Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ballet Shoe Sewing Tutorial Part 1

I've seen so many of my fellow dancers and students get by with ballet shoes that have loose elastics, or elastics in the wrong place because they didn't know how to sew the elastics on. Some shoes come pre-sewn, some come with only half the elastic sewn on, and some just come with the elastics. So I thought I'd do a tutorial!

There's two ways to sew ballet shoes: straight across the foot and in the X-shape. Since this tutorial has so many photos, I'll break it up into two parts. This will be the X-shape sewing tutorial (since I just got a new pair of shos that I want to sew!). This method will also work for sewing pointe shoe ribbons up until step 2 (there's a special photo for pointe shoes), not elastics. Sewing pointe shoe elastics (I don't use them, so I wouldn't really know) should be somewhat like sewing the ballet shoe elastic straight across the foot, so see my next tutorial for that (or maybe ask your teacher - I'm not really sure what I'm talking about here). Update: here's the elastic straight-across tutorial - Part 2.

For the X-shape, you're trying to make your shoe look like this (I'm too lazy to actually sew my shoes right now, so web image):
Photo credit

Ignore steps 1 and 2 if your elastic is already pre-sewn to the back of the shoe (half of the work is already done for you), so it looks like this:

Unsewn new shoe. <3
Step 1: In order to get your elastic in the right place, take your shoe and fold the heel down towards the insole of the shoe. Make sure you're folding the heel starting at the very back of the sole (where I'm pointing at in the first photo below). Your shoe should look like the 2nd photo once you've folded it.

See the back of the insole where my finger's pointing?
Fold down.
Step 2: Now you see how there's 2 corners made when you fold the heel down (my index finger and pinky finger are pointing at them in the picture below)? Mark where those folds are and that's where you'll be sewing the back of the elastic down. Make sure you mark what angle the fold is as well, because that's how you want to sew the elastic in the shoe. Note: if your shoe elastics have been presewn to the back, you'll see that this folding thing doesn't work. Don't worry, where they're sewn is fine, but the folding trick gets the elastics in the optimal spot. Note #2: this is the method you should be using to sew down your pointe shoe ribbons as well, but especially when you sew in the ribbons, make sure that you're not only marking where the fold in the shoe happened, but what angle it's at. You need to sew the ribbon at the same angle as the fold (see 2nd photo below). Ballet shoes are more forgivable than pointe shoes if you got the wrong angle - the fold angle is crucial  for pointe shoes.

pinky                                                                             index
Pointe shoe - see how the ribbon is tucked in the corner at that angle?
Step 3: Put on the shoe and look at your arch. You want to be sewing the elastic to the center of your arch so that the shoe won't pop off your foot when you point it. Mark both sides of the elastic on the canvas of the shoe so that you'll know where to sew when you take it off. Also stretch the elastic so that it's taut and giving a little resistance, but not pulling too hard, and mark where the elastic begins to touch the shoe, like in the 2nd photo. Now mark the same thing straight across from your marks on the instep on the other side of the shoe. Test the elastic for that side and see how tight you want it, and mark where the elastic meets the shoe (no picture - it was an awkward angle for me).

Pull the elastic down to your arch.
Marks on the instep - make sure you're not sewing your elastic
on the outside so that it ends up looking like this picture!
Step 4: Sew! Make sure you're tucking the elastics inside the shoe and sewing them to the inside canvas, not the outside (ugly)! Honestly, the measuring part is the hardest part. How you sew the shoes is somewhat irrelevant as long as the elastic doesn't pop off. If you're in a hurry, safety pinning the elastics in the places I told you to will work just as well for a few classes, but sew them on as soon as you can! Once you've sewn the elastics down (see below), you can snip them off so there's about half an inch left inside the shoe. If you cut too close to where you've sewn it down, the elastic will wiggle it's way out of the stitches or fray badly. Trust me, it's happened before. Note: when you're sewing, make sure you're sewing through only the canvas lip of the shoe and NOT through to the other side, or through the elastic drawstring of the shoe (if your shoe has a drawstring).

See how the elastic is on the inside of the shoe? I might sew it across another time
if I want it to hold better - I just resewed these shoes for performance, so I did it quick.

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