Are you a new ballet dancer and now you have to use pointe shoes? When you wear them, do you notice they seem to slip off your heels? Well, there’s actually a technique ballet dancers use to make sure their pointe shoes stay on their feet as they dance. And this is adding ribbon or elastic to their pointe shoes.
Pointe shoes typically don’t come with ribbons or elastic that keep them from falling off your feet as you dance and do routines. That is why most ballerinas would sew them on themselves. But, if you’ve never done this, you might not know how to do it. And so, this is where this guide comes in.
This guide will teach you how to properly sew ribbons and elastics on pointe shoes, so you can dance in them comfortably and securely. Let’s begin our guide by talking about what pointe shoes are.
What are Pointe Shoes?
Pointe shoes are special dance shoes that are worn by ballet dancers. These shoes allow them to dance “en pointe,” which means dancing on the top of their toes.
When purchased, they don’t come with ribbons or elastic that help them become more secure and comfortable on the feet. If you dance with pointe shoes, you may notice that they seem to slip as you move and execute routines. And thus the need to sew on ribbons or elastics to make them more secure and comfortable on the feet.
What You’ll Need
Here are the materials you’ll need to sew ribbons and elastics to your pointe shoes:
- Ribbon, nylon or polyester (about 1″ in width) about 88″ in length
- Elastic (about 1/2″ width)
- Thread (same color as your pointe shoes)
- Lighter (optional)
Let’s begin our instructions on how to sew on ribbons and elastics by starting with ribbons:
Sewing Ribbons to Your Pointe Shoes
Step 1: Fold the Heel of the Shoe Down
This fold will create a diagonal line across the sides of the shoes. Get your pencil and mark these diagonal lines. These are the spots where you will attach the ribbon.
Step 2: Cut Your Ribbon
If you purchased a continuous length of ribbon, cut them into 4 pieces. The general length is about 22″ per ribbon, but it really depends on your preference with regards to how long it is.
Step 3: Pin Your Ribbon on the Marking
Using pins, pin the edge of your ribbons on the markings inside the shoes. Make sure to fold the edge or seal the edges with a lighter to prevent them from fraying.
Step 4: Start Sewing
If your pointe shoes have a lining inside, sew your ribbon onto the lining, and do not sew the needle all throughout the exterior of the shoes for a clean finish. Use whip stitches and running stitches in a square pattern around the edge of the ribbon. Make sure you tie the end of your thread once you’re done sewing.
Sewing Elastics to Your Pointe Shoes
Step 1: Cut Your Elastics
The length of your elastics on your pointe shoes will depend on your preference, but a good length is 5.” You can use two pieces of elastic per shoe, crisscrossing across your instep for more security.
Step 2: Fold The Heel of the Shoes Down
Similar to making your marking with the ribbons, this fold will create diagonal lines on the inside of the shoes. Use a pencil to mark these lines. These are the spots where you will be sewing your elastics.
Step 4: Pin Your Elastics
Fold the edge of your elastics so they are clean inside the shoes, but also to secure them in place. If you do not fold them and sew over them directly, the stretch of the elastics will eventually get loose and break off the elastics from the shoes.
Step 5: Sew Your Elastics
Just like the ribbons, sew your elastics with a square pattern, covering the sides and edge of the elastics.
Elastics are an added layer of security for pointe shoes, aside from the ribbons. Many dancers use both ribbons and elastics to keep their pointe shoes from slipping off their feet. Some dancers sew the elastics under the ribbons. Others sew them at the back of the heel to prevent the shoes from slipping off.
Here are some tips to making sure you sew your ribbon or elastic properly:
- Use thread in the same color as your shoes so they look clean.
- You can use a more durable thread, other than polyester. Some dancers even use dental floss.
- Do not stitch over the drawstring. The stitches will prevent you from pulling it when necessary.
- Try on your pointe shoes before securing your ribbon or elastic. This means trying on the shoes with the ribbon or elastic before tying off the thread or making final stitches.
The more you dance ballet, the more particular you will be with your pointe shoes. You can place your ribbon anywhere you like, as long as it’s secure and comfortable for you. This guide is just a general rule of thumb, but the steps here do not necessarily mean these are how it should be done. The placement, length, and how you sew the ribbons and elastics will always depend on your preference.
Because every foot is different, you are the only one who can determine the perfect positioning of the ribbon and elastic that fits the best. Most dancers sew their ribbons and elastics themselves because you are the only one who can really gauge whether or not it’s the perfect fit.
This is actually one of the most tedious parts of securing your pointe shoes but it’s also one of the most cherished rituals in ballet dancing. Making sure your pointe shoes are safe, comfortable, and secure means you can dance without worry, without fear that your shoes are going to slip off your heels and negatively affect the way you perform.
Use these steps to sew your ribbon and elastic on your very first pointe shoes, and adjust according to your preference.
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