Hand Spun

Hand Spun
Campfire Hat

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sheep Coats

In order to protect the fleece my sheep are diligently growing for me, it has become necessary to put sheep coats on them. Since we're basically dry lotting them and feeding hay year-round their fleece would eventually be FULL of vegetable matter and other less savory material. Sheep coats are a great way for a spinner to get wool that she doesn't have to spend endless hours on picking vegetable matter out of before washing and drying her wool to card and spin. I looked at Rocky Sheep Suits and his stuff looks AWESOME. However... my sheep are still lambs. So I'd have to buy one coat each while they're lambs and then FOUR coats PER SHEEP after they become adults. The idea here is that you change the coats to fit the sheep as they grow their wool and then start over with the smallest coat again once they've been sheared. Sounds great. However, there's no way I could shell out that kind of money right now justifiably. Enter Cleo Gallinger of The Sheep Shed in Nampa, ID. She's the breeder that sold the lambs to me and it just so happens that she sews her own sheep coats. As my spinning mentor, she's also the one I buy my raw fleece from and who I've learned most everything "sheep" from. She very graciously took time out of her day last Friday afternoon to teach me to sew my own sheep coats. She would sew one part and then have me do the other part. She's a great mentor. So today I began the task of fitting the completed coat and sewing the other 3 coats. I have 3 completed and one not started. Maddie - the smallest lamb - is proving a challenge. Here's the coat before the leg straps get sewn on.
Sheep coat chest collar
Notice the attractive chest strap. :) Mom made me jumpers out of this material when I was a little girl. Just so happens I found some extra material. Heeheehee. I sewed the leg straps from the same stuff.
Leg Strap in pastels
The toughest part wasn't getting the first sheep coat on. Clover's coat fit perfectly. The tough part was getting Finley's on the 3rd time after 2 re-fits and even harder was getting Fiona's on finally after FIVE attempts. She was tough because it took me forever to figure out her body was shorter than the other two. She's still not happy with me and it's going to take a while to win her trust back. But they agreed, albeit reuctantly, to model the coats for me.
Finley's a bit upset still about the fitting of his coat
Clover is happy as can be. Hers fit the first try!
Here's the back end of Clover's sheep coat. Notice how the leg straps don't hang too low but are still roomy enough for her to move around and lie down without having them cut into her legs. Fiona's had to be adjusted because she kept slipping out of hers on one side.

Leg straps in the back. Just right!
I still have Maddie's to finish so my sewing machine and fabric etc. aren't put away quite yet. But I think I have the hang of it now if I'll just measure right to begin with! Not my strong suit so I'm hoping to bribe Jeff into measuring for me next time. All in all, a good day's work and well worth the effort. Three out of four are coated and the 4th will be done before the week is out. Thanks to Cleo this was virtually painless and MUCH less expensive. I spent $9.00 at JoAnn Fabric today to buy the inside of the leg straps using a 50% off coupon. The rest of the material and things I already had. All I spent was time, which, as I said, was well worth the effort.
Comparing notes about their new coats
Now I just keep an eye on them and when it looks like they're outgrowing their current coats, I take new measurements, store the coats they have on and sew the next batch. Yay! I'm not expecting any problems but with animals the one think I've learned is to count on the unexpected. I'm going to check on them first thing in the morning to see how they weathered the night's sleep and if anyone slipped out of their leg straps or their coats are causing problems. Crossing my fingers and hoping for the best though! :)


  1. That`s going to really help keep them clean.Great job!I know my goats won`t keep them on,they have orny personalities.phyllis

  2. When I first read this I giggled a little. Coats on sheep? But makes sense considering what you are using them for and that it will save you a lot of time when you finally have them sheared. Can't wait to see them sometime. Wish my darn schedule was packed to the brim.

  3. Will you be washing the fleece yourself?Are you both going to do your own shearing?phyllis

  4. I'm going to have an expert shear them for me but I'll wash, dry, card, dye and spin my fleeces myself. :) I've worked raw fleece before successfully and I have a prize winning merino fleece to work from last year's state fair but I'm still learning the carding process to achieve a good batt without nepps. I'm working merino too so it's a delicate process.