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Pointe Shoes!

My advice on how to sew ribbons and elastic onto pointe shoes:

Though it is common practice for many inexperienced publishers and pointe shoe retailers to inform beginning pointe students to fold down the heel of the shoe as a guide for where to sew elastic and ribbons, this is usually and almost always the wrong advice.  Pointe shoe wear is highly individualized.   Here are some better tips on how to sew ribbons and elastic onto your new pointe shoes.


1.  Purchase either Freed, Gaynor Minden, or Russian Pointe brand ribbons.  They tend to be the most durable brands of ribbons.  Capezio's and Grisko's ribbon tends to be too delicate or in other words 'flimsy'.

2.  The ribbon will come in one long piece.  Take that piece, fold it evenly in half, and then cut it in half.  You now have two pieces.

3.  Take one of those pieces and tie it around your bare foot as you would usually tie your pointe shoes on before cutting that piece in half.  Cut the ribbon directly under your arch.  If you tied the ribbon correctly, you will notice that these two pieces' lengths have about a 1 1/2 inch difference.  (Remember: you should knot your ribbon on the inside of your ankle to avoid pressure on your Achilles tendon.)  Repeat on the other foot.  You now have four pieces.

4.  In order to reduce fraying, burn the unfinished edges of your ribbons with a lighter.  It only takes about two seconds to melt the satin edges. 

5.  Distinguish which shoe will go one which foot.

6.  Take one of the two longer ribbon and fold the end up about 1/2 inch.  Pin it to the outside satin part of the pointe shoe on the inside part of your foot.  It should be pinned inline with the center of your arch, NOT were the heel of the shoe folds down!  I prefer to sew the ribbon to the outside of the shoe, because doing this often prevents irritation and some gapping between the foot and shoe.  (Off on a tangent:  I swear that sewing the ribbon to the outside of the shoe will not be ugly if you sew it in a nice, tightly sewn, box)  (Off on another tangent:  The place where the shoe's heel folds down may not be exactly inline with the center of your arch.  The purpose of the ribbon being placed here is to pull the shank of the shoe up to your arch so that your foot and the shoe become one, like a foot in a sock.)  Repeat this process with one of the shorter ribbons to the outside of the outside part of your foot.

7.  Try the shoe on and tie it again to make sure that all the ribbons are lined up properly before sewing them. 

8.  A box, NOT one single straight line, should be sewn around the fold of the ribbon as close to the edge of the shoe as possible.  Be careful not to sew the drawstring in place if your shoe contains drawstring.  Sew this box with either unwaxed dental floss, button thread or carpet thread.  Pointe shoes can be sewn using a sewing machine with regular thread and it tends to hold pretty well; however, I have found it difficult to sew pointe shoes on the sewing machine, because the box of the shoe gets in the way.


The most common place to sew elastic on is near the heel of the shoe.  If you have a narrower heel and wider metatarsals, it is not uncommon for the shoe to slip off a bit.  (Remember: 'a bit' is the key word here.  There should be no more than a pinch at the heel.)  It is up to you to decide where between the ribbon and the heel it can be placed.  Most people prefer to place it about 1 inch away from the back seam on either side.  Just as the ribbon can be sewn to the outside of the shoe, it is even more common for the elastic to be sewn on the outside of the shoe. 


Darning can help solve this problem if your shoes do not have drawstrings. 

1.  Using either darning or crochet thread that matches the color of your tights, start the first stitch at the base of the vamp.

2.  With the pointe shoe on, determine approximately  how much tension you will need to use to when you stitch to determine what will give your foot the best fit..

3.  Stitch across the metatarsals from side to side, perpendicular to you metatarsals until you go on demi pointe with out the gapping.  The distance between each stitch is a guess and test process.


Problems with mushy shoes?:

The advise below is a quick fix to revive worn pointe shoes, yet it is also a means of preparation for new pointes to make them last longer.


If the box of your shoe tends to break down quickly and you want to make your pointe shoes last longer, cyanoacrylate super thin glue is your knight in shinning armor.  This glue is often used in model airplane building.  (A WARNING:  HANDLE IT WITH CARE!  It will bond to your skin in a matter of only a few seconds.  If you get it on your hands, soak them in nail polish remover that contains acetate.)  Okay, now that I've scared you, it really does work miracles.  You can usually find it in dance supply catalogs under the brand name, Instant Jet.  You can also find it at hobby stores.  Super glue is also a substitute.  Here's how you apply it:

1.  Apply a thin layer to the inside of the box of the pointe shoe where needed.  Do not apply it to satin on the outside of the shoe.  That's it!  Just wait a few minutes for it to dry and your box will go from mushy to stiff again.

If you know that you tend to soften only the inside or the outside of the tip, only apply it there, and you can do this before you even wear the shoes.  They usually will not even get mushy at all if you do this. 


You can also use cyanoacrylate glue to stiffen the shank as well as the box if you are going to far over.  It does not work as many miracles as it does for the box, yet sometimes it does work.  You can try to squeeze the glue in-between layers of the shank as well as the outside leather board in the area your arch needs support.  Usually I just recommend buying a new pair of pointes with a harder shank.


Check back later for pictures to go along with these steps!


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