Made in Colorado 2017: Schacht Spindle nears 50 years of Boulder-made looms
More than 100,000 looms later, this Colorado manufacturer helped to usher in a weaving renaissance
Product: Weaving looms | Made in: Boulder | www.schachtspindle.com
A native New Yorker, Barry Schacht moved to Boulder in 1969. While living in his van, he got a job on the grounds crew at University of Colorado and was promptly fired for mowing a peace sign into the lawn in front of the student union. "That proved I was creative," Schacht laughs.
His next move was inspired by the "whole earth" movement; Schacht started his company in late 1969 with his brother, Daniel, when they made a spindle for Louise Green, who taught spinning and weaving in Loveland.
They soon made their first crude loom, which now hangs near the front door of their facility. Then they launched their own classes in Boulder and Denver. "Everybody who took one of our classes had to buy one of our looms," says Schacht. "So we created a market."
After working with contract woodworkers and a shop on a commune for the first few years, the Schacht brothers bought three woodworking machines and started making looms in a garage in 1972.
Today, more than 100,000 looms later, Schacht runs the business with his wife, Jane Patrick. Schacht Spindle's catalog includes looms, spindles, spinning wheels and other hand weaving accessories. "The word I use is quintessential," says Schacht. "Meaning we do everything: We create our products, we design them and we service them."
The company manufactures about 1,200 wooden parts in-house and sources another 1,000 parts made of rubber, leather, metal and other materials, "of which, 95 percent are produced domestically," says Schacht.
"That's a big part of my job: sourcing."
Many of the products are based on pre-industrial designs that are hundreds and even thousands of years old. One spinning wheel is based on a 16th century sketch by Leonardo da Vinci.
One of the flagship looms: the eight-harness Baby Wolf, which comes complete with "big floor loom features" in a compact design. "Can you imagine, with all of our gentle thinking and a sheep as our logo, we named a loom after a wolf?"
The 50-employee manufacturer has been in its factory in east Boulder since 1985, expanding it to 37,000 feet over the years to accommodate a sister company, Mirrycle, which makes bicycle mirrors and imports bells from Japan.
Schacht met Patrick in 1979 and they married two years later. "I actually first wove as an exchange student in Iceland in 1971," she says.
Patrick worked as the editor of a leading weaving magazine for 12 years before joining Schacht Spindle as sales manager in 1992. Daniel moved on to open a wood mill in Lafayette in the mid-'90s.
After a period of decline, a weaving renaissance took hold in the 21st century with an uptick of interest in all things crafty. Schacht Spindle sells through retailers and supplies makerspaces and schools. The company is currently experiencing a youth movement led by COO Michael Yaeger, Schacht and Patrick's son-in-law.
As Schacht Spindle nears the 50-year mark, many of its products have withstood the test of time. "People are still using them," says Patrick of the company's first looms. "It's not like your computer that you're throwing out every five years."