I’ve had a couple of emails recently asking the same question: how do you sew the elastics on your ballet shoes? Well here’s my step-by-step guide… As with my Ballet DIY post on making shorts from tights my disclaimer is that I’m absolutely useless at sewing! This is how I sew my ballet shoes but there’s probably a better way out there somewhere. In fact, I think Ed who guest-posted has the best idea: he told me he borrows his girlfriend’s sewing machine (or tries to convince her to do them for him!).
First off, get some shoes! If you haven’t bought ballet slippers before then you really should buy your first pair from a dance shop. It seems each brand has their own funky way of sizing their shoes and even as a mathematician I can’t work out how they all work… Once you have your shoes you’ll also need some strong thread (I’ve heard dental floss is also great – and minty fresh!), a needle, a permanent marker and some masking tape. You’ll also see a book in my photo here: this is the amazing Ballet Apparel for Men by David Hunter from BalletForMen. This covers everything you could ever need to know about what guys wear for ballet – and you can even get it free, that’s right FREE from the BalletForMen website as an e-book. If you love it (like I do) then you can also buy a hardcopy from Amazon and help support all the amazing work David does.
Now pop one of your shoes on. You might wonder, like I did when I had my first pair, which shoe goes on which foot. The answer is, it doesn’t matter! The shoes are identical, however your feet might not be so make sure once you’ve decided you stick with the same foot with the same shoe. Now take one of the elastics and bring it over the top of your foot to around the middle of your arch. My Capezio Cobras have a seam in the middle of the arch so you can choose to bring the elastic in front or behind this seem. You want the elastic pulled snug but not tight (you don’t want to cut off your circulation!).
Mark with the marker on the elastic where the top of the shoe meets the elastic. Then take the shoe off, line up this mark again and start sewing! You want to sew below the pre-sewn edge – there’s an elastic running through here and you don’t want to sew through it. How you sew is up to you, I try and be neat but inevitably end up with a Frankenstein’s Monster effect. Make sure you sew over the elastic a few times though, one of my first pairs I sewed ended up nearly pulling out all the stitches because it wasn’t secure enough! Repeat with the other elastic (obviously crossing over to t’other side of your foot).
Now they’re done (and it may take a while for your first few times) try on the shoe. Fits like a glove, right? As long as it still fits (not too tight to stop blood-flow nor too loose to fall off) you’ve probably done step two right. Now get those little bits of elastic that are the ends of the piece running around the top of your foot. Pull them reasonably tight and tie them into a bow. Again, the idea is not to be ridiculously tight, but certainly tight enough to secure the shoe on your foot. Once tied, neaten up the bow and chop off the excess (don’t be too eager here in case you need to readjust!). Flip your shoe inside out and use the masking tape to secure the bow on the inside of the shoe. This way your bow won’t escape mid-class – most teachers hate seeing the bows!
Nearly there! Try your shoe back on and flex your foot a few times. Does it fit okay? It’s okay if it feels a bit weird, the main thing is to check it’s not cramping your toes or about to fall off. All good? Then you can trim off the excess elastic from your thick bits crossing the top of your foot. Then all that’s left to do is pop your initials inside (you don’t want anyone nicking your shoes, do you?!) and mark which shoe is for which foot. Then try them on!
So if all has gone well you will now be the proud owner of a pair of sewn ballet shoes. Congrats! Wear them with pride!
I hope that has helped. If you have any questions about sewing shoes then please leave them in the comments section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org (although my PhD might mean a slight delay replying to emails!).
Until next time, keep dancing!
Be careful when using the permanent marker: if you’re anything like me you’ll be marking the elastics, get a little over-zealous and end up with these marks…