Leather / Sheepskins
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Vegetable tanning is the traditional way that skins from animals have been
turned into leather. Hides were soaked for months in a bath made from
crushed wet oak bark, or in baths made with the barks of sumac, hemlock,
mimosa, or chestnut trees. Tannins in these tree barks did the trick. Small
furs and pieces of fleece can similarly be tanned in a solution of made from
black tea leaves, which is also rich in tannin.
Speedier methods of tanning leather involve oil or chemicals (sometimes called mineral or chrome tanning).
Buckskin was made by American Plains Indians from the hides of male deer (hence the name). The hides were soaked in a mixture of brains, wood ash and tallow and then smoked over a slow fire of half-rotted wood. The resulting leather had a distinctive golden color, pleasant smell, and water-repellent qualities.
Chamois is supple soft leather made from goatskin.
The easiest animal hides to tan are those taken from antelope, deer, and elk; the hardest, interestingly enough, are those from domestic cattle, which are the source of most commercial leather.
Sheepskins can be a boon to folks with insomnia or back problems. The resilient fleeces make excellent mattress pads that are comfy in both warm weather and cold, and have been known to help relieve chronic pain and fitful sleep in both children and adults.