By Felicia Lo
What can you say about a company that is so instrumental and ingrained in the crafts that you love? My entire experience of spinning and weaving would be completely different without the beautiful cherry Baby Wolf loom, cherry Matchless wheel, and end delivery shuttle. My Schacht trifecta. They are inseparable from my craft and I am ever thankful to Barry Schacht, Jane Patrick, and the wonderful company that is Schacht Spindle.
I will always fondly remember my trip to Colorado in 2012 when Liz Gipson brought me to the Schacht factory to visit Barry and Jane and they took me on a tour of the whole factory. To see wheels, shuttles, bobbins, and looms in various stages of assembly and creation was incredible. It gave me such respect for what beautiful things they make, but also the great care and detail that goes into every piece. So, of course, when Jane emailed me several months ago about making a hand-dyed yarn or spinning fibre to celebrate Schacht’s 50th anniversary year, my answer was a resounding “ABSOLUTELY”. Fifty years! What an incredible achievement to celebrate!
After consultation with the resident spinners at Schacht, we decided to create a custom hand-dyed colourway using the Polwarth+Silk spinning fibre blend that we dye at SweetGeorgia. I love this fibre for its poofy and plump feel. It’s 85% Polwarth wool and 15% tussah silk, making it a little bit streaky and shiny but also really soft and plush. It’s beautifully easy to draft and spin, and then once the yarn is plied and washed, it just puffs up like a marshmallow. Squeee, I love it.
Jane presented us with some colour swatches that they had selected to represent the 50th anniversary. There were four main hues to represent four aspects of the Schacht story: burgundy red for Weaving, warm sky blue for Spinning, golden ochre for Winding & Warping, and a warm neutral cream for Schacht’s History. Looking at this palette was interesting because it basically represented a sophisticated take on primary colours, with a red, blue, and yellow. These primary hues were all grown up and expressed a wisdom and character to them. The wine red, blue, and gold were paired with deeper and more saturated versions of themselves as small accents—so a dark purple, deep teal, and bronze. This palette was rich, warm, and diverse enough to represent their story, and together the colours worked beautifully to complement and contrast with each other.
We worked to design a handpainted colourway that would clearly represent these hues and keep them distinct rather than muddying them up. We gave each aspect of the palette an equal share, but the colours don’t appear to compete with each other. Using our existing SweetGeorgia colour recipes, we designed two colourway options and presented this to the Schacht team. After a couple rounds of test dyeing, we set about dyeing all the fibre. It was glorious to see the fibre all dyed up in a mountain of colour prior to the task of braiding them all into lovely, compact chains.
When I look at the handpainted braid of fibre, I think about all the different ways it could be spun and how the colours might intermix and play. We worked intentionally to dye the fibre into distinct sections of colour that do not overlap too much, so part of me thinks that spinning the fibre and chain-plying it to keep the colours distinct would be a good way to go. I do also like the look of a traditional 2-ply yarn spun from a fibre that’s split in half lengthwise. The colour sections generally line up, but where they don’t match up, there is a natural bit of marling as the colour sections catch up with each other. It’s gentle and the progression through the colour sections is a little softer and gradual when it’s knit up. As I write, I think I’ve convinced myself to go with a traditional 2-ply split down the middle.
Thank you to Schacht for making such wonderful things for us. Congratulations on 50 years of spinning and weaving, and wishing you many, many more!