The Flax Industry

 stitched by the Taranaki, Wanganui, Manawatu Regional Panel


From the guild
Your eye is drawn towards the large flowering flax plant and tui to the right, then to the smaller detail of the cultivation, processing and use of the resource.  The flax industry was nationwide and an important part of New Zealand history. Embroidery Guild members began to stitch on the panel at our Regional Retreat at Eltham and it has since travelled to all Guilds, Regional Workdays and Exhibition Venues for further stitching.

The legend on the panel reads:
Flax, a crucial resource for Maori and a major export for the nation. The strong, abundant plant remains a natural and cultural icon.

The NZ flax plant is known for its strong leaves, distinctive appearance, flowers (popular with birds), and ability to grow in most kinds of environment. Maori discovered the medicinal and fabric-weaving potential of the plant, and it was used for shoes, clothing, bags and many other purposes.

Europeans arrived and needed rope for ships and various purposes. Flax helped unite Maori and Pakeha and create trade opportunities. Trading with Australia began in the 1820s. The flax trade had a powerful influence on how NZ developed – in terms of primary material and wealth, and also in terms conflict between and with Maori, as they traded flax for muskets.

Flax had various boom and bust moments since European contact. Flax-stripping machines changed how the plant was processed. By 1870 there were over 150 flax mills around the country. But despite machines, flax milling was hard work. New technologies and government support helped the industry continue until the 1980s.

In recent times, there has been renewed interest in and industry around flax for health products and new kinds of solid materials.

Co-ordinator: Margaret Pemberton

Artist: Alex Gilks

Names of embroiderers:
Ingrid Ames
Jean Arnott
Judith Balchin
Vivianne Barling
Sue Berington
Margaret Berryman
Ann Bridson
Bev Burgess
Maree Burnard
Margaret Butterworth
Jill Cash
Jan Conley
Cynthie Coutts
Janice Cunial
Pam Darney
Maureen Dobbin
Rosalie Drummond
Judy Eagle
Jorja Eldershaw
Eileen Fitzpatrick
Libby Francis
Mary Garlick
Judy Greenwood
Johannah Haaijema
Ann Halliday
Janet Heaven
Bev Hine
Anne Holloway
Dorothy Hughes
Glenis Jackson
Shirley Julian
Edna Law
Lynn Leask
Diane Lithgow
Elizabeth Martin
Fiona Martin
Margaret MartinSusannah Martin
Carol McFetridge
Esther McIvor
Ann Morgan
Ngaire Morgan
Margaret Morris
Pauline Muirhead
Alison Newell
Heather Payne
Margaret Pemberton
Jan Pepperell
Heather Radfold
Karen Ralph
Pauline Ranford
Ann Reeves
Karen Richardson
Lorraine Ridgway
Elayne Robertson
Yvonne Simonds
Delwyn Singh
Gail Thompson
Rosalind Thomson
Colleen Webster
Lee Westfield
Lynne Whalley
Agnes Williams
Felicity Willis
Heather Williamson
Robin Williamson
Sue Wilson

Started: February 2015
Stitching completed: December 2016

Sponsors: Donations from Manawatu Area Embroiderers