The New England Flax and Linen Study Group began meeting in 2012 to learn from one another and to share what we knew about flax growing and linen production. While we are a relatively new and informal group, we are seriously invested in acquiring the hands-on skills and knowledge needed to answer our questions and advance our projects.
We have a wide range of backgrounds and interests, including plant and environmental science, education, history, and craft. Participants include a professor of plant physiology and lacemaker; professional and amateur weavers, spinners, and dyers; a community agriculturist; a museum educator at Historic Deerfield (with a degree in entomology); and 18th century living history re-enactors who specialize in flax and linen interpretation.
Over the past few years, we have met regularly to study and investigate and discuss:
- Various aspects of flax growing and processing (including an extensive field test of more than 30 types of flax)
- Spinning and dyeing of linen yarns
- Weaving of linen cloth
- Historical textiles and the communities and technologies that produced them.
In the course of demonstrating and teaching, networking, and sending out inquiries, we found that there are a growing number of projects across North America devoted to flax and linen. Each project has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share— and if they are like our group, they have an equal number of questions to ask. We also saw that flax and linen are of interest to a wider, more general audience. We found ourselves wishing for an opportunity for more direct and in-depth communication between our group and other groups and individuals working on flax-related projects. So, in 2014 we began to envision a symposium where face-to-face exchange of information can occur.
In August of 2016 we presented the symposium Flax & Linen: Following the Thread from Past to Present at Historic Deerfield, in Deerfield, Massachusetts. The symposium was a great success and we look forward to organizing similar events in the future.