Ballerinas’ feet are shaped not equally. Plus, each of them has a specific method of sewing their shoes, pointe shoes often don’t come sewn.
If this is your first pair, you should learn how to sew pointe shoes at home without destroying them. It only takes you 15-30 minutes to do this at home with no need to hire a professional.
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How To Sew Pointe Shoes’ Ribbons & Elastic By Hand?
There are 2 orders to sew pointe shoes – sewing elastic then ribbons OR sewing ribbon then elastic. These orders are treated equally, so you can choose one of them to process.
In this article, I will focus on the first order – sewing elastic bands first to shape your shoes, then sewing ribbons for better appearance and fit.
What to prepare
- White or pink cotton thread
- A needle
- Thimble (optional)
- A pencil
- Sewing pins or safety pins
You can get your elastic band and ribbon at a craft supplies store. There are some small notices on choosing your elastic and ribbon.
- Choosing thread
You need a needle with an 18-inch (or 46cm) piece of thread for a sewing round. The needle should be strong enough to penetrate the thick material or the shoes.
Insert the thread’s end through the small eye of your needle.
Then tie a knot at the end of the thread to keep it stay neat when sewing through elastic and ribbon.
Plus, you should choose a thread color that is well-blended with your elastic and your shoes.
- Picking up your elastic band
It’s not recommended and not easy to sew elastic bands on the dancer’s shoe heel, especially for beginners. If you sew the band too tight, it can harm the soft skin around your ankle.
If you plan to sew an elastic band on your shoes, you should choose a band with dimensions of 0.5 inches wide and 0.91 m long. This band should have the same color as your pointe shoes.
Plus, it should be soft on your skin if you want to wear shoes with no stock.
You can sew the band on the inside or outside of the shoe depending on your comfort or your teacher’s preference. You should carefully measure the band’s length to make a firm hold on your feet with little tension.
- Picking up your ribbon
Unlike the elastic band, a ribbon is an inevitable part of your pointe shoes. It holds your shoes by keeping the shoe’s insole attached to the foot’s bottom.
If you are a beginner and you lack strength in your feet, the ribbon in its correct position will keep your feet safe.
You should get a ribbon with dimensions of 1 inch wide and 1.8m long.
Similar to the elastic, this ribbon should have the same color as your pointe shoes. Ideally, it should have a similar finish to your shoes (for example, shoes that have a satin finish should match with a satin finish ribbon).
Check more: 15 Best Pointe Shoe Brands
A step-by-step guide to sew pointe shoe’s ribbons & looped elastic
Before sewing your shoes, you should designate the right and left shoes. Try on your shoes first to see which shoe fits best for which foot. Then, use a pen to mark the shoe’s bottom with an L or an R to indicate the shoe side.
Sew looped elastic bands
Step 1. Use a pen or pencil to mark where you want to cut the elastic band.
The band’s length will affect how snug you want the band to hold around your foot.
Then, make an angle cut on the marked line so that the band can align well with your ankle’s shape. After trimming the band, burn its two ends to prevent it from fraying.
Step 2. Place the elastic band 0.5 to 1 inch away from the heel seam, so that the band fit snug, but not too tight.
This position is unique to each dancer. You can ask your teacher or guidance if you are unsure about its positioning.
Step 3. Sew the band on your shoe’s back by one of the 2 following methods:
- The single-looped method: Use a whipstitch to sew a box around the perimeter and only through the inner side of the shoe. This sewing method will secure the elastic to the shoe, yet still, make the outside of the shoe look clean.
- The criss-cross method: Use the needle to sew 0.5 inches from your pointe shoe’s heel seam. Then place the needle on the other end and sew it diagonally across the side seam. You can sew it 0.5 inches away and behind or before the seam, depending on your preference.
Repeat the 3 above steps on the other shoe to have a matching pair.
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Sew the pointe shoe ribbon
Step 1. A ribbon often comes pre-cut at 6 feet long.
You should cut this ribbon in half for each shoe. Cut each piece in half again. So, you will end up having a total of 4 even ribbon strands, with two for each shoe.
After cutting the ribbon, use a lighter to graze the ribbon to make it hard. Small dancers should have an adult do this step for them.
Step 2. Place the ribbons at the highest point of your feet’s arch. Since each foot can be different, you should use a pen or pencil to mark this point inside each shoe. You can use safety pins to mark the ribbon’s position.
Step 3. Secure a ribbon by folding it over a 0.5-inch square from its end (or approximately the size of your thumb). This folding square will keep the ribbon from fraying and make the attachment tighter.
Step 4. Place the square in the middle of the shoe’s inner with no extra or baggy material. You can wear the shoe to detect your placement. If you are unsure, consult a pointe shoe fitter/ your teacher for guidance.
Step 5. Use a whipstitch to sew around the ribbon square’s perimeter, or sew through the inner shoe’s lining. This method will keep the shoe’s outside look clean. Similar to elastic bands, you can choose either the single-loop method or the criss-cross method.
Step 6. Create a loop and pull the thread through the loop to make one or two secure knot(s).
Step 7. Cut the thread’s end with scissors. Then, repeat the above sewing step with the remaining shoe.
Sew pointe shoes with loop ribbons
If you don’t like to tie the ribbon, you can sew ribbons in a loop.
Step 1. Unlike the above ribbon sewing method, you should wear the shoes first, then place a ribbon on a shoe to measure its length. The ribbon should be placed near the elastic band to hug your foot’s arch. Wrap the ribbon tightly on your ankle twice.
Step 2. Hold your finger on the ribbon and trim the ribbon with scissors. Repeat this process with the remaining shoe.
Step 3. Attach the ribbons to your shoes with a needle and thread as you should do with a pre-cut ribbon in the above section.
Once you’ve attached your elastic and ribbons, your pointe shoes are now secure and ready to go.
Tips On Sewing Pointe Shoes
- You can sew your ribbons closer to the inner shoe with a slight angle toward your shoe’s front for more secure placement. Elastic can be sewn further down the shoe or close to the ribbons depending on your personal preference.
- You can use the above steps to sew ribbons to your ballet shoes. There are two small differences between these two shoes. First, the ribbon has a smaller width for ballet shoes. Second, you don’t need to attach elastic around the shoe’s end since ballet shoes are made of leather with a better snug fit than satin ones.
- Use a needle threader if you can’t get the thick thread/floss through your needle.
- Buy several rolls of elastic and ribbon to share with your friends and save your money.
- You can reuse the ribbons from your old pointe shoes several times. Yet, never reuse your old elastic bands since they have lost their elasticity and support.
- Use a thimble if you aren’t familiar with sewing through your shoes.
- To make a more secure attachment, wrap the ribbon to create a square, then sew a box around this square and do an “x” in the middle of it. This ribbon square should look like a small box with an “x” in the middle.
- Always carry a sewing kit with a needle, thread/floss, scissors, and thimble in your dance bag for emergency repairs.
1. When should I sew my pointe shoes?
You should sew your pointe shoes before your first wear to make them fit with your feet.
2. Should I sew pointe shoes by hand or by sewing machine?
You can sew your pointe shoes either by hand or with a sewing machine.
Hand-sewing your shoes is easy to learn and results in less risk of damaging your shoes. However, this method is time-consuming and takes practice to master and to make the shoe stay flawless.
Knowing how to sew pointe shoes is a critical skill for ballet dancers of all ages and skills. But first, you should choose pointe shoes that fit snugly with your feet. If you need extra support on shoe-fitting or sewing elastic and ribbon onto your shoes, you can ask your teacher, guidance, or a pointe shoe fitter.