The Dreamstress School of Vintage Sewing

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

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.





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.

The Fitted Victorian Jacket

Friday 21, 28 Sept, 5 Oct, 6-8.30pm

Have you ever wanted a perfectly fitted, Victorian-inspired jacket with curved back seams, a nipped waist, and a pleated back?  Whether you want your garment to be perfectly historical, steampunk or gothic inspired, or just a classic contemporary piece with Victorian detailing, this class will help you create your perfect jacket.  We’ll go from draping a pattern just for you,  through all the construction and finishing.

Suitable for those with intermediate and higher sewing experience.  Level 6

Materials:  Students will need to bring 2m of fabric for draping to the first class, and all the materials for their jacket to the following classes.  Pattering tissue is included in the class fee.

Cost: $95

Intro to Corsetmaking – the Basic Underbust corset

Thursday 20, 27th September, and 4th October, 6-8.30pm

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.  Plus, we’ll look at adding Steampunk flair to your corset in the build-up to Aethercon 2012

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

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

Cost: $145 (+ kit fee)

The Victorian-inspired gored skirt

Sunday 23 and 30th September, 1-5pm

Gored skirts are a wardrobe classic, with variants to suit every figure.  They were also the basis of almost every Victorian dress and skirt, from the 1870s to the 1910s.  Learn how to create a pattern for your own personal gored skirt, and then make it up – whether you want a trained skirt for Steampunk, Goth or historical wear, or a shorter version which adds flair and interest to a daily wear.

In the first class you’ll learn how to draft a pattern for your skirt, and then you’ll cut out your skirt.  In the second class you’ll construct your skirt, and learn tips and tricks for beautiful waistbands, perfect hems, and lovely inside finishes.

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

Materials: Students should bring their skirt fabric to the first class (materials guidelines for what and how much too buy will be sent prior to the class).  Patterning tissue is included as part of the course fee.

Cost: $85

Intro to bias-cut: Vintage tap pants

Sunday 7 October 10 am – 5pm, with an hour lunch break).

Ever wanted to sew a bias cut garment, but not sure where to start, and how to get it right?  Learn the basics of bias cut as you sew up a cute little pair of tap pants to wear under your full frocks in the Wellington wind, or as you are swirling on the dance floor.

Suitable for those with intermediate and higher sewing experience.  Level 4

Materials : 1 metre craft cotton for your tap pants (up to size 14, add .2 metre for ever size up from that).

Cost: $65 (includes patterning tissue to make your own custom-sized pattern, and elastic for the tap pants waistband).

Farm Girls & Femme Fatales: 1940s patterns

Thursday 11, 18, 25 Oct, and 1 Nov 6-8.30pm

Love broad shoulders, peplums, drapes, gored skirts, and all the other delicious details of 1940s fashion?  Whether you want to be a Land Girl in fitted coveralls, or Glinda in her infamous stripteas (all she took off was a glove), join our Thursday-night advanced class and we’ll work through your 1940s pattern as you learn period construction techniques, how to get the right fit, and fine finishes.

Suitable for those with intermediate and higher sewing experience.  Level 4-7 (depending on the pattern you select)

Materials: Students should bring either a period pattern, or a period re-issue (Vintage Vogue, Retro Butterick, etc.), and all the materials needed to their first class.

Worried about picking the right pattern and fabric?  Register, and we can work through that before the class.  Don’t have a ’40s pattern?  I have a selection of available patterns that you can take a copy from for a small fee

Cost: $120

The 1930s Garden Party frock & working with lightweight fabrics

Saturday 10 & 17 November, 10-5pm, with a 60 minute lunch break

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: $120

Materials: Students should bring the pattern & fabric needed for their dress to the first class.  Not sure how to pick a good pattern or the right fabric for it?  Register and I’ll help you work through that before the class

Perfectly fitted trousers

Thursdays 15, 22, & 29 November, 6-8.30pm

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, which you can use to make a whole range of pant and short styles – each of which will fit you perfectly.

Suitable for those with intermediate and higher sewing experience.  Level 6

Cost: $100 (includes patterning tissue for your block)

Materials:  Students should bring 2metres of stunt fabric for mock-ups.

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