How to Sew Pointe Shoe Ribbons and Elastic
When sewing ribbons on your pointe shoes, the first essential is to choose good quality ribbon. Quality ribbon has a slight "give" to it: the cheap stuff doesn't, and will "strangle" your ankle when you plié.
If you've been finding that ribbon irritates the back of your ankle, try buying ribbons with a small section of elastic built in. Take care to position the elastic section behind your ankle when you sew the ribbons on. Personally, I dislike full-elastic ribbons because I feel they don't hold you in the shoe enough.
This first clip is now my recommended method for sewing on pointe shoes, because it's an easy way to get the angle right, and makes your shoe more secure, with no need for elastic:
How to Sew Pointe Shoe Ribbons - The Grishko Method
Don't like that method? Let's look at the traditional options. British and American dancers sew their ribbons differently.
The British Method
In the clip below, notice how she folds down the heel of the shoe - it's not folded all the way to the edge of the sole. Using this method, the ribbons keep your shoes on - you don't need elastic loops.
I recommend pinning the ribbons in place and trying on the shoe before you start sewing. Put the shoe on (watch out for the pins!), then try crossing the ribbons across your foot as if you were going to tie them, and make sure they lie flat. Now repeat with your toe pointed. You may find you need to make a small adjustment to the angle before you sew.
Some people suggest using dental floss rather than ordinary thread. I've never found that necessary and it sounds too fiddly to me - I'd rather stick to my Suffolk pointe shoe sewing kit.
The American Method
You'll notice the ribbons are sewn much further from the heel, at the side seam, and not angled. I don't see how this can be effective at holding your foot securely in place.
However at one point, the presenter actually says, 'the purpose of the ribbon is to draw attention to your arch". So it sounds as though, for American dancers, the elastic does the work and the ribbon just looks pretty.
P.S. If you wear Gaynor Mindens, these sewing instructions do not apply (although the positioning is still the same). Here are the instructions for you!