Beginner Ballet Tips: Sewing Elastic to Ballet Slippers

Roughly one year and one month ago, I picked up my first pair of ballet slippers at one of the local dance stores in Philadelphia and was told I needed to sew the elastics myself. Nothing more. I was clueless. I searched online and was frustrated with every article and how-to telling me how to sew pointe shoe ribbons and elastics. I eventually found this video and sewed on my elastics the best I could:

Looking back at those shoes, my elastics were sewn kind of terribly (not because the technique in the video is bad, but just because I’m horrible at sewing). I wish I had found these tips by Adult Beginner and Dave Tries Ballet to help me out when I needed it. Adult Beginner uses a single elastic, so if that’s what you’ve got, go check her’s out. The video, Dave Tries Ballet, and my tutorial below deals with criss-cross elastics that are already sewn at the back-end. I wear Sansha split sole canvas shoes (I’m looking into trying more, I just bought these because I needed new shoes and knew these would fit if I ordered them online).

Here’s what you’ll need:

Shoes

Pen or Permanent Marker

Scissors

Safety Pins

Needle and Thread (I recommend Bunhead’s Stitch Kit if you don’t already have needles and thread lying around. It’s super thick, strong thread that will make sure the elastics will stay put both on pointe shoes and ballet slippers)

My elastics are pulled tight so that my shoes fit my feet.

Step 1. Tighten the elastic strings at the top of your ballet slipper until you get a nice fit. You don’t want them strangling your foot but you don’t want the shoes to be falling off either.

Step 2. Mark where you will sew the elastics with permanent marker at your arches by stretching them over your feet–I just sew mine to the middle seam in my slipper. Again, you want them to be holding your foot in but not too tight. I sew the elastic from the inside of the foot underneath and the one that comes in from the outside over (I’m pretty sure there’s no rules written in stone about this–I just know it’s mentioned in one of the videos I watched so that’s what I do). I then mark each slipper somewhere on the inside so I can quickly know which one is left and right without having to look super carefully at the elastic.

Step 3. Secure the elastic using a safety pin where you will sew them and try them on again, making sure that you’ve got the right fit. Point and flex your feet a couple of times.

Step 4: Cut the elastics if you need to so they fit into the shoe (I usually leave about 1/2 an inch from the very top part of the shoe so there’s enough to sew securely in). You could probably burn the elastics to make sure they don’t fray but I don’t find it necessary.

I can’t really give you any advice on doing the actual sewing part since I’m a novice at it–some people hand sew, others use a machine. Whichever method you choose, make sure you don’t sew into the elastic string that goes around the shoe by accident.

Step 5: Put your shoes on and check the elastic string for tightness again, making sure you’ve got it where you want it. Some people will leave their strings long and tie them in a bow and then tuck them in (they shouldn’t be left out so your foot doesn’t get dragged over them and/or so you don’t trip on them).Having all the loose strings shoved into my shoe drives me crazy, so I double knot mine (without tying a bow), cut them pretty short, and then burn the ends.

Step 6: Put them on, check for the correct fit (one last time!) and admire a job well done!

What do you wish you would’ve known before starting ballet classes?

PS If you’ve got any tips for how you attach your elastics to ballet slippers, let me know! This is still a work in progress for me!

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  • Ooooh! Great timing on this. I am needing to re-sew the elastics on my slippers. I’ve been wearing them during my workouts (gives me that dancer feeling) and I have come to the conclusion I did a terrible job especially on the right one. Thanks for the info it was really helpful!

  • RO

    Pfewwww I wished I knew more about sewing my pointe shoes! The tutorials on YouTube are all well and fine but still it’s a hard job! I felt like I was 5 years older when I was finally done…. Wish someone was there to guide me through every step! Still don’t know whether I’m absolutely satisfied with my ribbons and elastics so my next pair of pointes will also be a learning experience!

    • See if your instructor or a friend has an old shoe you can look at to base your sewing off of–that’s what my teacher did and it made figuring things out so much easier. It still took me forever though–I hate sewing through elastic!

      • RO

        Haha yeah me too.. I am almost ready for my second pair of pointe shoes and I hope that I can figure out what I like in my elastics and ribbons by then!

  • Claudia Varley

    Thanks for sharing this to us. I am new in ballet world and I think I will learn a lot from this website. I was very excited to buy all of ballet stuffs; those beautiful and cute things that make me fall in love with ballet when I was younger. Ah, just to share with you who are located in Australia, I found this awesome website that sell all kinds of ballet apparels; http://www.energetiks.com.au – you’re gonna have a good time browsing through each section… I did. 🙂 Nice to meet you all.

  • Sophie Bannan

    Does it matter if the elastic is sewn on the outside? Just for classes…

    • Kristen Gillette

      I supposed you could. Just make sure not to sew through the elastic drawstring. I don’t know that it would make it any easier, though.

  • Bev Wafford Morris

    Thanks for keeping this up! I don’t do ballet, and my 10 yo just got her first pair of split soles. Since we bought them online, I was clueless as to what to do. She told me the other girls in her class just tie them beneath the slippers, but she’s got big feet. I was afraid doing that would cut off the circulation to her feet. The whole process took about 10 minutes to do with my sewing machine, very easy. You are awesome for posting this for dummies like me! 🙂