New England Flax and Linen began as a small study group meeting in 2012 in the Pioneer Valley area of Western Massachusetts.
Members came from a wide range of backgrounds and interests, including a professor of plant physiology and lacemaker; 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.
Our discussions and investigations included:
- 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 is 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 have been inspired to see the growth of flax projects across the country since then.
We continue to learn from one another and to share what we knew about flax growing and linen production. Along with the resources found on this site and our Facebook page, we also offer lecturers and hands-on demonstrations of flax processing and linen spinning. Contact us for more details.