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How To...

Sewing Ribbons and Elastic on Pointe Shoes

Please remember that dancers should only purchase and wear pointe shoes if their teachers have approved first.  Also, keep in mind that dancers may have received instructions from their teachers that explain how to attach ribbons and elastics, if these are their first pair of shoes.  The instructions below are general guidelines only, and specifics vary based on studio preferences and a dancer’s needs. So it is a good idea to always follow the procedure that the ballet teacher recommends.

Step 1:  Mark the Shoes

Put your pointe shoes down so that the toe faces away, and the heel faces toward you.  Fold down the material that would go around your heel, pushing it forward, so that the outer seam or piping lays flat across the insole of the shoe.  With a pen or marker, place a line on both sides of the inside lining, where the heel is folded down.  This is where you will line up the ribbons to sew them into the shoes, so do this with both shoes.

Step 2:  Attach the Ribbons

Before sewing the ribbons in the shoes, you may need to cut the length of ribbon you were provided.  You should have four pieces of ribbon in equal lengths.  To prevent fraying at the ends of the ribbons, some dancers may burn the edges or sew a line along the tips of the ribbons.

To attach the ribbons, place the front edge of one ribbon along the line that you marked inside the shoe in Step 1.  Angle the ribbon so that the end points to toward the heel of the shoe, with the length of the ribbon extending away from your body.  Angling the ribbon will help you to wrap it around your ankle when putting on the shoes.  Keeping half an inch of ribbon inside the shoe, sew around the edges of the ribbon to attach it to the inside lining of the shoe.  It is also a good idea to sew across the top of the ribbon, just below the outer piping of the shoe, to secure it.  Repeat with the other three lengths of ribbon.

Speak to your instructor about how to tie your ribbons. Wearing ribbons tied too tight or placed incorrectly can cause added stress on the Achilles tendon and cause injury. Ribbons that contain elastic or flexible extenders are available to help ease pressure to the Achilles tendon.

Step 3:  Attach the Elastics

The elastics will be secured on each side of the heel at a slight angle to create an ankle strap that you would slip your foot through before sliding it into the shoe. The two ends of the elastic should be attached on either side of the heel, not sewn on top of each other in the center of the heel.

The most comfortable location for the elastic should be determined before sewing it completely into the shoe. This placement may vary by dancer, depending on the fit of the shoe and the dancer’s anatomical needs. Again, consulting with your instructor will help you find the best placement.

Measure the length of the elastic with the shoe on, and mark the shoe where the elastic needs to be secured on each side of the ankle. The elastic loop should be long enough that it does not pull too tightly in demi-plie, where it will be at its longest stretch. Be careful not to make the elastic too tight or too loose. You can follow the same sewing procedure that you used to sew the ribbons to the inside of the shoe.

If your shoes do not have a canvas inner lining, and you need to sew through to the outside of the shoes, be sure to use a clear thread or one that matches the color of the shoes.  Proper attachment of ribbons and elastic can enhance a dancer’s experience with pointe shoes, and provide added security when training and performing.

Article written by Terry Finch.

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