At Connemara Sheep & Wool Centre we care about the welfare of animals and want to assure our customers that no sheep are slaughtered specifically for their skin, in order to make our sheepskin rugs. Sheep products like wool rugs are a by-product of the meat industry and have no real value until they are tanned. The sheepskin rugs we sell in our gift shop are from Irish domestic sheep and made in Irelands only tannery, Waterford Sheepskins Rugs.
Waterford Sheepskins Rugs is a family-run business producing high-quality natural wool rugs for over 50 years in Ireland. Each rug is made from hand-selected skin ensuring the natural qualities of pure Irish wool. These rugs are a totally natural and non-dyed product and are of the highest quality.
There are 8 steps to the tanning process from receiving sheepskin from the farmer to turning it into a beautiful rug ready for your home.
Bales of salted skins arrive at the tannery from Irish farmers. The skins are then salted to stop them from deteriorating.
2.Wash & Fleshing
The sheepskins are soaked and hand washed to rehydrate them, clean them and open up the skin for tanning. At the same time they go through a process called fleshing which removes any excess fat or tissue.
3.Pickling & Tanning
The tanning process is what converts the skin into leather, stopping putrefaction by stabilising the collagen fibres within the skin with tanning agents such as alum. The sheepskins are soaked in acid followed by the tanning agent in these enormous wooden vats.
Excess water is removed from the sheepskin in a big spin dryer.
The sheepsins are now stretched out on frames with clips and hot air dried in cabinets.
6.Cageing & Degreasing
The sheepskins are then conditioned prior to being subjected to ‘cageing’ – which is literally being tumbled in a cage to soften them. Any natural fats (lanolin) remaining within the skin are now removed by dry cleaning.
Once dry cleaned the sheepskins are put through a hot rotary iron. This teases and polishes the sheepskin and can give the fleeces an extremely silky, fur finish. Most Connemara Sheep & Wool rugs remain as natural as possible so we avoid too much ironing and keep them nice and thick and woolly.
Once the rugs are looking as good as possible, they receive the stamp of approval. They are also labelled “Made in Ireland” so consumers can be sure that every part of our sheepskin is Irish, from sheep, to tanning, to finishing.
Check out our collection of natural and rare breed Sheepskin Rugs in our west of ireland gift shop and in our online store here.
When purchasing a rug, please note each rug is totally unique so dimensions and colors may vary slightly from one to the another, it all depends on the breed of sheep.
When you receive your rug we recommend airing your rug in an open space, out of direct sunlight. As wool is a natural fiber, it filters odours from the environment so it can absorb smells from packaging or its surroundings during transit.
Nervous about how your 100% natural Connamara Sheep & Wool sheepskin rug will cope with everyday life in your family home. Check out our top 5 tips on taking care of your sheepskin rug here