A lot of homesteaders chuck away the sheepskins when the process lambs and so this is a wonderful free resource that anyone can get and turn into a high-quality natural rug. We have been making them for a few years now and are perfecting the method so I thought I would write a blog post to share on how to make a sheepskin rug.
Photos are from our Natural Building course where we teach various techniques of Natural Building
Step 1 – Skin, Clean and Wring
- Place the skin in a bucket of water and lift in and out a few times
- Do not work the wool or you will turn the soft wool into felt
- Wring the skin with one person holding each end
- Repeat until the water runs clean
Step 2 -Hang and stretch
We need to attach the skin to a frame so when it dries it does not shrink. This step is made clearer on my youtube video on preparing a sheepskin rug
- Option 1 – Nail skin to a frame or pallet
- Option 2 – Tie skin to a frame with adjustable knots
- Option 2 – Nail some timber to the top and bottom and hang for gravity to do its work
Step 3 – Cure with salt
- Place plastic on the ground
- Lay skin over plastic on the ground
- Add a thick layer of curing salt over the skin
- Leave for 30 minutes for the salt to draw some moisture out of the skin and stick to the skin
- Lift the skin up and put it somewhere dry and out of the sun
- Collect excess salt from plastic to reuse
- After a few weeks, the skin will be cured and dry, you will know it is ready as the skin will be very hard and brittle
Step 4 – Clean fat and meat off the skin
- This step isn’t needed if the lamb was skinned well
- Use the various tools to get the fat off:
- Wire brush
- Wire brush attachment for electric drills (various strengths)
- Finish with sandpaper
Step 5 – Clean the wool
- Use a wire brush to brush the wool and this will both clean it and make it soft, it is like magic!
- Repeat all steps above again if you are not happy that it is now clean enough. i.e. clean in water, cure and hang!
Step 6 – Treat and Soften
- Paint the skin with a treatment real thin. We use a homemade blend of 1/3 egg yolk, 1/3 olive oil, 1/3 water and a slash of homemade soap.
- Do this a couple of times and then use the back of your brush to work the skin to soften it
- Brush the wool again with the wire brush which cleans the wool further and helps soften
- Repeat the steps here until you reach the designed softness, probably around 10 times over 3 days.
- You could also spray with wool with borax but we do not.
Step 7. Cut the rug
- Mark the shape you wish to have the rug with a pencil on the skin
- Cut with good fabric scissors
- This is needed as you never get the edges very clean
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Hanging the rug like this makes it easier to work both sides without taking it off the frame, then you wont have any shrinkage during the treating step:
When the sheepskin is wet you can sow up any holes made in the rug
Thank you for reading, here is some further reading:
Check out my youtube video on this:
Join our Natural Building courses to have a go if you wish