Saturday, 1 May 2010

Tools of the trade, even dancers have it!

When I'm not binding, I'm usually dancing, that's my second soul.
Yesterday I had to customize my brand new pointe shoes to be able to wear it during my classes and recitals.
Pointe shoes are still handmade, each shoemaker has his own signature and each pair can fit differently from one another of the same size.

Each dancer usually tries different sizes, different brands, and different ways to customize her own shoes to fit exaclty her dancing needs.
In last years, I've fallen in love with Grishko pointe shoes, even though I'm looking for the perfect shank range.
Brand new pointe shoes haven't any ribbon or elastic band, so each dancer has to sew them and customize her own shoes according to her techinique and the coreographic needs.

That's how I customize my own ballet tools of the trade:
first of all, I fix the ribbons: my new teacher wants them to be fixed to turn out just below the malleoulus, before I was sawing them over the side quarters.
That' how I take the measurement: I fold the ending part of my pointe shoes (the sole is shorter than the feet, so that there's a little bit of border all around it) inside and I mark the two points where the fold ends: that's where my ribbon will be sewn.
When I know that I will have very little time to change my outfit during recitals, instead of ribbons I use elastic headbands, fixed in 4 points and crossing into an X shape over my instep.

Next to the ribbons or the X elastic headbands, I always need to saw an elastic band that will wrap around my ankles a fix it just above the heel. Ribbons are sewn ouside, because they helps the shoes to "adhere" better to the feet, elastic headbands are fixed on the border.

Then, there's the crytical point: after falling right on my knees and risking more than simple livids, I've decided to work on the platform of my pointe shoes to avoid slipping.
Pointe shoes are covered with satin, that can turn out to be very very slippery! That's why I cut out the satin covering on the platform.
Next, the longest step: to help balance, I need to contour the platform with very thick sewing thread. It can take also half an hour, and thinking about how much long will this pair of shoes live (8 months, if I'm lucky), that's a way too long work! But thinking about my knees and my health, it is necessary...
So I strart sewing all around the permeter with a double thick thread one, two, even three times until I reach the right thickness.

There we are, ready to dance!


It has been quite a long work, but I'm very happy with the result. Now, you know that to be a good dancer you need to learn how to handle a needle, because you will often use it =)
All this sewing work made me think about working tools: everyone, especially crafters and craftsman, have it and need to customize it.

So here's the question: do you have a specific tool you need/want t customize to fir your needs? 
Is there any knid of tool that you obtained recycling an old object, or something intented for another use (kitchen tools, for example), that you found out being irreplaceable in your work?
Are you jealous of your tools or you let co-workers or family or anyone else handle it?

Personally, I'm quite jealous of my bonedfolders, that I shaped using them all and over again and fixing the shape for very particular leather work.
The tool I will never borrow to anyone is my pairing knife: It must be perfectly sharpened by hand each time I use it, and another hand would do that giving a different movement or a different angle, changing the edge.
My father is even more jealous than me of his own tools, now that I've started working, I can understand why!

I'm quite curios to hear your stories too! Write your answer to my questions in a comment here below, I promise I will read all of them and pick the more interesting ones to be featured on my blog.

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