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Flax & Linen: Following the Thread from Past to Present

August 20, 2016 @ 9:00 am - August 21, 2016 @ 5:00 pm

A symposium presented by The New England Flax and Linen Study Group, in collaboration with Historic Deerfield.

Flax is a textile fiber with a 30,000-year history of human use. Its versatility and utility earned the moniker Linum usitatissimum, the “most useful” fiber. The ancient history of this amazing fiber will be brought into the present and followed into the future during this two-day symposium.

Unlike most symposiums with speakers presenting papers, this symposium will follow a different format – shorter sessions and demonstrations covering all aspects of flax from beginning to end – planting to harvesting, retting, processing, spinning, weaving and finishing cloth – with additional lectures on specific topics. Highlights will be our keynote speakers on Saturday evening and a curated tour of Historic Deerfield’s textile collections to end the program.

Optional lunches will be available on Saturday and Sunday, and an optional dinner will be available on Saturday evening at the Deerfield Inn. There will also be a free welcome reception on Friday evening, August 19, from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. at the Deerfield Inn for those arriving into Deerfield for the symposium.

Program Sessions*: Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Flax in the Field – botany basics, flax seed, growing & harvesting
Retting It Right – chemistry of retting, historic & current methods, flax ponds
Flax Processing – overview of processing with demonstrations, spinning, weaving, finishing, bleaching, and special tool exhibits
Flax Today – diversity of flax products, local cloth/fibershed panel discussion
KeynoteFor the Communal Good: Communal Flax Processing in Colonial Bethlehem with Johannes & Christian Zinzendorf
Spinning a Thread – flax spinning wheels, linen spinning basics, distaffs
Weaving Linen – what makes weaving linen unique, special techniques & finishing, bleaching, panel discussion with linen weavers focused on special projects
All Manner of Useful Cloth – short presentations on Rough Cloth, A Simple Box of Weaving Equipment, the Shakers and Linen, and Interpretation at Historic Deerfield
Flynt Center – identifying linen display, guided tour of selected linens in HD collections with curator Ned Lazaro

For the full schedule, visit the New England Flax and Linen Study Group website.

Presenters/Demonstrators include*:
Johannes & Christian Zinzendorf, Authors of The Big Book of Flax
Florence Feldman-Wood, The Spinning Wheel Sleuth
Justin Squizzero, Eaton Hill Textile Works & Marshfield School of Weaving
Becky Ashenden, Vävstuga
Cassie Dickson, John C. Campbell Folk School
Ron Walter, Textiles & textile tools collector, researcher
Sandra Rux, Independent historian
Jeff Silberman,Fashion Institute of Technology, NYC
Jonn Foulk, Clemson University, USDA Agricultural Research Service
Patricia Bishop & Mike Pickett, Taproot Fibre Lab, Nova Scotia, Canada
Sandy Fisher,Chico Cloth, CA
Destiny Kinal, Reinhabitory Institute, CA
Chris Hammel, Hill Institute
Craig Evans, Textile collector & heritage weaver
Peter Cook, Retired museum curator/educator, farmer, pre-industrial textile technology collector
Roben Campbell, Shaker historian
New England Flax & Linen Study Group: Lisa Bertoldi, Faith Deering, Gina Gerhard, Diane Howes, Michelle Parrish, Carolyn Wetzel

*Note: Sessions and presenters subject to change

Registration Information

The symposium is sold out. Please contact Julie Orvis at (413) 775-7179 or to be added to the waiting list. If there is a cancellation, you will be contacted to be added to the registration in order of date added to the waiting list.


August 20, 2016 @ 9:00 am
August 21, 2016 @ 5:00 pm
Event Category:


Historic Deerfield Community Center
Old Main Street
Deerfield, MA 01342 United States


The New England Flax and Linen Study Group