Pointe Shoes: How to Sew


First, have a cup of coffee and relax. Lay out all the stuff you need: ribbons, elastic, scissors, thread, needle(s). I like to use Bunhead's Stitch Kit, because of the strong thread (needles are included). Dental floss works too. You are also going to need a lighter and possibly a measuring tape (not pictured). 


Prepare your ribbons. (1.) Usually pointe shoe ribbon comes precut, about 2,5 meters long. (2.) Cut the ribbon into half, then repeat until you have four ribbons of equal length. At this point it's a good idea to seal every ribbon-end to stop it from fraying. I like to use a candle, but if you're on the road a lighter will do. (3.) Take the ribbon and bring it close to the edge of the flame. The heat will melt the satin - but be careful, it doesn't take much to burn.  Kids - do this only under adult supervision! (4.) Sealed ribbon.



Before you start to sew, you need to place the ribbons. Fold the heel over until it's flat against the insole. Mark the spot next to the crease. The ribbon will fit between the two arrows pictured. 



Fold one end of the ribbon about 2 cm over, tuck the open end under. This prevents fraying. I have ironed the fold, as it's easier to sew into place, but you can survive without.



Sew along all four sides. I like to sew my upper line into the binding (just along the original stitches), but make sure you don't sew the string fast! You can tell that my sewing style is not very refined, and I don't know any technical terms, but the ribbon does hold. That's good enough. 



To keep the heel secured, I prefer to use Bloch covert elastic. It's wide and stretchy so it's comfortable, and it blends in with your leg line. Important: this elastic comes in a length of 75 cm, but you need only about 25-28 cm for one shoe. Do not start by cutting elastic into half! This way two packs of ribbon will be enough for three pairs of shoes. If it's you first time sewing covert ribbon, measure about 30 cm ribbon for each shoe. If you feel apprehensive about pre-measuring, just cut into half and don't worry about it.


Place ribbons outside, so it doesn't scratch the skin. You need about 4 cm to fold over for each side. Start along the edge of the binding, then tuck ribbon end under and sew along all sides. You want the ribbon to sit flush. If you're using regular (wide) elastic, sew on the inside - it looks nicer. If you don't mind the scratchy cover elastic on your skin, do the same.


After you have sewn the first side, stretch over your ankle, until you find the right tension. Mark and sew next to the edge of binding. Fit again. If it feels right, finish sewing. The picture above is from an earlier pair, by the way. That time I wanted the elastics on before the ribbons.



Almost done! Pull the shoes on, tighten the draw-string, and make a double knot. Trim excess string, but leave at least 2 cm so you can still adjust the fit later on. Just tuck the ends under when you wear the shoes. Tie the ribbons as you would, then trim excess ribbon. You need enough ribbon so you can still tie a knot without help but not so much that you can't tuck the ribbon ends under. Better to trim less at first then figure out what works best for you. 

Well, this is how I do it. There are of course many other ways which are just as good. Or possibly better. You might want to check out these links for more:

- Grishko Pointe Shoe Fitting - this sewing technique was new for me too, might try it next time. There's a fairly good instructional video too. Click here: Sewing pointe shoes.

- Lisa Howell (dance physiotherapist) shows you how to sew the ribbon at a slight angle. I did this once, but didn't notice any difference during class. But it might work fo you: video.  Howell has also a very good video on how to tie those ribbons (neatly hiding the knot): click here.



BONUS TIP: Write down the the elastic's measurements - that way you get it done faster the next time.

TIP NR. 2: Save money by recycling your ribbons. You can get plenty of mileage from one pair!

20 comments:

  1. thank you for this! :) i love your blog and respect you so much. Im 15 years old and i started ballet this year. I dont have pointe shoes yet, but i still read this :)

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  2. Goog explanation of sewing techniques! Another option for your elastics is in the inside of the canvas lining, that may give a more esthetic attractive result :) Thanks! xx madelon

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    1. Of course it looks cleaner to sew on the inside.. But I wear my pointes 99% for class only. And because the covert elastic feels scratchy against my skin, I sew it on the outside. Something a lot of pros do too (for class and rehearsals).

      Thanks for your comment & tip! :)

      Delete
  3. i have grishko and sewing like bloch technique.. is that wrong? Why the sewing technique is different? thanks aniway...

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    Replies
    1. No, it's not wrong. It's just a different way that may work for some dancers/feet better.. You could use it on any brand, Bloch or Grishko.

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  4. Thanks for the helpful instructions! :)

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  5. FYI, the link for Grishko Pointe Shoe Fitting isn't working. Nice and useful article, though.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for letting me know! I've changed the link, it now goes directly to youtube.

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  6. where can we buy pointe shoes? i was just starting this week.

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    1. You buy pointe shoes at your local dance store. Never shop for pointe shoes online, unless you have tried and worn the exact same model and size before. You need to be fitted by a professional. Ask your teacher for recommendations, she should know where to go.

      Hope this helps.

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  7. Hi this was great I am 13 and have been dancing for 10 years. I am going to get pointe shoes in 3 weeks and i cant wait. I have decided to make a blog marking my progression through pointe work. :-)

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    1. That's awesome! It's such an important milestone in your dancing.. Lots of work, not very comfortable on your feet, but worth every effort. I hope you also have fun with it! :)

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  8. This is so useful, thanks! I'm fairly handy at sewing and completely underestimated the time it would take me to sew everything onto my new (first-ever!) pointes. I used the Grishko method, pretty fiddly! My top tip, though: Nymo thread! It's a super tough thread used for beading and bead embroidery. I use it all the time for my soft shoe elastics and it is super strong, nice and silky and very easy to work with. An alternative if you don't fancy using dental floss and want something stronger than regular thread - it comes in white, ivory, soft pink, nude, black…

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    1. It's not so much the sewing that takes time, but the placing and measuring... My first shoes took forever to sew!
      Thank you so much for the thread tip, I'll try to find some next time I need it. :)

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  9. Do you have to have elastics? I have a pair that I'm thinking about doing without elastic and was wondering if it would work.

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    1. Hi Tara!

      Elastics are not a must, but many dancers prefer to use them because it will prevent the heel from slippin off. This is not always the case, so why don't you just try it? You can always sew the elastics later. :)

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  10. I always have a hard time sewing elastic! I just cant sew it in nicely and evenly. My stitches are messy and the elastic is weird and it just unravels or unstitches. I fold the ends to prevent it from unstitching, but it just doesnt look very secure.

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  11. I just got pointe shoes today ayayyay

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  12. How can I loosen the drawstring before attempting to sew on the elastic and ribbons? Also, if you have to stitch on by hand using the whip stitch, couldn't you sew by machine on the stitching line that encases the drawstring? It would be so much more durable and certainly wouldn't irritate the dancers feet.

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