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How to Sew Pointe Shoes: A Detailed Guide

Pointe shoes are essential to ballet, allowing dancers to perform while balancing on the tips of their toes, creating a stunning and ethereal appearance. Still, you must customize pointe shoes to fit your feet perfectly, providing the proper support and alignment. This customization often involves sewing the elastics and ribbons on the ballet shoes. Our article will guide you on how to sew pointe shoes, including selecting the right materials and preparing them up to completion.

Understanding Pointe Shoes: Beyond Basics

Anatomy of a pointe shoe

Pointe Shoe

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Understanding the various parts of a pointe shoe can help with the customization:

  • Box: encases the toes and supports the foot when on pointe. You can select different shapes and hardness levels depending on your foot's condition and your preference.

  • Shank: the part that provides stiffness under the arch. Shanks come in various strengths to suit the dancer's needs.

  • Vamp: the front section of the shoe that holds the foot when pointing.

  • Platform: the flat tip where the dancer balances when on pointe.

  • Inner sole: the bottom of the shoe, where the shank resides.

  • Heel: protects and supports the heel, coming in different heights.

Materials and Tools Needed in Sewing Pointe Shoes

Materials and Tools Needed In Sewing Pointe Shoes

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Before diving into the sewing process, you need to gather the proper materials and tools:

  • Pointe shoes: choose the right pointe shoes for your feet. It's advisable to consult with a professional fitter.

  • There are three types of pointe ribbons, but using satin ribbons (generally 7/8" wide) is recommended.

  • Elastic¬†(usually 1/2" or 3/4" wide): attach these to your shoes.

  • Scissors: For cutting the ribbons and elastic to size.

  • Thread¬†(e.g., waxed dental floss, button thread, or upholstery thread): it's best to choose a strong nylon thread that matches the colour of the shoes and ribbons.

  • Needles(a heavy-duty sharp needle is ideal): a strong needle capable of piercing the fabric of the shoes.

  • Thimble: this will protect your fingers during the sewing process.

  • Pencil or tailor's chalk: to mark the position where you will sew the ribbons and elastic.

  • Measuring Tape: to measure the correct length of ribbons and elastic.

  • Lighter or fray check: seal the edges of the ribbons to prevent fraying.

  • Seam ripper (optional)

How to Sew Ribbons on Pointe Shoes

Here's a step-by-step guide on sewing ribbons onto pointe shoes:

  1. Prepare your materials: make sure you have all the necessary materials for sewing ribbons ready. Choose ribbons that are about 22 inches long for each shoe. Plus, ensure you have clean shoes.

  2. Pin the ribbons: put on your pointe shoes and tie the ribbons around your ankle, positioning them where you want them to be secured. Next, use pins to hold the ribbons in place temporarily. The ribbons should cross over your instep and wrap around your ankle.

    Pin the Ribbons

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  3. Mark the placement: while wearing the shoes with the pinned ribbons, mark the ideal placement of the ribbons on both the inside and outside of each shoe. You can use a pencil or chalk for this.

    Mark the Placement

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  4. Trim and fold: take off the shoes and trim the ribbons to the appropriate length, leaving a little extra for folding. Fold the ends of the ribbons under to avoid fraying.

  5. Thread the needle: thread your needle and knot it at the end.

  6. Sew the ribbons: start sewing from the inside of the shoe. Insert the needle through the lining of the shoe and out through one of the marked points. Then, sew through the folded end of the ribbon, pulling the thread taut but not too tight.

    Sew the Ribbons

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  7. Secure the ribbon: sew a few stitches to secure the ribbon to the shoe, making sure it is snug but not overly tight. You can create small stitches to form a neat and sturdy attachment. Repeat this process for both the inside and outside ribbon placements.

  8. Crossing the ribbons: once you have securely attached both ribbons, cross them over your instep and wrap them around your ankle. Check the fit and adjust the tightness as needed.

    Crossing the Ribbons

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  9. Sew the other ends: sew the other ends of the ribbons to the opposite side of the shoe, mirroring the placement you just sewed.

  10. Knot and trim: once you have sewn both ribbons securely, knot the thread on the inside of the shoe and trim any excess thread.

  11. Repeat for the second Shoe: repeat all the steps for the second pointe shoe.

  12. Test and adjust: put on both shoes and test the fit. Adjust the ribbons as needed for comfort and proper support.

How to Sew Elastic on Pointe Shoes

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to sew elastic onto pointe shoes:

  1. Prepare your materials: gather all your materials and make sure you break in your pointe shoes before attaching the elastic.

  2. Measure and cut elastic: measure and cut two pieces of elastic, each about 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) long. The length may vary depending on your foot size and personal preferences. Make sure the elastic is comfortable but not overly tight.

  3. Pin elastic in place: put on your pointe shoes and position the elastic pieces at a slight angle across the back seam of your shoe, just above the heel seam. The elastic should cross over the Achilles tendon and provide a snug, secure fit. Use a sewing pin to hold the elastic in place temporarily.

  4. Sew the elastic: thread your needle with a length of thread, knot the end, and start sewing from the inside of the shoe. Insert the needle through the lining of the shoe and out through one end of the elastic. Make a few stitches to secure the elastic to the shoe, ensuring it is taut but not uncomfortable.

    How sew elastics on pointe shoes

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  5. Stitching pattern: you can use a crisscross stitching pattern for added strength. Sew through the elastic and the shoe's lining to create diagonal stitches that resemble an "X." Be careful not to sew through the outside of the shoe, as it will affect the fit and integrity of the shoe.

  6. Repeat for the other end: sew the other end of the same elastic piece to the opposite side of the shoe, mirroring the stitching pattern you just created.

  7. Repeat for the second elastic: repeat the same process with the second piece of elastic, positioning it slightly above the first one. This will help secure the arch of your foot.

  8. Knot and trim: once you have securely sewn on both elastic pieces, knot the thread on the inside of the shoe and trim any excess thread.

    Trimmed elastic on pointe shoe

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  9. Test and adjust: put on both shoes and test the fit. The elastic should provide a secure hold without causing discomfort or restricting movement.

  10. Repeat for the other shoe: repeat all the steps for the second pointe shoe.

  11. Final adjustments: walk around and dance in your new pointe shoes to ensure the elastic is securely attached and comfortable. Make any necessary adjustments to the tightness or positioning of the elastic for the best fit.


Here are a few pointe shoe hacks:

  • Paint the shoes or match the colour of the thread to the ribbon and elastic.

  • If you're struggling to push the needle through the shoe, pliers can help.

  • Ensure not to sew through the drawstring or any shoe part that needs to move with your foot.

  • If you're unsure of the fit, baste everything in place first (using loose, temporary stitches) to test it out before final sewing.

Frequently Asked Questions on How to Sew Pointe Shoes

1. Can you use a sewing machine to sew pointe shoes?

While it's technically possible to use a sewing machine to sew pointe shoes, professional dancers or shoemakers do not recommend or practice using a sewing machine. Pointe shoe ribbons and elastics require specific precision and care to securely attach them without causing discomfort or compromising the dancer's safety.

Hand-sewing the ribbons and elastics onto pointe shoes allows for better control over tension and placement, resulting in a more personalized fit. The delicate nature of pointe shoes and the necessity for careful stitching to prevent discomfort or injury make hand-sewing the preferred method for attaching ribbons and elastics.

2. Why do pointe shoes need to be sewn?

You need to sew pointe shoes primarily to securely attach ribbons and elastics, which provide the necessary support and stability for dancing ballet. Sewing these components ensures a snug and customized fit, essential for maintaining the dancer's balance, control, and overall comfort during pointe work.


Sewing pointe shoes is a delicate process requiring attention to detail and precision. Following these instructions, you can customize your pointe shoes to fit your feet perfectly, offering comfort, support, and a beautiful appearance.

Remember, every dancer might have unique requirements, and it's often wise to consult with an experienced professional or instructor to understand your specific needs. Like any craft, sewing pointe shoes may require practice and patience, but the result is a pair of shoes tailored to your dancing needs, offering an enhanced performance experience.

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