Janne Robberstad

Welcome to my site! I work as an eco-designer, an artist, as a teacher and as a researcher, and creating, or ARTING as I prefer, makes me happy! This is both a portfolio of things I´ve made and a blog meant to inspire.

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Tales of the strange & unusual: sea silk

By spotogspindel | April 16, 2014

Reading for the Textile culture-class, I came across something I´ve never heard of before: sea silk.

Sea silk is an extremely fine, rare, and valuable fabric that is made from the long silky filaments orbyssus secreted by a gland in the foot of pen shells (in particular Pinna nobilis). The byssus is used by the clam to attach itself to the sea bed.

Sea silk was produced in the Mediterranean region from the large marine bivalve mollusc Pinna nobilisuntil early in the 20th century. The shell, which is sometimes almost a metre long, adheres itself to rocks with a tuft of very strong thin fibres, pointed end down, in the intertidal zone. These byssus or filaments (which can be up to 6 cm long) are spun and, when treated with lemon juice, turn a golden colour, which never fades[citation needed].

The cloth produced from these filaments can be woven even finer than silk, and is extremely light and warm; however, it attracts clothes moths, the larvae of which will eat it. It was said that a pair of women’s gloves could fit into half a walnut shell and a pair of stockings in a snuffbox.


Thank you, wikipedia!


Topics: Diverse | 1 Comment »

One Response to “Tales of the strange & unusual: sea silk”

  1. gail Says:
    April 16th, 2014 at 23:26

    How interesting, I’ve seen thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of pen shells, and had no idea they could create silk! I would have a new respect if I saw them today. 🙂