After many, many years of dancing, I still have nearly every pair of ballet shoes that I’ve ever owned. Some of this is out of nostalgia, but some of my shoes still have some life in them and I always thought to myself, “But what if I need them someday?”
While I don’t dance nearly as much as I used to, ballet will always hold a special place in my heart. Dancing always makes me feel good about everything. I could have had a hard day, dragged myself to the studio, danced my heart out, and no matter what, every time I followed this ritual I would always feel completely cured from my troubles afterwards.
Another dance “ritual” is sewing a new pair of pointe shoes. For every dancer, the technique varies. People who wear pointe shoes everyday will likely be preparing many new pairs of shoes every week. For beginners, however, a pair of pointe shoes might last for up to a year.
If you are just starting pointe, or maybe you need to sew some ribbons on flat ballet slippers, I thought I would share my method for sewing ribbons and elastics on a new pair of shoes. Depending on the strength of your feet, you may not need elastics on your shoes. Your teacher would be able to tell you whether you should have them or not, as they know how your feet work in class.
A lot of people ask me if you can sew your ribbons using a sewing machine. I do not recommend doing this as you run the risk of damaging your shoes with the machine. Also, you should only be sewing through the inner lining of the shoes, not through the satin on the outside. Ribbons and elastics should be available for purchase at the same place you buy your pointe shoes and they will most likely sell them in the lengths you need.
- Needle (a small one is better)
- Thread (pale pink to match the silk of your shoes)
- A Pencil
- Ribbon (pale pink and usually satin)
- Elastic (pale pink)
Before you start: Make sure you have four equal pieces of ribbon and two equal pieces of elastic prepared.
To Sew the Ribbons:
Step 1: Determine where you will sew your ribbons.
To find the best place to sew ribbons on pointe shoes it is best to bend the back of the shoe onto the inner sole. This should be a natural fold in the material, not forced. Next, I place the ribbon in the crease of this fold. I always angle my ribbons 45 degrees towards the toe of the shoe. If you do this, the ribbons will look more flattering when you tie them up around your ankles (there shouldn’t be any gaping if you angle the ribbons forward). Mark where you will place your ribbon with a pencil.
Step 2: Fold the end of the ribbon in on itself.
By folding the ribbon in on itself you are giving reinforcement to your shoes once they are on your feet. I usually fold the ribbon in the same width of my thumb or a little bigger.
Step 3: Begin a whipstitch down one side of the ribbon.
Make sure you do not sew through the drawstring of your shoe, or else you might lose the ability to pull your shoe tighter later! And be sure to only sew through the inner lining of the shoe, not the outside. When stitches show on the outside of the shoe it can look messy.
Step 4: Once you reach the end of the ribbon, use a running stitch to sew across the bottom.
If you prefer, you could turn the shoe and continue a whipstitch along the bottom of the ribbon as well. This is up to you!
Step 5: Sew the other side of the ribbon with a whipstitch, and across the top of the ribbon with a running stitch.
Once you have done this, you should have sewn a “box” on the ribbon.
Step 6: Repeat Steps 1-5 on the other side of the shoe for your second ribbon.
Step 7: To finish your ribbons, cut the loose ends on a 45 degree angle.
If you are using satin ribbons, it is a good idea to gently burn the ends of them. This will melt the material to prevent them from fraying.
To Sew the Elastics:
Step 1: Determine where you will sew your elastics.
I personally like to sew my elastics directly behind my ribbons, but they can technically be sewn anywhere behind the ribbons. Some people sew their elastics on the heels of their shoes. I find that if you sew ribbons on the heels of the shoes, you are more likely to develop blisters, so I recommend avoiding that.
Step 2: Just like sewing the ribbons, sew a whipstitch down one side of the elastic, a running stitch across the bottom, a whipstitch up the second side, and finish across the top of the elastic with a running stitch to form a box.
The finished product should look the same as the ribbon.
Step 3: Sew the other side of your elastic following Steps 1 and 2.
Your elastic should form a single loop across your foot.
Here is the finished product!
There are also different ways of tying your shoes to dance in them. Your teacher will likely show you their own way of tying their shoes.
I also don’t recommend breaking in pointe shoes before dancing in them if you are not familiar with them yet. Professional dancers know just how they like their shoes to feel on their feet, so they usually break them in before dancing in them. If you are not a professional, I suggest breaking in your shoes naturally first and adjusting them as needed afterward. Once you break them in, you can’t undo what you’ve done.
I hope this was a helpful tutorial! Happy Dancing!