Quality British rugs bearing our Glencroft® stamp have been a core product in our range since we were first established in 1987.
Our British rugs include rare breeds in wild and wonderful natural patterns and more traditional white / cream rugs in both standard and enormous sizes.
Here’s a step by step guide through the process, with photos we’ve taken in our UK tannery of the sheepskins we then finish by hand in our Yorkshire warehouse and supply to shops around the world with our Glencroft stamp of authenticity.
1. Raw Stock
Bales of salted skins arrive at the tannery from British abattoirs or markets. Skins are salted to stop them from deteriorating.
2. Wash and fleshing
Skins are soaked and 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 and 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. Skins are soaked in acid followed by the tanning agent in these enormous wooden vats known as paddles (video below).
Excess water is removed from the skin in a big spin dryer.
5. Toggle drying
Skins are now stretched out on frames with clips (toggles) and hot air dried in cabinets.
6. Cageing and degreasing
The skins 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.
At this stage of the process the skins have been tanned, dried and can be stored for use as and when they are required.
If required, skins can be dyed. Much like your own hair, they can be dyed any colour from brown and black to bright pink, red and blue.
The majority of Glencroft sheepskin rugs are natural and undyed so skip this step of the process.
Once dry cleaned the fleeces are put through a hot rotary iron. This teases and polishes the fleece and can give the fleeces an extremely silky, fur finish if required.
Most Glencroft British rugs remain as natural as possible so we avoid too much ironing and keep them nice and thick and woolly.
Our skins leave the tannery at this point and are finished by hand in our warehouse in Clapham, North Yorkshire.
Richard Sexton is our resident expert, trimming skins by hand for many years, Edward is currently his apprentice, learning the skills to make our rugs look perfect.
Richard uses an extremely sharp knife to trim around the edge of each rug, at the same time being mindful to keeping the natural shape of the skin, as well as removing any slight blemishes or damage.
At this stage we identify any rugs that may be suitable to become ‘doubles’ – they must be almost identical in colour, texture and fleece length. These are then sewn together by our experienced machinist.
Once we are happy the rugs are looking as good as possible, they receive the literal Glencroft stamp of approval. They are also labelled “Made in Britain” so consumers can be sure that every part of our sheepskin is British, from sheep, to tanning, to finishing.