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A Labour of Love — The making of a pair of Edward Green shoes

1. 10. 2016

A Labour of Love — The making of a pair of Edward Green shoes

A film by David Lale & Euan Denholm

There's something very special about watching a beautiful object come into being. Watching as raw materials are cut and pinched and sewn and shaped into something all together different, emerging slowly into a completed form, far more than the sum of their parts.

At Edward Green we always enjoy taking visitors around the workshop and seeing their entrancement at watching the alchemy of shoes being made.

Many will have visited other factories and will speak of how things are both similar and yet quite different.

It's not about a single cut, or stitch or eyelet - although any of those might be done differently. Rather, it's about time taken and a craftsman's engagement with their work.

When we came to making a film of our workshop we wanted to capture that difference – that atmosphere - and something of the hum and rhythm of the place to share with you online.

The sound of the workshop draws one in from the first click of the clicker's knife: a clatter and rustle, a creak and a tap, until we reach the relative quiet of the shoe room where the shoes are prepared for their decorous departure.

For much of the time we still use the same machinery our great-grandparents would have been using. Machinery which demands great skill and attentiveness and in return gives us the outstanding quality you expect.

Our sole sewing machine was made by the British United Shoe Machinery Corporation after the war, maybe not too long before Pete, who plays it like a virtuoso, started making shoes. Every time a shoe arrives with a change of colour, last or welt- changes we make a lot of with our variety of special orders- Pete adjusts the machine accordingly. But the trusty old BUSMC stitches soles with a neatness that more modern machinery, made for a volume market of open channelled stitching, won't seek to match. And it also makes a wonderful noise.

Our lasting process involves four craftsmen. The upper is drafted by hand and tacked to it's last with little more than a hammer before the old bed-lasting machine is expertly used to tautly pull a wire neatly under the shoe's toe line. Every action highly skilled, with just the right pressure for the last and leather under hand. Why? Because thus far we've been unable to find a more modern machine which can replicate the definition our time tested techniques can bring. And yet these old machines require far more mastery from their operators than today's industrial equivalents.

The same is true cutting calfskin or individually sewing parallel double lines, twelve stitches to the inch. Excellence demands commitment and fearsome concentration.

Walk around the workshop and at every station you'll see craftsmen involved in their work: checking, thinking, adjusting.

These are shoes born of time and attention and love. This is our labour of love.

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