.dar-elsafwa.com/

e7trfseo (author)2014-11-18

Would daddy long-leg spider webs work?

http://www.nirity.co

PaleHorseRider (author)e7trfseo2014-12-12

You want to get webs that are strong even in a single strand.

Real grand daddy long leg webs' are weak and only gathered in small amounts.

rcbailey13 (author)2014-11-03

I someone wants to buy spider silk, I know of a location that has hundreds of webs. I do not know the current condition of the webs because they are not very protected from the elements. Tell how much you want and what it is worth to you and will see if we can make it happen. I do not know how we will determine the amount of web material we will end up with. You would also have to determine how you want it harvested- all in a ball or wound around something. Only about one in five webs were active last time I was there. I did not ID the spider making the webs.

JazmynA (author)2014-09-26

Hi I'm doing a project where I'm building Spiderman's web shooters so I was wondering if you sell this thread or if you know where I can buy some. I'd really appreciate the help thank you.

Laserbeamtoast (author)2014-08-28

A spider web farm would be awesome,but sadly spiders get cannabalistic when near other spiders. They are very aggressive.

Laserbeamtoast (author)2014-08-28

A spider web farm would be awesome,but sadly spiders get cannabalistic when near other spiders. They are very aggressive.

Laserbeamtoast (author)2014-08-28

A spider web farm would be awesome,but sadly spiders get cannabalistic when near other spiders. They are very aggressive.

Laserbeamtoast (author)2014-08-28

A spider web farm would be awesome,but sadly spiders get cannabalistic when near other spiders. They are very aggressive.

Master97865 (author)2012-10-19

Wow. This is gorgeous! I never knew that you could make thread from spider webs! Too bad I don't live anywhere near a place where the spiders you listed live.

emmieberry (author)2011-12-04

This is hands down the most interesting instructable I have ever seen, It's well done and I learned a lot from it! : D

tinker234 (author)2011-06-03

hey wow could you go and cath spiders and begin a spider web farm

gthomas14 (author)tinker2342011-10-06

YEAH THATD BE AWESOME!!

tinker234 (author)gthomas142011-10-07

yeah it would be fun

yoshi1 (author)2011-02-26

I think ticks should be added to the arachnid list because they have 8 legs too.

zzoe (author)yoshi12011-03-27

No need to add them, they're already there. Ticks, and all other mites are arachnids. You had the right idea.
-Z.

raja681 (author)2010-07-18

here is something creepy in a lab on a farm in Sweden they are making a goat that u can milk and it has milk and spider silk..............MILK SILK ANYONE!!!

Persona (author)raja6812010-07-19

I think I remember hearing about that! It makes NO SENSE!

Culturespy (author)Persona2010-07-19

I've seen "spider goats" at Purdue University. It actually makes a lot of sense. It's come a long way in a past several years. The milk is still "drinkable". The silk protein doesn't present as a fiber in the milk, it needs a chemical catalyst to be extracted. The goats have a number of advantages, they don't bite(well not like spiders do), they are easier to milk than spiders, they don't eat each other and they are still useful for things that goats are useful for. The process is still pretty young as technologies go but there's a lot of promise in it.

raja681 (author)Culturespy2011-02-28

ya i really want one of the spider goats

Technologic (author)raja6812010-07-19

Haha. I saw a documentary about that a few years ago. They would extract the silk proteins from the milk of the genetically modified goats or something like that. It was less productive than pulling the web right out of the spiders. But I guess the crazy scientists scientists just wanna have fun.

yoshi1 (author)2011-01-22

You should see the size of a camel spider they are massive! I'm not sure if they make webs though?

Toxonic0 (author)yoshi12011-01-25

No they don't, they're not actually spiders. They're more closely related to scorpions. No web at all.

raja681 (author)Toxonic02011-02-28

srry said spider meant arachnid not spider srry they are in the same order as the spider and the scorpion which makes it no more closely related to either

XaviaPhoenix (author)2011-02-17

I bet that if you were to weave a friendship bracelet out of spider's silk, it would last for YEEEEEEARS. Some of the strongest stuff is said to be 10 times the strength of Kevlar. That's awesome.

manadhon (author)2010-07-22

It's kinda nice knowing that here in Michigan all I have to worry about is the brown recluse (which is not native to Michigan as it comes in with wood shipments), and the northern black widow (which sadly, is native to Michigan). Other than those two species, there isn't really any interesting species of arachnid here

chadoliver (author)manadhon2010-07-22

Yeah, but New Zealand is even better: no spiders that could hurt anything bigger than a rabbit (if that). Plus, no snakes or other bitey things!

manadhon (author)chadoliver2010-07-24

your wrong about that.there are poisonous spiders in New Zealand, three species to be exact.the kapito ,white- tailed and red back spiders. 1.red back bites can cause severe pain, aches and profuse sweating. 2.kapito bites may lead to severe pain around the bite area and possible muscle cramps. 3.A White-tailed spider bite usually leads to severe pain and swelling around the bite area, but there are no long-lasting effects. and yes you are right about the snakes and other "bitey" things"

yoshi1 (author)manadhon2011-01-21

But aren't there mosquitoes? They can kill!

manadhon (author)yoshi12011-01-26

most mosquitoes in michigan suck blood. few will carry diseases as disease carrying mosquitoes are more common in tropical regions

nobelium106 (author)manadhon2010-07-25

For the record, the brown recluse is actually much more poisonous than the black widow. Black widow bites are painful, cause inflammation, and require doctors etc. Brown recluse bites cause necrosis of the flesh rapidly and require a doctor for not only anti venom, but usually removal of flesh to amputation.

bundatbrown (author)nobelium1062010-08-27

Where I live (west coast of North America) we have many black and brown widows. It's weird because brown widows are from Florida. The Brown recluse is the most poisonous spider,and following that is the brown widow. They're not really dangerous though, because they don't bite as often as the black widow.

nutsandbolts_64 (author)2010-07-19

Would daddy long-leg spider webs work?

Persona (author)nutsandbolts_642010-07-19

I think it would, especially if this sentence from a website on them is any indication:

"the spider throws tough stiff web material over the victim and disables its mobility"

MaXoR (author)Persona2010-07-22

I think most people when talking about a "Daddy Long Legs" will be referring to a harvestman arachnid. You didn't exactly use a well known website to source your information, and most side websites will get certain details mixed up. Either way, the harvestman arachnid is not even capable of producing web in any great quantity, if at all. If you see one in a web, he is trapped, and going to die! Although yes, on Myth Busters they proved that it is possible to entice a harvestman into biting into your flesh, a reaction because of it doesn't mean it punctured the .5 - 4mm of flesh to the other side, likely only puncturing the first layer or two, and causing an irritation. The average one's fangs are only .25mm long, and they don't have strong uncate fang muscles either. They do however have a wonderful myth that they have some of the most poisonous venom, and that likely stemmed from the fact they prey on redback's (Part of the black widow family) and win consistently, however scientists have learned it's merely because they are quicker, and get the upper hand, or neck...lol!

frabotta (author)MaXoR2010-12-19

@MaXoR

I believe you are confusing harvestmen (order Phalangida) with spider, Pholcus phalangioides (featured on Myth Busters), that has a near-cosmopolitan distribution. As true spiders, Pholcus DOES possess fangs, can penetrate human, skin, and 'throws' stiff web silk around their prey.

Harvestmen (order Phalangida or Opiliones), while arachnids, are not spiders and possess neither fangs nor silk glands.

HisDivineShadow (author)2010-08-28

A thread of spider silk the thickness of a pencil cna stop (cut through) military jerts moving at full speed...

Yeah. I need to collect a LOT of silk... Gonna make a climbing rope if I can.

lop145 (author)2010-07-19

no dangerous spiders here exept if your allergic. and there's just one spider that has a nasty wasp like bite but that one lives under water.

chuckr44 (author)lop1452010-07-20

The underwater spiders I know in the US do not live underwater, but they do hunt underwater by carrying a bubble of air with them.

lop145 (author)chuckr442010-08-05

this one makes an underwater web and fills it with air. they are quite rare and only live in heavily grown underwater places. although holland is a country with a lot of water not mutch is so grown that it can make its web there. never been bitten by one and i'm not planning to be bitten anytime soon.

Iridium7 (author)chuckr442010-07-21

You are kidding right? How can they make a air bubble? I didn't even know they had lungs?

chuckr44 (author)Iridium72010-07-22

They don't "make" an air bubble, the air gets trapped between the hairs on the outside of their body and makes the body look silver. They do not have lungs, their respiratory system, I believe, is an open system. Air travels freely inside their body cavity.

SaFemme (author)chuckr442010-07-22

Actually, yes, some spiders do "collect" air at the surface to fill their air bubble underwater...

frabotta (author)chuckr442010-07-22

Arachnids, including spiders and scorpions have a respiratory organ called a "book-lung" because it looks like a large open book with the pages "leaved-out" to each side. Attached is an image of a tarantula's well-developed book-lungs.

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Bio: College graduate with a degree in religious studies, and an engineering major drop out.
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