What Is Shearling Sheepskin?

Updated November 21, 2016

Shearling is the recently sheared hide of a yearling lamb that has been tanned with some wool left intact on the skin, typically around 3/4 of an inch. Shearling is lighter in weight and has a much softer feel than sheepskin, according to the Diamond Leathers website, but shearling coats and other garments are just as durable and warm as those made of sheepskin. The fibres of shearling wick away moisture or retain moisture, depending on humidity, so coats, jackets, vests and footwear made of shearling tend to be comfortable year round.

Shearling Care

Shearling is a leather product so it should be stored away from dampness to avoid mould and away from high-heat sources that can dry out the leather. Shearling products should be stored in paperboard boxes or paper bags. Never store shearling in plastic bags or plastic boxes.

Let It Air Dry

If your shearling outerwear gets wet, simply spread it out flat to air dry. Never use a blow dryer or other high-heat source on shearling. Use a soft bristle brush to brush out water spots once the garment is dry. Soiled shearling garments should be dry-cleaned by a cleaner who is familiar with handling leather goods, according to the ShepherdsFlock website.

Making Shearling

Shearling production starts with skinning the yearling lamb as soon as possible after it is killed. The fresh hide is soaked in an alkaline solution to soften it for the next step, where any attached flesh or fat is scraped off the hide. The hide is rinsed with acid, then stretched out tightly over a frame and allowed to air dry. At this stage, it is called rawhide. If rawhide can’t immediately be tanned, it is frozen or salted for preservation and put into storage for up to a year.

Tanning Shearling

The raw shearling hide becomes leather by being soaked in a solution of chromium salts or natural tannin derived from plants. The tanning agent is mixed with soda ash, sodium chloride and acid.

Chemical Reaction

The chemicals transform the hide into leather by reacting with the proteins in the hide, according to Diamond Leathers. The process takes about nine hours. The tanned shearling is rinsed and put through other finishing processes to impart the desired characteristics to the final shearling leather product.

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About the Author

Herb Kirchhoff has more than three decades of hands-on experience as an avid garden hobbyist and home handyman. Since retiring from the news business in 2008, Kirchhoff takes care of a 12-acre rural Michigan lakefront property and applies his experience to his vegetable and flower gardens and home repair and renovation projects.