Making pointe shoes is definitely an art, one which in steeped in tradition, passed down from generation to generation, a career that is more a life than a job for master pointe shoe makers. Recently, the Allegro team was fortunate enough to watch a master shoe maker from Suffolk Pointe Company show us how they make their pointe shoes. Read on to see what we learned!
Suffolk pointe shoes are made in Leicester, England, an hour train ride north of London. Allegro carries the Suffolk Solo, the original Suffolk pointe shoe, and it is one of our favorites to fit. Each pointe shoe manufacturer has their own unique way of making pointe shoes - and this is the way Suffolk does it!
Pointe shoes are built on a last, like the one pictured above. Suffolk has thousands of lasts for each different size, width, and style. The sole is hammered onto the last and the pointe shoe is built around it.
Approximately 10 pieces of material are sewn together by skilled seamstresses before it reaches the shoe makers. The shiny satin is on one side and the canvas is on the other.
The shanks come in three different strengths. The lightest is 1.8mm thick, standard is 2mm, and hard is 2.5mm.
The fabric is pulled around the last, and tacked in. Pleats are carefully created on the bottom of the toe box by filling in the fabric with tools. It takes a tremendous amount of strength to do this part! The fabric is then held on with a thick string before it is sewn.
Pointe shoe fabric before and after it is put on the last. The Suffolk shoes are "turn shoes", meaning they are built inside out and turned right side out later on.
The box is created and hardened with paste made of flour, starch, water, and "secret ingredients."
Paste is applied by hand. More paste = a harder box.
Burlap triangles are added to the end of the shoe to create the box.
The burlap triangles are added one at a time by layering paste on top of them by hand. The amount of paste the shoe maker puts on will affect the shape of the box, the hardness of the box, and how high up the wings go.
The outer sole of the pointe shoe shows the Suffolk logo and the size of each shoe.
Partially assembled pointe shoes! The fabric and sole have been stitched together on the last.
Once the shoes are turned right side out, the excess fabric is cut off of the shoes.
A pointe shoe after it has been turned right side out and excess fabric has been trimmed off. (This one is soft with no box because we skipped an important step during the demonstration: putting the shoes into the oven!)
A pointe shoe maker's tools.
Megan at the Suffolk booth, trying out one of their beautiful pointe shoes!