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The Science of Sheepskin

Modern high performance sheepskin combines the exothermic properties of wool with the hydroscopic quality of each individual wool fiber. The resultant fabric is as strong as leather, can absorb upto 30% of its own weight in water and can be washed and dried like a pair of jeans.

Man made fabrics can’t absorb water like sheepskin. This is because sheepskin’s absorbency doesn’t depend on surface tension (the physical property that makes water ‘creep’ up the sides of a jar). Instead, sheepskin ‘holds’ moisture within the air trapped between its wavy strands. Tight curly hairs inhibit air movement to such an extent that the space between them works in our favour, locking moisture comfortably away and producing heat as it does so.

Sheepskins produce heat as they absorb water

Wool is a hygroscopic fibre. As the humidity of the surrounding air rises and falls, the fibre absorbs and releases water vapour. Heat is generated and retained during the absorption phase, which makes wool a natural insulator. Used in the home, wool insulation helps to reduce energy costs and prevents the loss of energy to the external environment, thus reducing carbon emissions.” –Campaign for Wool

Sheepskins are naturally anti-bacterial, and will work surprisingly well as picnic rugs, particularly suited to nestling bowls and glasses away from the British weather. They also work well as baby changing mats and medical cushions – the moisture handling comes into its own on long journeys or when confined to a bed. Shake them out and they are ready for more.

Plastic isn’t fantastic

You can spend as long as you want snuggled up with a sheepskin. Unlike polyesthers, sheepskin releases zero endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

Fight fire with fur

Wool is flame retardant, see for yourself in this short video.

No only are man made fibers derived from oil, but they also lack the heat and moisture handling properties of natural sheepskin. Sheepskin is flame retardant. Polyesthers are fuel, the difference couldn’t be more stark.

Plastic fabrics break down at an astonishing rate. Each time a man made fabric is flexed it sheds millions of tiny plastic fibers that have ended up in our air, water and food. Microfibers are found in almost every living being on earth, whereas sheepskins are 100% biodegradable.

99.6% of sheepskins are destroyed each year over ethical concerns regarding fur farms and animal exploitation. All Dartmoor Sheepskins are by-products of the meat industry, which consumes 5.5 million sheep a year but preserves just 60,000 hides. We think that’s a waste, do you agree?

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Do sheep die to make sheepskins?

sheepskin laid on log

Sheepskin is a sheep’s skin, and it comes from an animal that has been slaughtered. Most Sheepskins (including ours) come from sheep that have died for meat. *Very* few Sheepskins are tanned. 60k out of well over 5 million sheep. This is sad. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation a lorry load of plastic fabrics gets burned or buried *every second*. This is the same fate awaits all these millions of wasted sheepskins.

 and has come from a sheep that has died for meat.

Sad because at the end of their long life, sheepskins rot away harmlessly into the environment. Not only this, during use sheepskins emit zero endocrine disrupting chemicals.

Whereas man made fibers, made from oil (with all its associated “complications”) emit chemicals that harm developing brains. Sheepskin doesn’t do this. What sheepskin does is help regulate temperature and moisture (just like it did for the sheep). Its exothermic nature means it warms up whilst absorbing moisture, this is *very* good in winter. 

It can absorb up to 30% of its own weight in water (although we all know I’m talking about sweat, right?) this quality is excellent in summer.

Further reading can be found on the excellent Campaign for Wool website (Dartmoor sheepskins is not affiliated with Campaign for Wool, it’s just a brilliantly laid out argument for wool), here it is.

You may like to read my blog posts where I go into a little more depth about the ethics and sustainability of sheepskins, or perhaps you’d like to view our range of Dartmoor sheepskins?


sheepskin being used as a changing mat in the park
All season baby care, click here to view.

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