The Closing Room consists of over 110 highly skilled, experienced and knowledgeable individuals, the majority being machinists. However there is one very unique gentleman that relies solely on his hands, for his line of work….
Ned Fox, has been with Crockett & Jones for 10 years and is the factories only hand stitcher. Ned has been part of Northampton’s Shoe industry for over 30 years, which has given him the time to hone his skill and perfect his artistry.
One of a handful of other accomplished hand stitchers left in Northampton, Ned hand prepares his thread that he uses to sews the uppers together.
This thread is sewn through leather that is only a couple of ions (millimetres) thick, meaning the thread must be made with extreme care and precision, ensuring the tightest seam possible, without damaging the leather.
The first thread used was made from hemp which was renowned for its natural strength and its ability to be very adaptable, however today an immensely strong, durable nylon is used.
Around two full arm lengths of nylon are used per pair. The nylon is then coated with beeswax to bind, strengthen and forge a water resistant layer. The thread is then doubled up to thicken and bolster and is twisted 20 times to round and make ready to be fed through the uppers. A layer of soap is then applied to help ease the thread through the prepared leather.
Over the years Ned has even developed his own way of feeding the thread through the uppers. Traditionally Ox hair acted as a fine and flexible needle to feed the thread through the uppers, however it was incredibly wasteful as after each pair was stitched the Ox hair was simply unfit to use again and was thrown away. Ned now makes his own threading tool by hand twisting piano strings which are equally as flexible but stand the test of time lasting for around 2-3 months.
During his 30 year hand stitching career, Ned believes he has made over 20,000 threads.
Read about the secrets of the Clicking Room here