Sheepskin, as the word suggests, is the skin of a sheep or lamb. The skin of these sheep is very soft and warm, and is known to be insulating and static-free. These are very comfortable to wear, and find many uses such as in rugs, coats, and even slippers.
How is Sheepskin Chosen
There are more than 100 different types of sheep. Each produces a different kind of skin. Also, depending upon the season, the skin has a different amount of wool on it. In spring, lambs and, therefore, lambskins, have soft skin, which has a less amount of wool on it. During the months of July and August the production of wool on the body of the sheep begins to increase and this continues till the end of the year. At the beginning of production, sheepskins are about 1.5 inches to 2 inches thick, but may be as much as 2 inches to 3 inches thick during December and January, when the skin of the sheep is quite thick with wool.
Once the skin is removed from the sheep, it is dried and cooled naturally and then cured. For the purposes of curing, a special kind of dried salt is used, which contains bactericides and fungicides. There are two types of treatments given to the sheepskin.
In this procedure, the salt and chemicals are mixed with the skin and tumbled together for about 2 hours. Then these skins are stacked on top of each other for about 5 days to let the fluids drain from the skin.
In this procedure, the skins are laid out flat on a conveyor belt and salt is showered on them. These are then folded and stacked on top of each other. This allows for a deeper penetration of the salt into the skins.
Tips to Buy Sheepskin Products
One of the main things to look out for before buying sheepskin products is seed contamination. Seed contamination is a fault on the surface of the sheepskin which is caused by patches of scar tissue left behind on the skin of the sheep, after a wound caused by seed burrows has healed. This happens during the life of the sheep; skin patches caused by seed contamination cannot be removed. This patch may fall off and leave holes in the skin itself. Seed contamination patches can range from 'No Visible Seed' to 'Light' or 'Medium' seed, to 'Heavy' and 'Burry' seed.
The next thing to consider is shear scars. These are caused when the skin of the sheep are shorn for wool before they are removed. The scars are left behind during the process of shearing, and have not been allowed time to heal.
Another thing to look for is the weathered tip of the wool. Almost all the wool of the sheep will be weathered by dirt and weather for the first few millimeters. This has to be cleaned and dyed before the sheepskin is sold.
The more tender the sheepskin the more is the possibility that it has been taken off a sheep suffering from a skin disease or lice infestation. Also, most genuine wool products should have the international woolmark standard.
Choosing the Right Sheepskin Slippers
Sheepskin slippers are known to keep feet dry and allow the feet to 'breathe'. They are also very warm. This allows you to wear them without socks. Once you know how to choose the right sheepskin or how to look for the right type, the next logical step is choosing the right kind of slippers. Before buying the slippers, you first need to identify if you are going to be wearing them inside the house or outside. If you intend to wear them outside the house, then they must have a flexible, sturdy, and non-slip sole. Ideally, the slippers must have certain areas like the heel and the toe area reinforced.
You should also check the quality of the sheepskin first. Then choose a size that fits you well. If you are a size and a half, then ideally choose the next full size. For example, if you are a 6½ then go for a size 7. Usually, these slippers will have removable and replaceable insoles.
Sheepskin is not waterproof. Therefore it is essential to use the slippers with care, especially in the rainy season. To wash your slippers, you can use a mild non-biological detergent. Then hand-wash the slippers and place them in a dry area which is away from direct heat and sunlight. Do not use any kind of fabric conditioner for sheepskin products. If you want to retain the original shape and quality of the wool, then be sure to use a wire-dog or a rug brush before and after the drying process. It is important to note that washing in hot water, bleaching, using a biological detergent, storing in a plastic bag, tumble drying in a washing machine, or even drying these slippers on a radiator will destroy your slippers.
With all these guidelines in mind, it will now become easier for you to choose the right sheepskin slippers for you and to care for them as well.