July 8, 2012

Prep, Sew, Pointe!

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. 

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.

Done! Next step would be breaking in these babies. Let me just take a break first. :)


  1. Thin fishing line is also good for sewing anything that has to last (besides, it's practically invisible) - take this from someone who's sewn more sequins in her life than I want to think of... :) Just remember to leave the ends on outside of the shoe.

    1. Thanks for the tip, Ilona! I'll also keep it in mind if I ever need to sew sequins ;)

  2. Nice post and beautiful pictures! I also wear Bloch shoes: Signature Performance. What type of Bloch shoe do you use? I use regular elastics and sew them on the inside, they do not annoy me much. The Bloch elastic on your pointe shoes looks great, I might give it a try next time I order new shoes.

    1. An LCCB principal dancer just started using the 3/4" mesh elastic from Pillows for Pointe. She sews her elastics in a crossover fashion inside her shoes. That way when she ties her ribbons the elastic really does seem to disappear. She feels this gives a nice snug fit, too. Loved your article with pictures. Keep them coming!

  3. Thank you! I wear Bloch European Balance. They fit my wide-ish feet really well, and are great for balancing!

    I used to sew my regular elstic on the inside, then saw lots of pros sew it on the outside (at least for class/rehearsals). Wondered about that, then tried it myself. Whatever works for you best is good :)

  4. I think I have pointe shoe fever now... Must go and look at those shiny pink packages in the ballerina store :)

  5. Just caught on with your blog and loving it.... love this one especially!! I have only started taking pointe classes and it took me a very long time to sew my elastic and ribbons on. Wish I'd came across this before my last attempt!!

    1. Thank you! My first time sewing ribbons took forever too - even though I follwed instructions and directions! I finally learned by trial and error :)


To That Special Ballet Teacher

To that special ballet teacher, who not only teaches you about technique, but helps build your confidence, nurtures your inner artist, ...