Flaxapalooza 2020

Exploring the threads of Maine's History


What is Flaxapalooza?

Everyone knows about blueberries, lobsters, and lighthouses but few know how two hundred years of working with FLAX—the plant that provides linen—has shaped our state’s history and culture in deep and unique ways.

Flax is an ancient, hardy, and versatile plant that thrives in Maine’s soil and climate. Its varied uses are not only an important part of our history but continue to serve us well today. Flax and other plant fibers provided canvas for sails, as well as all the cordage, nets, and fishing lines that are essential to a maritime economy. Farmers depended on it for sacking and twine. Logging created a constant demand for rope and shelters, and for military tents and uniforms. Mainers all needed clothes— from work shirts and aprons, to petticoats and lace trimmed wedding gowns. Moccasins and boots were sewn with strong linen thread. And flax oil—known as linseed— is still widely used as a waterproofing agent and preservative for wood, leather, and masonry; an important component of linoleum, paints, and varnishes; and nutritious oils for animals and humans alike. Flax was and remains the source of practical and decorative items for the home—bed sheets and quilts, linens for the table, rugs for the floor—and countless other items from cheesecloth and baskets to artists’ canvas.


While the story of Maine is undoubtedly that of seafarers and lobstermen, loggers and farmers, FLAXAPALOOZA 2020! will celebrate the people, skills, and communities that transformed flax and other plant fibers into the extraordinary range of goods that continue to enhance and facilitate the lives of many. We will also spotlight the Maine makers and entrepreneurs who are reviving the use of flax and other plant fibers in everything from sustainable farming practices to a fashion revolution.


Our 2020 Events

Immigrant Communities:

In honor of Flaxapalooza 2020, Makers Guild of Maine will host 5 special Wednesday evenings that will follow the same format as the others but with a performance component that highlights the distinctive skills and culture contributed to Maine by immigrant communities. We hope to include communities from Armenia, Finland, Scotland/Ireland, Canada/Franco-American and East Africa. These evenings are always free to the Public.

Fiber College of Maine:

Fiber College of Maine will adopt Flax as the theme for the September 9-13, 2020 gathering.

Special classes will include:

Bobbin Lace, Spinning and Weaving Flax, Knitting with Flax yarn, Natural Dyes on Linen and Slow Stitching.

Sarah Haskell will be offering For the Love of Linen From the practical to the poetic. Attendees will explore the mystique of linen through spinning, weaving dish towels, and using linen in a range of projects - from art pieces, to clothing and domestic goods.

Katharine Cobey, currently enjoying exhibit space at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art and The Farnsworth Museum will be offering a five day master class entitled: A Celebration of Knitting Diagonal with Linen and other Bast Fiber Yarns. Attendees will learn Katharine’s signature trivia cast-on technique, lace and texture options to include in their own designs and discuss how linen and other bast fibers have innate qualities that can enhance a special project.

Banjo Making: more information to follow

Special lectures will include:

The Unbroken Thread: 200 Years of Spinning and Weaving in Maine
Three fiber artists will weave together stories and demonstrations on the “great wheel,” a large traditional spinning wheel, by Susanne Grosjean, an expert on early American spinning wheels. Susan Barrett Merrill, whose ancestors were Maine spinners and weavers from Bloomfield (now Skowhegan), will be presenting on the history of flax growing and spinning, a major industry in Maine in the early 19th century. She will spin flax into linen thread. Dr. Nancy Payne Alexander will bring a historian's eye to the long and continuous history of Maine women working with fiber to the present.

Lace Collections from selected Maine Historical Societies by Jill Horton

September 16, 2020

Martha Wilson, Kantele Players, Finnish Heritage performance, baking Nisu a cardamom spiced traditional coffee bread and a Heritage wheat weaving class; July

Sara Grey is regarded as one of the foremost exponents of the old-time style. As well as singing and playing superbly Sara is a fine story-teller specialising in stories from northern New England where she grew up and learned many of her stories from her dad. Beanhole beans will be served and whittling spoons will be the craft.

Flaxapalooza art

Is this a yearly event?

Flaxapalooza 2020! is a Maine Bicentennial Celebration...but if there is enough interest we may continue the conversation into 2021...it offers a fascinating window onto Maine culture, history and it’s vibrant makers’ scene...time will tell.

Are there other things I can explore related to flax and textiles around the state?

Yes...and we’ll post them every time we learn of something new.  The best way to stay connected and current is through our Makers Guild of Maine Facebook page.