So aside from how to make a proper ballet bun (which is still coming soon, I swear!), how to sew your pointe shoes is probably one of the most commonly asked questions that ballet students (and parents) have. Before we get into all of this, I have to start off by saying that it is my belief (and the belief of at least 90% of all ballet teachers out there) that if you are old enough to be put onto pointe, then you are old enough to sew your own pointe shoes. For your very first pair, it is appropriate to have your parent and/or teacher help you to sew your shoes, however, after that you need to take responsibility for your own shoes and do them yourself. If your ribbon pops off during class, then you know to sew it down with more stitches next time. If your heel keeps slipping off, you will learn to sew your elastic tighter. But I cannot stand it when my students blame their poorly sewed shoes on their parents. It is not their job to sew your shoes, so let’s learn how to do this…
You will need the following items:
- Pointe Shoes
- Needle and thread (I use a Bunhead’s Stitch Kit but any relatively thick needle and sturdy light pink/peach thread will do)
- Ribbon (I use Bloch Elastoribbon)
- Elastic (I use Bloch Covert Elastic)
Sewing on the elastic:
I sew on the elastic first before the ribbons, but it doesn’t matter what order you do them in.
- Cut the elastic into 2 pieces of equal length (if you decide to “criss cross” your elastic, you will need four pieces, but I’m not going to get into that in this post…). If you use the Bloch Covert Elastic like I do, I actually cut it into four pieces and save two for another pair of shoes.
- Sew one end of the elastic onto the heel of the shoe. As you can see from the photo, I sew mine on the outside of my shoe because sometimes the elastic rubs and irritates my heel. This is my choice as a professional dancer, however, some teachers and/or directors prefer the elastic to be sewn on the inside of the heel for a “cleaner” look. In all honesty, from stage you can’t really tell if it is inside or outside, but if your teacher has a preference, best to do what they want you to do!
- When you stitch the elastic on, use a square-shaped pattern in the stitches you make. In other words, sew up and down through the shoe and elastic along the edges of the elastic in the shape of a square (see photo). Also, you should double-knot all knots so that they don’t unravel and come undone.
- Before sewing the other side of the elastic on, you’ll need to put the shoe on your foot and measure on the elastic where you need to sew it based on how loose/tight you want them to be. I recommend doing this with your foot flexed because that is the tightest the elastic will ever be once sewn on.
- Once you have trimmed the elastic to reflect how long it needs to be to fit your foot/ankle, sew on the other side just like you did the first side. Make sure the piece of elastic is not twisted and will lay flat on your ankle before making the first stitch.
How to sew on ribbons:
There are a few different theories on where to place the ribbons on the shoe, but this one has served me well for over 15 years…
- To measure where on the shoe you stitch on the ribbons, fold the heel of the shoe up into the middle as far as it will go. This will create two creases/folds on either side and is where you will insert the ribbon to sew it on.
- You will need to cut the ribbons you get into 4 equal length pieces. (If you are using Bloch Elastoribbons like I do, you will also need to measure how long each end should be due to the Achilles elastic insert, but again, not getting into this in this entry…)
- Fold the ribbon over 1-2 times and then begin stitching it onto the inside of the shoe where you measured via the crease/fold method. Folding the ribbon will prevent it from fraying/unraveling as you wear it. You will once again use a square/rectangle stitch pattern like you did for the elastic. Also, you should double-knot all knots so that they don’t unravel and come undone.
- Repeat this for all other ribbons. There will be two ribbons and one elastic per shoe by the end.
Annnnnnnnd you’re done! You will still need to try on the shoes, make sure elastics aren’t too loose or too tight, make adjustments, and trim your ribbons before wearing them to class (I will need to make another entry about tying shoes to include this info…), but it is as easy as that!