Sheepskins turn green as Skye craft firm turns to tree bark to tan hides

Skyeskyns, which has been producing luxury sheepskin products on the Isle of Skye for more than 30 years, has introduced a new curing technique to cut its environmental footprint
Skyeskyns, which has been producing luxury sheepskin products on the Isle of Skye for more than 30 years, has introduced a new curing technique to cut its environmental footprint
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Scotland’s only remaining sheepskin tannery has turned to an age-old procedure using tree bark to cure its leather in a bid to cut the firm’s impact on the environment.

Skyeskyns, based at a croft in Waternish on the Isle of Skye, has been producing luxury hand-crafted accessories made from Scottish sheepskin for more than 30 years.

Now the family-run business is changing its methods with the aim of achieving a carbon-neutral ecological footprint.

One such green measure is the adoption of a new tanning process, which relies on the tannins in mimosa bark to preserve the animal hides.

The owners say switching to this “ancient, traditional, hand-crafted and natural” method has allowed them to produce higher quality sheepskins than ever before.

And they have even bigger plans for further eco-friendly moves – eventually, everything produced within the tanning process will be compostable and spread back onto the Skyeskyns croft, supported by a series of reed beds.

Jess Hartwell, daughter of the founder and marketing director for the company, said: “The skins we tan ourselves at Skyeskyns all come from either our own homebred sheep or from other Scottish sheep farms, minimising travel and using a waste product from the meat industry, and everything we do within the tannery and our entire process has sustainability at its core.

“We are now so excited to have launched a new-to-us, albeit very traditional, tanning process which produces incredibly soft, high-quality leather in the most environmentally sustainable way possible.

“Our ethos, ever since my dad first started tanning in 1983, is about trying to effect positive change and be the best we can be, environmentally and otherwise.

“This production change is a key step forward in fully achieving our aims and values. When you tie in all our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint, from running an electric vehicle to using recyclable packaging, we are proud of the way in which the business is moving forward both commercially and environmentally.

“We are all delighted to be working with nature in such a low-impact and beautiful way.”

The company produces a wide range of sheepskin products for wearing and decorating the home, with everything from rugs, cushions and bedspreads to Celtic boots, handbags, hats, slippers and gloves.

Items can be purchased at the Skyeskins headquarters at Waternish, from the firm’s newly opened shop in Portree or online.