Sewing Ribbons on Pointe Shoes: A Masterclass!

Pointe shoes are worn by ballet dancers which help them to dance on the tip of their toes. The first pointe shoes were made in 1823 and were worn by Italian dancer Amalia Brugnoli. Pointe shoes at that time were made up with a mixture of newspaper, flour paste and pasteboard (to make the stiff box), leather, and yes of course ribbons.

Ribbons at times were important to keep the shoes in place as elastic was not invented. But today they are used just for the “classical look”. But even today some makers go with the old tradition and use ribbons instead of elastic.

New pointe shoes don’t come with ribbons or elastic attached to them. Dancers have to sew the ribbons on the pointe shoes according to their comfort.

In today’s blog, we’ll guide you step by step on how you can safely sew ribbons on pointe shoes without messing them up. Don’t worry, the technique to sew the ribbons is pretty easy.

Tip: Don’t sew them with a sewing machine, it will most likely damage your shoes.

So without any further ado, let’s start.

The Materials Required to Sew Pointe Shoes

The following are the items which you will need to sew ribbons onto your pointe shoes

  1. Pointe Shoes: Pretty obvious I know. But you need to ensure that the ballet shoes that you’re about to sew are well-fitted. You’ll need to do this during shoe-fitting by a professional. Once you have sewn the ribbons onto your shoes, there’s no going back. You won’t be able to return them.
  • Ribbons: Pointe shoes don’t just require any ribbon. The ribbon is mostly made up of nylon or polyester satin with a matte or shiny finish. The ribbon needs to be 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide. 2 yards or (1.8 m) of ribbon would be enough for both of the shoes. Make sure to buy the type of ribbon which has a similar finish to your ballet shoes, either satin or matte.
how to sew ribbons on pointe shoes
  • Sewing Thread: The sewing thread should match the color of your ribbon and pointe shoes. Even if you decide to choose ribbon or the sewing thread of another color, make sure that it blends or compliments the color of your ballet shoes. Some dancers prefer using dental floss as well.
  • Needle: For this DIY you will need a heavy-duty needle of about 18 inches to penetrate the shoes. Don’t choose a blunt one. Choose a sewing needle that is sharp and can pierce through your shoes. Make sure that the needle is thin so that it doesn’t leave any noticeable holes in your shoes.
  • Sewing Pins: These can make your job easier. With the help of the pins, you can keep the ribbon in one place while you sew.
  • Scissors: While doing DIYs or crafty stuff, keeping scissors with you is a must. While sewing ribbons onto pointe shoes, you can use scissors to trim the thread.

How To Sew Ribbons On Pointe Shoes?

Before you get started make sure you have all the necessary material. Let’s start with the ribbons.

1.   Measure the Ribbons

Before cutting, you’ll have to measure the ribbons first. The best way to accurately measure the ribbons is by wrapping them around your ankle.

To ease the process of sewing, fold the heels of your pointe shoes in such a way that they are lying flat against the bottom of the shoes. A diagonal line will be created on each side of the shoe.

Put on your pointe shoes and place the ribbon near the start of your heels and the other end of the ribbon should be placed near the front of your ankle. Mark the place with a pencil and take the ribbon out.

2.   Cut the Ribbons

About 20 inches or so should be used on one shoe. Cut the remaining part and do the same with your other shoes.

Note: Don’t just try one position. Keep trying to wrap the ribbons until you find the placement of ribbons you are comfortable with.

3.   Ignite the Ends of the Ribbons

After you’ve cut the ribbons in half, use a candle or a lighter and move the end of the ribbons over it a couple of times. Doing this will not fray up the ends.

Note: Make sure the ribbons are at a safe distance from the flame.

4.   Pin the Ribbons

After you’ve done slightly burning the ends of the ribbons, you now need to pin the ribbons where you have marked on your shoes.

Most ballet dancers sew the ribbons or elastics on the inside but that is not necessary if your feet get irritated by it.

5.   Thread the Needle

Take the thread and slip it through the eye of the needle.  Roll out a long piece of the thread at least as long as the length of your arm. Tie a knot on the other end of the thread so that it doesn’t slip out from the shoe.

6.   Make the Stitches

Start making the stitches along one end of the ribbon. To get a tidy look, fold the raw edge of the ribbons inwards.

Beginning from the end start making stitches along the sides of the ribbon till the binding edge of the shoe. Take the needle and start piercing it through the shoe lining from an inward direction. Once some of the shoe linings are pierced and inside the needle, place the ribbon underside and pierce it through the same needle and pull it until the thread is pulled through as well.

Note: Avoid sewing over the drawstring because then you won’t be able to pull the thread tight when necessary.

Once you have stitched the binding, stitch along the remainder of the edge till the short folded edge is on the other end.

7.   Finishing Up

Tie off the last stitch once you’ve finished making them. Thread the needle along with the loops of the stitches. Tie a knot and cut the remaining thread.

Repeat the process with the other ribbon and then do the same to the other shoe.

Final Verdict

Knowing how to sew a ribbon onto a pointe shoe is important especially if you plan on going to a professional ballet school.

In some ballet schools, the dancers are required to take an exam of how to sew a ribbon on the shoe and how to tie it. You’ll need to wear them and dance in them so you need to sew them into a spot that will make you comfortable. The angle in which you sew and how you sew it will determine how comfortably you can dance and how it will look.