What are sheepskins?
Sheepskins are the tanned pelts of sheep. If the sheep was under one year of age, the pelt could be labeled as a lambskin, but sheepskin is often used because it’s a more common and recognizable term.
Sheep must be killed for their pelts. However, sheep are not slaughtered only for this reason. Meat – either lamb or mutton depending on the age of the sheep – is the primary sought-after product.
Unfortunately, many sheepskins are disposed of by the meat industry as it is considered a by-product. What a waste! Sheepskins are beautiful and have many different uses. Using sheepskins around the house (or in the car) is a wonderful way to ensure no part of the animal is wasted. They will last a lifetime as long as they are not kept damp or wet.
Before we get into the benefits and uses of sheepskins, let’s talk about vegan and ethical sheepskins.
What are vegan sheepskins? Are there ethical sheepskins?
The idea of sheepskins being the pelts of sheep can be repulsive to some. Is this ethical? Is there any other way to enjoy the wool of sheep? Let’s dig into this.
Fleeces are the wool you receive after shearing a sheep and doesn’t require the sheep to be killed. Fleeces can be felted into rugs or blankets and therefore can be used as a substitute to sheepskins. In fact, these products are often called vegan sheepskins.
Unfortunately, felted fleeces do not have the same benefits of sheepskins, which we will outline later.
Are there ethical sheepskins? Vegan sheepskins don’t require the sheep to be killed so therefore would be considered ethical given the sheep was well cared for. However, these are not actually sheepskins and don’t have the same benefits.
So are sheepskins that are the hides of sheep ethical? This is a tougher question to answer and the answer is ultimately subjective.
All sheepskins require the sheep to be killed, but if the sheep were raised well and enjoyed their lives, their pelts could be considered ethical. If you believe eating meat is acceptable, then using every part of the animals is a responsible thing to do so we can properly honor their lives.
We stand with this belief. Our Icelandic sheep live good lives and we strive to use every part of every animal. Our flock is on pasture year round. In the summers, you can see them grazing in the pastures and browsing through the trees and brush. In the cool evenings, you can see the lambs running and frolicking together. In the winter, they primarily eat hay and, although they have access to the barn, they rarely use it as they aren’t bothered by the cold.
Our sheep are organically-fed and have a full buffet of minerals to keep them healthy and nibble on whatever will give them the nutrition they need.
Our sheep are processed for their meat and we tan the hides so we can use the whole animal.
What is sheepskin used for?
There are many different types of sheepskins because there are many different types of sheep with various wool qualities. Some sheepskins have curly wool, some have long and hair-like fibers, others are low in lanolin, etc.
Every sheepskin is unique and beautiful in its own way. In fact, if you see a seller promising identical or similar sheepskins, that should be a red flag as it is likely from a large manufacturer and there’s a good chance the sheep weren’t raised or processed humanely. Look for local farmers who care about their flocks!
Here are some ideas for how you could use sheepskins:
- Seat covers for chairs, cars, and motorcycles
- Cushions for saddles, wheelchairs, strollers, etc.
- Coverings for small articles of furniture like footstools and ottomans
- Lining for boots, hats, gloves, and slippers
- Beds for pets (and it will quickly become their favorite place to lay)
- Floor pads for infants
- Reading pads/blankets for children
- Sleeping, either as a blanket or a sleeping pad
- Decoration as rugs and throws
The possibilities are endless! Do a quick Google or Pinterest search to get some inspiration.
What are the benefits of sheepskins?
As you can see, there are a plethora of uses for sheepskins. They work well for all the uses we listed above because they are resistant to static electricity, flames, dirt, water, and bacteria.
Sheepskins work well for sleeping and sitting because they are non-allergenic and help to prevent and treat pressure ulcers.
You can use them year-around as they keep you warm in winter and cool in summer because of their natural insulation which draws perspiration into the fibers and keeps the wearer comfortable.
Sheepskins shed fewer fragments than man-made fabrics so you can rest easy knowing you are purchasing a lasting product. Your sheepskin will remain thick and full. If any hair fibers do come loose, they are completely biodegradable. No microplastics here!
Where can you find sheepskins?
Sheepskins can be found on many different websites and in stores that sell home goods. However, we recommend looking for local, small farms.
Here at Telderer’s Rainbows End Farm, we raise Icelandic sheep. Every sheepskin is unique, soft, and incredibly beautiful. They vary in size, color, texture, and hair type. Visit our online store to see all the options!