The earliest example of humans using pigmentation occurred around 36,000 years ago, dyed flax fibres were found in a cave in the Republic of Georgia dating back to 34,000BC while in Pakistan a piece of cloth dyed with Madder was recovered from an archaeological suite dating back to 3000 BC.
It has taken us a little while longer here at Dartmoor Sheepskins to catch up, but we now offer our own range of natural dyes, from the arresting blues of Indigo, the vivid purples Mimosa to the unique brown heartwood of the Acacia Catechu tree.
Woad and Indigo have a history that dates back to the Picts who used Woad as body paint (the name Pict means painted) and have been used commercially as late as the 1930s to dye police uniforms.
The traditional methods for producing Woad were a lot less pleasant than the modern day techniques with urine playing a big part in the production, Queen Elizabeth I banned any production of Woad anywhere near her as she found the smell so offensive.
In traditional production, after harvesting, the leaves were chopped and made into balls that were left to dry, Woad balls were valuable, so much money could be made from growing it that in the mid 1580s restrictions were made on the amount of Woad that could be grown as it was feared it would threaten grain supplies.
Once dried, the balls could be stored, when needed they were broken down and water and urine were added, the mixture would then be left to ferment before being used for dyeing.
Whilst we wouldn’t recommend dyeing your finest silks in vats of fermented urine, no matter how far away from the queen you happen to be, if you fancy trying your hand at traditional dyeing our natural Bio Indigo Woad Dye click here.
Our new range of natural dues has arrived in and we can’t wait to get started with this exiting new colour range. Along with the single plant dyes of Bio Indego, Mimosa Hostilis and Pomegranite, we also now have a new vivdly bright mix dye made from Marigold and Tesu. As well as this, we have manages to source some natural Lac dye, harvested from trees inoculated with Kerria Lacca insects, this amazing dye can produce colours ranging from soft dusty pink through vivid purple and scarlet red.
It’s halfway through the school holidays and my son has taken to calling me Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad. As such it’s somewhat of a comfort to think the school holidays are nearly half over. I’m just a glass nearly half full kinda guy.
But it does make me reflect that he’ll be my little boy for a relatively short time, my daughter is off to university already. So we must treasure our family, even if they drive us up the wall sometimes.
It was in this spirit that I compiled these Top 5 Ladies Slippers, these are slippers you will want to give to the woman in your life – giving them will feel good, because wearing them is going to make her feel special. Every time she puts them on it’ll be like you are cuddling her feet.
First one the list is this classic, for me the quintessential sheepskin moccasin. Comfortable, practical, and lasts for years. Practical, that’s the word that stands out. Nice and practical, outdoor sole and all that. Yum, practical.
Everyone knows sheepskin is sexy, but how do you deal with the aftermath?
Kids are hard work, no one would deny it. And before they even arrive you get told all sorts of things you should have prepared; the cot, the nursery, the specialist bum wiping aids. It just goes on.
If all goes well by your second kid you won’t be flapping about all the things you’ve yet to acquire, in fact, you probably have almost everything already because there is little in the way of specialist equipment you actually need. So naturally whilst I recommend sheepskin for babies, (they’re good for sleeping on, amongst other things) I don’t think you need to add it to anyone’s birth plan just yet.
Buy a sheepskin as a present for an expectant mother by all means, but hold back from trying to persuade anyone about the best thing for babies to sleep on, they are getting that advice from everyone else already. Better still, give them one of your old ones, tell them how you even used it as a changing mat with your little ones. Tell them that you like the way it helped your children stay cool in the summer, but any further than this and you might even put them off.
If, however, you are still in the (ahem) early stages of baby making and were fooled by the title of this post, you might want to check out this post on machine washing sheepskins. Feel free to join our mailing list, we always send newsletters with special discounts and exclusive offers.
Seriously, there’s a reason Ugg boots were made, and the clue is in the wool. Sheep wool contains lanolin, which is corrosive to leather, Australian shearers have been wearing sheepskin boots since the 1920’s. The term ‘ugg’ is in generic use in Australia and simply means sheepskin boots, in fact it was only in the 1980’s that the name “Ugh” was trademarked.
There’s a couple of theories put forward as to how the boots were named, ranging from an early manufacturer’s wife exclaiming that they were ugly, to being named after the Fug Boots worn by British Pilots during World War I.
I’ve got a different theory though, and it centres upon the social skills of Australian sheep shearers….
I wonder if the name pays homage to the communication skills of men who live hundreds of miles away from their nearest neighbor. Men can who wrestle a sheep in the crook of their right arm, whilst simultaneously shaving the beast with their left.
“The whole thing was over within was over within twelve seconds and the only sound that came out of his mouth was “Ugh” – Australian Sheep
Wherever the name comes from, it was more recently that the boots became “cool”…
In the 1970s, ugg boots became popular among competitive surfers. After movie theatres in Sydney banned ugg boots and ripped jeans, the footwear became somewhat popular in the youth market as a sign of rebellion – Wikipedia
As well as the symbolic rebellion embodied in ugg boots, the surfers enjoyed the warmth of sheepskin after a day spent in the sea. The boots were tough and warm, and could stand being close to the fire on a cool evening on the beach.
We love sheepskins for the many of the same reasons, and I tend to think you will too (even if you don’t farm sheep).
I do like surprises; one which delights me is the cooling properties of sheepskin.
In the heat of the summer some of the wisest professional drivers will be sitting on sheepskin. And some of the happiest babies will be sleeping on them.
The fleece of sheepskin has excellent insulating properties and it is also resistant to flame and static electricity. Wool is considered by the medical profession to be hypoallergenic.Sheepskin is a natural insulator, and draws perspiration away from the wearer and into the fibers. There, it traps between 30 and 36 percent of its own weight in moisture. Wikipedia
This advice about keeping Babies cool in the summer heat (from eczema advice site, Scratchsleeves.co.uk):
“protected from the sun and using sheepskin liner in the pushchair can really help keep your little one fresher – the open pile of the fleece allows air to circulate under the body so they don’t get as hot and sweaty (but do steer clear of this if your baby’s eczema is triggered by lanolin, which is derived from the natural oils found in wool). On really hot days, we have a couple of cold packs that we slide under the sheepskin to keep the kids cool on the ride into town”
We bought our first sheepskin for our baby girl to sleep on, chiefly because it felt instinctively right, nothing else seemed soft enough for our tender little baby, we only found out later how good our choice had been. It seems that children who have spent time on sheepskin may actually carry benefits for the rest of their lives.
German researchers found babies who had slept on animal skin in their first three months of life were much less likely to develop asthma and allergies by the time they were 10. They say microbes found in animal skin could help protect against asthma and allergies by strengthening the immune system. Mail Online
Here at Dartmoor Sheepskins we can’t choose your motivation for wanting a sheepskin, whether it’s to soften a bed for a loved one who is immobile, whether it’s to keep the driver comfortable on a long journey, or, like us, because it’s the only thing soft enough for new born skin. We can’t even choose your sheepskin – only you can do that, but we CAN guarantee that you’ll be getting the highest quality tanning, on sheepskins as unique and special as your family.
How old are sheepskins, in terms of human history, how did we get to where we are today?
Sheepskins get just one mention in the Bible, and not a terribly nice mention at that:
They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated.
After the 70’s sheepskin coats of Dell Boy and Minder fame became unfashionable, a small group of people met in a pub in the West Country to decide what could be done to promote the product they believed in. They had little money, but a great love of the product. The public at that time were seeing sheepskin as hard wearing but unfashionable.
That small group commissioned a family run public relation firm called Wordsworth:
Wordsworth undertook a successful low budget local and national press campaign, portraying Sheepskin in a new light as soft and sexy, rather than practical and hardwearing. The Clothes Show began an immensely influential BBC TV run on winter Sunday afternoons, regularly attracting audiences of 6 – 10 million across the nation and internationally – Industry Report
What followed was a whirlwind for the industry, Vivienne Westwood exhibited models wearing skimpy sheepskin bras and knickers and the public imagination shifted beyond the hard wearing sheepskin coats of the 70’s and into the more deserving soft and sexy place sheepskins inhabit today. A £2000 prize was offered to design students and Clothes Show presenter, Jeff Banks, helped to promote these new sexy outfits and accessories far and wide.
In fairness though, our earliest ancestors; who were using hides and skins long before the times of biblical stonings, were probably after the more practical aspects offered by sheepskin, its warmth, for example, perhaps being instinctively drawn to its hypoallergenic nature, and almost certainly the way it draws moisture away from the skin, keeping the wearer feeling fresh (it’s still used today by the medical industry to prevent pressure sores).
How long have humans tanned sheepskins?
In the stone age, fur was crucial to survival in the northern world and a sheepskin cape was found on a bog body in Denmark that was dated from 365-116 BC. Here in the UK, skins were being tanned along side the Thames since Roman times, in fact the tanneries only ceased production in the 70’s, meaning Del Boy’s coat could very well have been made right where the well loved Only Fools and Horses was set.
Deep in the West Country, where our sheepskins are made, is the last stronghold of the UK tanning industry.
The Industry is now [in 2006] quite clear that ways must be found to ensure the two thousand year old UK tanning tradition, currently vested in the South West of England region, is passed to the next, properly trained and equipped generation of woolskin technicians, scientists, designers and professional management. – industry report
At Dartmoor Sheepskins we think sheepskins need to move on from Del Boy, move on from Vivienne Westwood’s soft and sexy, and inhabit a well deserved place as a daily luxury in family life. Nearly all of our friends have sheepskins in their homes, most of them bought one when they had a baby on the way, just like we did, many have several sheepskins. We hope you too can find your own perfect bespoke sheepskin with us. Tanning skins may be ‘the second oldest profession in the world’, but a freshly laundered sheepskin is every bit as luxurious as the day you first snuggled it.
Here at Dartmoor Sheepskins we feel that life is for living, and as such you may well find yourself needing to clean your well-used sheepskin. This is a quick guide on how to wash a sheepskin.
We often get asked how to wash a sheepskins, is it even possible? The good news is that you can wash a sheepskin in the washing machine if you follow these simple rules.
How to wash a sheepskin in a washing machine: to
To wash a sheepskin, set the washing machine at a low temperature – 30°C or lower. Your machine might have a WOOL setting, this will work well.
Use a small amount of Biological or Non-Biological Washing Powder.
Avoid additives like Fabric Softeners or Stain Removers.
Tumble Dry on a Low Heat to prevent the wool becoming distorted, again if your machine has a wool setting this should work well – don’t worry if not, just keep the temperature down.
Shake the sheepskin out when dry, and enjoy!
This information does not imply any guarantee, we only guarantee the quality of sheepskins we supply ourselves. Inferior sheepskins may have thin or poorly tanned hide, and as such may deteriorate over several washes, or even in just one wash. The sheepskins we supply will retain quality over many years, and can be washed using this method many times. We even used one as a baby changing mat, and washed it very regularly, it has lasted for years. As with many things in life, the better the quality you start with, the better the result you end up with.
Are sheepskins ethical? Are sheep slaughtered to make sheepskins?
Of the sheep that we eat in the UK, we tan just 0.45% of the sheepskin – less than one in two hundred. Most sheepskins are regarded as a waste product of the meat industry. It didn’t always used to be this way.
“In 2005 [we ate] 14.1million lambs (+ 2.2million ewes and rams) Only 60,000 UK skins p.a. are processed by the remaining UK tanning sector, less than 0.45% of the total” – 2015 Sheep Industry Report
Go back less than two decades and wool was the primary reason for sheep farming. In 2001 the ratio changed in favour of meat – a trend that continues.
Humans have been tanning animal hides for thousands of years. Today only a tiny percentage of hides go through the tanning process. The industry has come along way from preserving skins from the hunt, although the essential process is the same. The art of creating soft, lasting hides has been passed down through generations.
Sadly, much of the byproduct of the meat industry now goes to waste. Very few tanneries still exist in the U.K. All our sheepskins come from UK flocks (with higher welfare standards than much of the world) Most come from sheep that have lived outside on Dartmoor. Check out our shop and see for yourself, none of our sheepskins were produced in a thoughtless fashion, all are unique.