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The magic system in my universe allows people to make things bigger in size, if they're given enough time (maybe a year or two depending on your skill and resources), as well as increase somethings natural production rate. Silk from spiders or worms have become useful to the society, as the silk is bigger (in size and thickness) and easily produced.

How could this be useful to them? I know silk has some amazing capabilities such as being strong or flexible and stuff, but how would this translate to a medieval civilization? could it be woven into clothing or furniture? Could it provide warmth? covering? defense? maybe construction or materials?

would there be any downsides to using spider silk? would it be sticky or hard to clean? would it wear down easily?

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  • $\begingroup$ There are different types of spider silk - from non-sticky to very sticky. Also, would these methods produce threads of variable thickness, or only a "fishing line" think threads? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Dec 2 '20 at 23:19
  • $\begingroup$ the thickness depends on the amount of energy or power put into it, which may vary from person to person, at thinnest like any other piece of thread, and in rare cases, as thick as a piece of yarn. $\endgroup$ Dec 2 '20 at 23:24
  • $\begingroup$ -1 for poor research. Every use of silk today would be available. Silk is not so rare that it isn't used for everything almost any other cloth, fabric, or fiber is used for - even as towels and rope. $\endgroup$ Dec 3 '20 at 0:52
  • $\begingroup$ probably no big impact on textiles---silk is a bit cheaper, big whoop. Might see suspension bridges a bit earlier. Having access to strong cables is cool but not world-changing $\endgroup$
    – Sol
    Dec 3 '20 at 4:15
  • $\begingroup$ here is a whole ted talk about the possibilities. youtube.com/watch?v=MUc5Nv4Zprs includes medical implats, plastics, medical stabilizers, ect. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Dec 3 '20 at 16:09
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All of the suggestions

Spidersilk has an immense tensile strength compared to steel. It has many advantages due to it's flexibility. Instead of steel cables you can make spidersilk cables, which would be much better. As @John points out, cordage was used heavily in the medieval period for a lot of purposes. A strand 1000 times less thick than a hair can withstand an insane amount of flex and pull. Something you can't say from steel.

The flexibility means you can't replace steel. You can't make a sword out of it, or a table. But it can still be a great boon in many cases. It's suggested that the nanostructures of spidersilk would also help in protecting a wearer from sharp objects. It can conceivably protect against blunt force, but only in large amounts. Clothes are a great way to use it as well, as from what I read it doesn't wear easily and is hardly biodegradable.

Because of the nanotubes that spidersilk is created from I can surmise they are good insulators, but that is a guess. If true, spidersilk would be a further boon to the clothing as well as blanket, house insulation or similar purposes. I can't find waterresistance, but as spiders live in humid environments water is likely not interacting with the silk. This could serve to waterproof, physically protect and generally strengthen many forms of construction as well as clothing again.

Spiders don't make all their lines sticky. Both for walking themselves and likely because the sticky ones require more energy. The sticky ones add a whole dimension thiugh, as little is needed to stick relatively big insects. Usage in nets, or possibly on the floor for creatures walking over it are likely candidates, but layers of sticky web can assist in building by basically layering other material on top that is immediately glued in place, making use of both the layer's strengths.

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  • $\begingroup$ actually you can make a table out of it, silk plastics are a thing. youtube.com/watch?v=MUc5Nv4Zprs $\endgroup$
    – John
    Dec 3 '20 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ @John pretty cool! Going to do some more research for it. However, a medieval society is requested, so I think spidersilk plastics are out. Still I think it is likely ways would be found to stiffen the material or use it within rigid materials if it would have been abundant in the medieval period, but that is more speculation. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Dec 3 '20 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ My bad did not see the medieval requirement. Cordage should be emphasized medieval societies used rope for everything. It can also be used for armor, in the same way you make cloth or paper armor you could make silk armor that would work better and be lighter. you may not be able to make a sword out of silk but you can make armor that will stop a sword out of silk. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Dec 3 '20 at 16:31
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    $\begingroup$ The Mongols used silk to make arrows less lethal. Getting hit by an arrow still would hurt them and break skin, but removing the arrow would do less damage than if one was hit with one in other armor and would be lighter than Eurpoean Chain mail. In Japan, samurai often wore silk capes that would billow when they charged. This billowing cape would disrupt up to 75% of the arrows that would penetrate them if they did not have it. Eat your heart out, Edna Mode! $\endgroup$
    – hszmv
    Dec 3 '20 at 17:31
  • $\begingroup$ @John added a sentence about cordage. Armour was already in there though. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Dec 4 '20 at 13:41
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Anything fabrics can do, spider silk would do too.

As pointed out in the comments, silk is used for everything from towels to rope, as well as all types of garments from ties to dresses. These are soft garments that are comfortable to wear.

enter image description here
Woman wearing a spider silk outfit. Source

In a medieval situation the mass availability of silk probably will not have a big notable effect on society - even if spiders are giving it freely and easily, lots of man hours are still needed to spin it, loom it, and turn it into clothing. Unless your magic system can turn the spider silk into bolts of fabric for you it's not going to be in wider use than existing fabrics by nature of the man hours involved in processing it. Silk can be very warm but a fur coat is probably easier to manufacture even if silk is freely available.

I think the most interesting effect of silk availability through history would be a few hundred years later by changing cotton farming - that may make slavery for cotton farming unecconomical, possibly removing usa slavery and the us civil war from history, and reduce water shortages in several parts of the world caused by cotton farming.

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  • $\begingroup$ lots of man hours are still needed to spin it, loom it, and turn it into clothing. That's the case with the spider silk we have; thin. But this post implies how they can be thick. When the treads are thick, it will be fast to work with. $\endgroup$
    – user80961
    Dec 3 '20 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ .... I wouldn't be so quick to just assume slavery would dry up. The fashion industry is still, to this day, considered to be one of the primary "employers" of slaves. If the silk is more economical than cotton, but can survive in a similar climate, then the slave owners would just switch to raising these spiders, and if harvesting the spider silk requires anywhere near the same manual labor as cotton, slaves would continue to be employed. $\endgroup$ Dec 4 '20 at 7:28
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"Hey Andy! We've got ourselves a good one!" shouts Thomas as he hurried to the trap.

Frantically kicking its hind legs, a rabbit lay helplessly among the fallen leaves, its thrashing body successfully wrapping the net around the rabbit as the sticky silk clung to its fur.

Picking up the web-wrapped rabbit with ease, Thomas placed it into his sack, where a couple of more rabbits and squirrels were. Then, he ran after Andy to check on the bird traps.

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Cloth

this is the obvious one, but easily available silk will allow a wide range of uses for cloth, the expense of silk is what normally limits its uses. Clothing, Bags, upholstery, rugs, bedding, curtains, are all possible. But cloth offers other uses besides clothing. Silk sails would be stronger and lighter. Tents made of silk would be much lighter and more water resistant. The best parachutes are made of silk, as are the best bags. Silk windmill vanes would work better and medieval cranes using silk would be safer. Artillery powder bags used to be made of silk becasue the was the only cloth that would burn completely and not foul the guns. Depending on how loose you want to play with technology silk and rubber tires are also possible, silk and rubber bicycle tires are some of the best available.

Cordage

Rope and string are used everywhere in medieval society, making rope that is stronger and easier to make will be a big impact, one of the major limitations of rope was how long it took to make, your spider can literally spin rope on demand. Even things like fishing nets would be improved. One big advantage is sutures, silk sutures are stronger yes but the body can also break down so you have self dissolving sutures a few hundred years early. Rope bridges (suspension and hanging) become easy to make, block and tackle become cheap, building becomes easier, there are many small impacts this will have.

Armor

Armor was made from cloth and paper, such armor was cheap and offered real protection, cloth armor will stop a sword, but tended to be bulky. Silk could be uses in the same way and it would be much stronger and thus much lighter and less bulky. Silk gambeson may well become the norm. It also would not need leather for fittings, silk is tough enough on its own.

enter image description here

Paper

Silk paper is a real thing, it has advantages and disadvantages. it is less easy to write on and harder to make, but is tougher, it is also much fancier so it is often used for expensive goods. But it could be uses again for armor, it is stronger than normal paper allowing for lighter less bulky paper armor.

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