Blessed Samhain, and smoking skins

My muscles ache, I have new cuts on my hands, and my hair smells of woodsmoke.

I smoked the white and creamy skins, and the shearling hide today. I had forgotten how challenging it can be to get the right type of fire going for a good smoke. You want material that will give off lots of smoke and smolder rather than flame – like wet leaves, green branches, tree bark, or rotten hardwood. I used wet leaves and some old, punky silver maple from a stump that I gave up trying to split about 5 years ago because it was so twisty and knotted. Once I remembered not to add too much dry, very flammable material at once, things went pretty smoothly.

Smoking sheepskins

You’ll notice that my smoking set-up is very primitive. I haven’t mastered using a jacket and sewing the hide into a tube. I’m still doing this, years in to this craft.

I exposed them to smoke for about an hour.

Then I got to work on cleaning the fleeces up the rest of the way. Both bigger hides still had dingleberries. All three had wool tips that were just plain dirty, and the shearling had old blood around the nape.

I didn’t want to unnecessarily wet the leather, so I decided to use a spray bottle with water and a bit of free and clear detergent. I sprayed this liberally into all the problem areas and then used my hands and a pet slicker brush to get out as much debris as I could. The blood stain, long ago turned purple, on the shearling was the worst of it, and I’m not convinced I’ll ever get it out. To finish up the washing I used a watering can to rinse the fleeces with plain water.

What’s left of dirt clods and dingleberries I believe I can liberate with my wool hand cards that are arriving this week.

I hung the skins to dry in what’s becoming my new workshop (half my garage). Not much left to do but either list them for sale or decide to keep them.

I also did this today.

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