Our Makers // Pat Helliwell

I feel proud that the majority of the Mamnick Inventory is made in England. It allows me to share stories like this about the people we work with.

The Hibell and Ecton shoes are made in a small family-run factory in Derbyshire, a forty minute bike-ride from my home in Sheffield. The 'closing' lady's name is Pat Helliwell and she has been working there for over 50 years, only having a break from the boot factory when she had her family. Pat has lived in the village all her life.

Closing boot uppers is the traditional process of sewing the individual leather pieces together to form the upper. At one time a team of ladies, some related to Pat, did this work but now Pat is the only closing lady who works full time upstairs. Pat does a variety of jobs that are involved in the upper closing stage:

Skiving - thinning certain areas of the leather to be sewn together.

Stiffening - fitting the stiffener into the uppers to form the shape at the back of the boot / shoe. (This is what Pat is doing in the above photo.)


Closing - the whole process of stitching the various leather pieces together to form the upper - done on several different machines.

Riveting / Eyeletting - fitting the appropriate eyelets, rivets and buckles to the uppers.

The black sleeves on Pat's fingers are made from foam top-banding material (found to be the best after years of prototypes) that she wears to protect her knuckles and fingers from all of the 'scissor work' she performs during the day, trimming threads and neatening leather edges etc.

All photos by India Hobson

Words by Thom Barnett 

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