A BRITISH art historian has created what is believed to be the worlds largest and rarest piece of cloth made entirely from golden spider silk. The 11ft hand-woven silk shawl took Simon Peers five years to make and cost him and his American business partner Nicholas Godley more than 300,000. The shawl went on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York last week and is set to come to London next year. The silk has been extracted from more than one million golden orb spiders, which can be found in Madagascar. Only the females produce the silk which is known for its rich golden colour and strength. 'I hate sounding pretentious, but what we wanted to do here was produce something that was a work of art, Mr Godley told the New York Times. 'I feel like what weve produced in some ways is more exceptional because of the extraordinary amount of effort that went into it. According to the Sunday Times, the spiders, which are not poisonous, were carefully placed in harnesses so they could not eat one another or escape. Weavers then gently extracted the strands of filament that dangle from their spinnerets. One spider is capable of spinning up to 400 yards of gold-coloured thread. The 24 filaments from each set of harnesses were then twisted by hand into a single strand, and twisted again with three other 24-filament strands to make the silk thread that was used to weave the cloth. Mr Godley told Wired Science: 'Fourteen thousand spiders yield about an ounce of silk and the textile weighs about 2.6 pounds. The numbers are crazy. 'We had to find people who were willing to work with spiders because they bite, he added. DM Mr Peers was inspired by 19th-century accounts of a unique attempt by a French colonial administrator to spin cloth from the silken threads of Madagascars ubiquitous golden orb spider. 'I wasnt sure if the stories were apocryphal or real, Mr Peers told the Sunday Times. Initial attempts to recreate an elaborate mechanical contraption that could harness up to 24 spiders at a time were thwarted when the female spiders started eating each other. Mr Peers told the newspaper: 'We would start with 20 and end up with three very fat ones. The spider-silk shawl is hand-woven with traditional Malagasy motifs and is larger than any other pieces of spider cloth. Mr Peers knows of only two other pieces, both of which are only a few centimetres wide and are kept in a museum in Lyons, France. 'I think weve surpassed anyone else, he told the Sunday Times. While some spiders naturally died during production, Mr Peers and Mr Godley set up a system so that spiders being used were released daily. 'We have become sort of the defenders of these spiders, something we never thought wed be, Mr Godley told the New York Times. 'They really are very regal-looking creatures. DM