The Dreamstress School of Vintage Sewing: Classes for Jan-March

The Dreamstress, aka Leimomi Oakes, is a textile historian and historical seamstress with a strong background in teaching.

At her School of Vintage sewing you’ll learn vintage, historical and modern sewing techniques, lots of textile history, and how to be an independent sewist who feels confident creating your own designs, drafting your own patterns, and altering commercial patterns.

Learn more about each class below, and follow the links to register from our Calendar event listing.

Leimomi Oakes, The Dreamstress, in a Japonisme style dress from the 1880s

Courses are rated on difficulty on a scale of 1 to 10 –  The ratings are just a guideline to give you an idea of how hard the course will be: don’t pick something too far above your level, but be sure to challenge yourself!

1: is an absolute beginners course, for someone who has never been on a sewing machine before.

2: you’ve made cushions or something similar, and know how to set zips and make buttonholes.

3: you can follow a simple sewing pattern.

4: you’ve moved up to more complicated patterns with linings.

5: you’re ready to start making adaptions to your patterns to suit your taste and to fit you better.

6: you’ve begun to draft your own simple patterns and making up moderately difficult patterns

7: you’re beginning to play with draping, and trickier fabrics

8: you’re working your way up to difficult fabrics, evening wear, tailoring and tricky fitting issues

9: you’re making your own patterns, and working with couture techniques.

10: is for someone with experience in pattern making, couture sewing, and advanced fitting.


Absolute Beginners Sewing

Two series: Mondays 7-28 January 6pm-8.30pm (4 sessions) or Mondays 11, 18, 25 January & 4 March, 6pm-8.30pm (4 sessions)

Drawstring bag

A class for people who have never sewn a stitch since school, or maybe never. Learn the basic techniques of sewing on simple projects. A fun, accessible class. We keep the numbers low so everyone gets quality time with the tutor.

Materials:  The $15 materials fee covers everything you need for the first two classes, materials lists for the final two will be provided after registration.

If you own a sewing machine then you should bring it, but if not we have machines available for your use. Please don’t buy a sewing machine for this class – part of what you get out of it is a chance to try different models so that you can make an informed choice if you do wish to buy one.

Cost: $120 plus $15 materials fee


Intermediate Sewing

Two series: Tuesdays 8 – 29 Jan 6pm-8.30pm (4 sessions) or Tuesdays 12, 19, 26 Feb, 5 March 6pm-8.30pm (4 sessions)

The next stage after Absolute Beginners Sewing. This course is mainly for our own students, but if you have done a beginner sewing course somewhere else, do talk to us about whether this one will suit you too!  Intermediate Sewing focuses on learning to sew patterns.

Materials: Students should provide their own pattern and fabric after discussing suitable options with Leimomi

Cost: $120


The 1930s Garden Party frock & working with lightweight fabrics

Four weeks: Thursdays 10-31 Jan 6-8.30pm

Do you love the look of early ’30s garden party frocks?  The layers of floating chiffon?  The clever seaming and romance meets sophistication aesthetic?  Using the Dreamstresses personal ’30s dress base pattern, you’ll develop your own dress pattern, picking your neckline, your sleeve and shoulder details, and the cut, drape and shape of your skirt

Suitable for those with intermediate and higher sewing experience.  Level 5-8 (depending on the fabric you select – more experienced sewers may wish to tackle silk chiffon, those with less experience are advised to pick more stable viscoses and cottons)

Cost: $130 (includes pattern and patterning tissue)

Materials: Students should bring the pattern & fabric needed for their dress to the first class.  Register and I’ll help you work through that before the class


Vintage 1930s Capelet

Friday evenings 18-25 Feb, 6-9

Add to your vintage wardrobe with a charming late 1930s evening capelet based on a vintage garment in Leimomi’s collection.  Make it as a short cape, or in the original long version with front lappets.

A student’s cape made up in hand-woven wool

See it made up in the short version, or the longer wrapped version.

While the cape can be made of flat fabric such as wool, this is the perfect opportunity to learn to work with pile fabrics such as velvet.

Suitable for all experience levels. It is recommended that beginner sewers choose a flat fabric and a non-slippery lining

Materials: 2 meters each of an outer fashion fabric, and a lining fabric, both at least 90cm wide. (if your fabric is 140cm wide you’ll only need 1.5m, and there is also an option to make the cape without the long lappets, which takes less fabric)

Suitable outer fabrics include silk or rayon velvet, other mid-weight pile fabrics with a slight drape, mid-weight wool, and other mid-weight non-stretch outerwear fabrics with a slight drape. Suitable lining fabrics include craft cotton, light-mid weight silks, and soft synthetic lining fabrics.

Cost: $65 per person


Vintage pattern in a weekend

Saturday 2 Feb and Sunday 3 Feb 10-5.30 pm with a 45 minute break for lunch.

Need a gorgeous outfit for Art Deco Weekend, or just a pretty frock for your vintage wardrobe?In one weekend we’ll work through the vintage (1920s-40s) pattern of your choice –  tackling all the tricky bits together and getting a dress, jacket, or ensemble done in two days.

Will you pick a little 20′s beaded evening dress, a sophisticated 30′s suit, or a fun 40′s playsuit?


Materials needed: Bring your own pattern or borrow one from Leimomi’s stash

Cost: $120, plus a $5 borrowing fee if you wish to borrow a pattern


Perfectly Fitted Trousers

Fridays 22 Feb, 1, 8, 15 March, 6-8.30

Perfect fit trousers

Whether you call them trousers or pants, getting the fit just right can be a bit tricky.  In this course you’ll develop your own personal pants block, and then make the perfect tailored trousers from it.

Best of all, your pants block can be used to make a whole range of pant and short styles – each of which will fit you perfectly.

High Intermediate = Suitable for those with intermediate and higher sewing experience.

Cost: $125 (includes patterning tissue for your block).

Materials:  Students should bring 2 metres of stunt fabric for mock-ups to the first class, and fabric for their final trousers to the following class.


Intro to Corsetmaking – the Basic Underbust corset

Thursdays Feb 28th, March 7th, March 14th, and March 21st.

Learn the fundamentals of corsetmaking with a perfectly fitted underbust corset.  While corsets look complicated, a few simple tricks will de-mystify the process   This course will cover every step of the process from choosing your fabric, busk, and boning types; to fitting and altering your pattern; to setting the busk; getting the boning channels to look perfectly even on the outside and inside of the corset; inserting your eyelets; and binding the edges.

IMPORTANT: We expect this class to be very popular, and there will be limited spaces. Please confirm your registration with payment ASAP. Learn more about this class here at The Dreamstress’ blog.

This class is a prerequisite to the Advanced Corsetmaking – the Overbust Corset which will be offered later in March.

Suitable for those with intermediate and higher sewing experience. Level 5

Materials: Students will need to bring the fabrics for their corset (suggestions for suitable fabric will be provided).  All other materials are included as part of the kit

Cost: $145 (+ $65 kit fee)

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