Perhaps you have always dreamed of doing ballet or maybe your child is desperate to learn to dance. If so, you will have to get the right costume and of course, ballet shoes. However, the price can be restrictive. A good pair of ballet shoes can cost a pretty penny, but if you have reasonable sewing skills you can make your own. They will cost a fraction of what ready-made shoes are and all you need is leather, cotton fabric, elastic, and ribbon.

Measure out a Leather Sole

The first thing you need to do is to measure out the soles of your shoes. These are best made out of leather which is durable and strong and will hold up to wear and tear. However, it is also comfortable which you want if you are often practicing or performing. Look for high-quality leather that is soft and supple. Fake leather usually isn’t strong enough and if use it, you could end up having to make new shoes more often than you would like. 

Once you have purchased the leather, you need to draw the outline of your feet. If you find this a problem, ask a friend to draw the outlines. Cut them out and then get ready with your fabric.

Cut Out the Foot Hole

You may choose cotton as the fabric for the top of your ballet shoes, or you may go for satin. Whichever you choose, measure the size of your ankle and add two inches to this, Cut out the top fabric and then cut out a hole directly above the heel. This will be your foot hole. You will need a piece of elastic to secure the hole. This should be 0.5 inches wide, one yard long, and in the same color as the fabric. 

Once you have sewn the elastic to the foot hole, the next step is to sew together the fabric with the leather. For this, you will need a strong needle and thread of the same color as the fabric.

It can be quite difficult to decide which is the right and left shoe. Try them on to see which feels best on each foot. Then mark an R and an L on the bottom of the shoes.

Sewing the Elastic in a Criss-Crossed Pattern

To sew on the elastic to secure your shoes, you will need 18 inches of cotton thread of a similar color to the fabric. You will again need a strong needle so that it can penetrate the elastic. Pull through half of the thread and tie a knot at the end of it. Then you are ready to sew. 

You will need to place the elastic from one side of your ankle to the other. One end of the elastic should begin just above your heel and the other end near the front of your ankle. You will need to have 0.25 inches overlapping the material.  

Put the shoe on and try out different positions with the elastic to see which feels best. Then it is time to sew one end of the elastic, making sure that the end is on the inside of the shoe. You will also have to make sure that the thread goes all the way through the elastic and the shoe. Make as small stitches as possible so they won’t be seen. Once you have done this, do the same with the other end of the elastic. 

To get the criss-cross effect you will need to do this again with another 18-inch piece of elastic and then repeat with the other shoe.

Sewing Elastic Bands as Ankle Loops

Perhaps you would prefer to have ankle loops. This is an easy process, easier than the criss-cross method. First, you will need to measure the elastic around your ankle, making sure that it overlaps the edges of the shoe by 0.25 inches. The actual length of the elastic needs to be one or two inches long on top of the overlapping and the length all depends on the size of your ankle. Get a heavy-duty needle and sew the ends of the elastic to the shoes. It is a good idea to sew them twice to give that extra strength. You won’t want the elastic snapping while you are performing.

Sewing Ribbons onto Ballet Shoes

You may want to make your ballet shoes look extra pretty and this is where ribbons come in. Choose ribbon the same or similar color to the top of the ballet shoes. It should be about one inch wide. It’s also attractive to find a ribbon that is of the same finish as your ballet shoes. If your ballet shoes are made from satin, satin ribbon is best. If they are made from cotton fabric, choose cotton ribbon.

To measure the ribbon, use your forearm. It is about the right length for the strands of ribbon. You will need four strands, two for each shoe. Hold up the ribbon and bring it up to your elbow. Again, if you’re having trouble with this, enlist the help of a friend or family member. Cut it with sharp scissors so that you don’t get jagged edges.  

The next thing to do is put the end of the ribbon about two inches away from the elastic at the heel. You should make sure that the overlap is 0.5 inches and it should be slightly angled.

Sew one end of the ribbon into the inside of the shoe and then sew another piece of ribbon on the other side. Then you will be able to tie the ribbon together. Make sure that you tie the thread securely. Repeat this process on the other ballet shoe.


As can be seen, it’s not too difficult to make a beautiful pair of ballet shoes. All you need is leather for the soles, cotton or satin for the top of the shoes, elastic, and ribbon. Get a strong piece of thread and a heavy-duty needle and you can be assured that your shoes won’t fall apart. Instead, you will be able to dance beautifully