The Elves and the Shoemakers
Working at Pink Pointes and being a supplier of Freed of London, I was asked if I would like a tour of their East London factory and of course I jumped at the chance! What an opportunity!
The tour around the pointe shoe part of the factory took about an hour. In this time we got to see the cutting room where the raw materials are processed into their intended shape ready for the makers to turn into beautiful pointe shoes. Layers and layers of material are slowly build up using Frederick Freeds original way of doing things and his exclusive glue recipe which hasn’t changed too much since Freed began making Shoes in 1929. The multitude of layers ensures the box is hard enough to withstand the pressures the dancer puts on it. The pleats are nailed into placed and then tightened before the shoe is sewed together.
Pointe shoes are built using the traditional inside out method and then turned once the first part of the process is finished. We saw this done by two different makers, who each have a unique way of doing it. Both used a sort of 'cigar roll' technique before attaching the shank and fitting it back onto its last- the mould used to make the shoes. A good quality pointe shoe should always stand up on its own in its last once it has been turned. All the shoes we saw turned did stay up and one maker emphasised this by hammering his workbench and they remained standing- amazing! Think of how much help that is when you need to stay up on pointe.
Shoes are then baked in a huge oven overnight to really set the glue before being taken to the sewing room the next day. The shoes are all measured by hand and marks are made for the side and vamp height. 3 workers then cut these freehand! I can't even cut paper in a straight line! The shoe is really starting to look like something you would recognise as a pointe shoe.
Being a milliner herself, Mrs Freed saw where a lot of pressure was put on the shoe so freed shoes have an extra piece of binding over the vamp to secure it before adding the drawstring. Shoes are then checked for any loose threads or glue before being signed off and
shipped to us here at Pink Pointes, Freed’s own stores and suppliers all over the world!
There are a number of makers at the factory who each have their own symbol which they stamp onto the sole of the shoe so you know who made it. Professional ballerinas have been known to scratch off this symbol so no one else can ‘use their maker’. You can find out more about the makers on Freed of London’s own website. As Freed shoes are handmade each maker makes shoes slightly differently. This gives a wider range than machine made shoes as some makers make slightly wider, stronger or lighter. If you still can't find something that fits you can have shoes special ordered where any or multiple parts of the shoe can be customised for you including the shank strength, wing length or even colour.
Coming soon.... The tour of the ballroom shoe factory!!