Sheepskin Tanning

Sheepskin Tanning

Last month, I went on a weekend-long sheepskin tanning workshop with a friend. It consisted of two days of fleshing, cleaning, drying, and stretching the hide from a sheep butchered just days before.

I used to work with leather as a bagmaker, where we used the conventional stuff—the chrome-tanned, untraceable cowhide that’s sold like fabric. And during that job, it was simply a material to me, nothing else. But in the years since, I’ve been a little more interested in connecting the dots and thinking about where this animal skin I’m sewing comes from.

The workshop was taught by Bethany of Aurora Blue Farms and I learned soooo much (mostly that I overthink everything, and processes like these are always more straightforward than they seem). But after meeting Bethany’s sheep and hearing about her raising them, loving them, and then sending them off to the butcher I realized how uncomfortable death makes me feel.

I’m not sure how to get more comfortable with it, or if I even can, but I do know it’s important to keep doing things like this. I’ve made a heavy shift away from synthetic materials to more natural ones, so I think it’s only natural to try and feel more connected to where they come from, even if it’s unsettling.

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