Updated: Feb 21, 2020
I started tanning hides when the experience of a beloved animal on the farm passed. I could not bring myself to throw any part away as trash. I wanted their entire life and being to have purpose and not to be wasted. So when my first angora rabbit had to be put down I set out to learn how to preserve her hide. Angora wool is difficult to work with without felting it all, and I was successful in preserving that hide. I started out using a premix solution purchased from an outdoors store and followed the directions relatively easily, though I had so many questions about the process and what looked normal and wishing I had some support and direction or even reassurance that I was not destroying this hide. It was stiff and crinkled like paper and looked like a crumpled piece of cardboard, I clearly needed to figure out how to get it like the pro's that turned out like butter when squished.
After months of research online, I was ready to get working and had a line up of wild harvested rabbits to 'practice' on. With each one I did get better, but it was a slow process working each one and taking notes on how to improve before starting the next. Once I moved onto Sheepskins, I also started using some traditional tanning methods that actively use lecithin found in Brain and Yolks to tan the hides, so the finished skins could be washed and water resistant making them suitable for so many more applications.
The premix I started with, did preserve the hides, but once in water it washes out and has to be re applied, re stretched and worked again. This was a major deal breaker not only for me but for those that wanted to use the rabbit and sheepskins in various projects for themselves.
Tanning with Yolks or Brains is set by smoking, and yes this adds more steps in the process, more work to finish the hide but it is so worth it when you know it will last for years if not decades. Learn more about Wildfibre Farm's Traditional Tanning Methods.
Each traditionally tanned sheepskin is worked by hand over a 10-14 day period, on my farm located in Alberta, Canada. Currently I have a couple different types of sheepskins that you can choose from as I raise Icelandic, Gotland & cross breed sheep. In addition the more consistent cream white short wool sheepskins are available as I pick these up from local farms so they are not trashed or burned.