Life of Johanna / Made by me / My makes / Patterns

Sewing in the 1990’s – a walk down memory lane

I’ve been sewing for over 30 years and boy has sewing changed a lot during this period! I’ve been through both sewing recessions and sewing booms and seen many pattern companies and fabric stores come and go in the process. So I thought it would be fun to share some memories from the 1990’s, which is when my sewing really took off and formed the type of sewist that I am today!


Graduation dress

1991. My graduation dress. Made from the Swedish pattern brand Stil and was inspired by flapper dresses.

The first half of the 90’s

When 1990 came around I was 17 and was beginning to hit my stride when it came to sewing. I had moved on from skirts and trousers with elastic waist in plain weave cotton and was ready for bigger tasks like drafting my own patterns and working with more complicated fabrics like silk and crinkly rayons. This coincided with a big change in my life. I had finished the suburb school and was instead going to grammar school in the inner city. That change made me feel free to be however I wanted to be and could dress to my hearts liking without risking being yelled at.


Black chiffon velvet blouse

1990. The only garment that I have saved from the 90’s: A cotton velvet and poly chiffon blouse that I drafted my own pattern for. And my mum hand sewed the buttonholes!

Around this time I also developed a certain escapism and lost myself in vintage movies and photos. And clothing became a way to heighten that emotion and I used my sewing skills to recreate some of the vintage fashions that inspired me. For instance I loved the turn of century fashion and began sewing silk blouses with leg of mutton sleeves, high collars and lace inserts. I also tried my hands at sewing knits, but for the most part those projects didn’t turn out well since I lacked both a serger and the skills. But woven rayon was another story, I loved working with that fabric and made many blouses, skirts and dresses from it. One very special rayon memory was when I visited Moscow in 1990 and came home with some gorgeous rayon prints bought in state run fabric stores, where it three shop assistants to complete every purchase! Around this was also when I bought my first own sewing machine, a vintage Husqvarna 2000 which began a long love affair with that model.


30's dress remake

A rayon dress that was a remake of a 30’s dress that had belonged to a relative of mine.



Two dress patterns from Neue Mode that I made and loved.


As for commercial patterns I used mostly European brands such as the Swedish brand Stil and the German pattern magazine Neue Mode. The only US brand that was readily available in Sweden was Vogue but those patterns were so costly that they were pretty much out of reach for a teenage student like me.  And Burda didn’t have much appeal, I thought it was a dowdy brand with dated styles for the most part. The only Burda stuff I liked was when they put out special editions of their pattern magazine featuring designer clothes such as Karl Lagerfeld and some Italian brands. Though there was one exciting development in the early 1990’s and that was the introduction of New Look patterns in Sweden. Compared to the other envelope companies their styles felt a bit more contemporary and fun.


Me sewing

1996. A sewing self portrait. I also developed the film myself, which I was really bad at!


The second half of the 90’s

It was around this time that sewing hit a recession and fabric stores began closing and pattern companies folding. And I got sucked into that downward spiral too, making less and less garments and instead mostly focusing on refashioning vintage garments.


Refashion dress

1997. Me wearing a refashioned dress. I removed the collar, sleeves and also made it shorter. Can you spot the Neue Mode pattern magazine binders at the lower right in the photo?


I was still making clothes from scratch mind you, but I remember not feeling as passionate about it and it didn’t help that it got increasingly difficult to find good fabrics and patterns. The turning point for me came in 1999 when I had my first kid and gained so much (non-baby) weight that I couldn’t fit into any of regular clothes afterwards. That made me return to sewing and pattern making and my obsession escalated when I discovered Pattern Review, the online sewing community and the first on-line fabric stores that begun popping up in the early around 2000’s. But that’s a story for another day!




  • Janine
    September 15, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    Thanks for the memories ! You were very talented to be able to draft your own patterns at such a young age. I don’t have any photos of my early projects which is one good reason to blog as well.

    • Johanna
      September 16, 2016 at 7:11 am

      I wish I had more photos too if the early stuff! Agree about the blogging, it’s so nice having all the sewing documented and organized and gives a sense of accomplishment too!

  • rocco.sienna
    September 16, 2016 at 12:22 am

    I enjoyed that..sewing recession..I remember my mum stopping sewing in the 90s and the fabric shops completely dissapearing..She never taught me but last year I decided to give a try and have been hooked ever since 😆 I hope Ill never experience sewing recessio 😱

    • Johanna
      September 16, 2016 at 7:14 am

      Oh yes finger crossed for not having to go through a recession again! What I love about the current sewing boom is that it’s so passion and socially driven, and not just an utilitarian skill. Hope we never loose that passion!

  • Chloe
    September 16, 2016 at 1:43 am

    This was such a fun post – I remember sewing in high school, and in my early 20’s, but I don’t think there are any photos. Some of those outfits were so daring, it’s too bad! Your sewing self portrait is fantastic, too.

    • Johanna
      September 16, 2016 at 7:19 am

      Agree about the photos, in the past that period of our life (late teens, early 20’s) were often not well documented. I think the ones starting to sew today are so lucky that way, there are so many options to document and share all the makes!

  • Summerflies
    September 16, 2016 at 9:51 am

    Thank for the memories. I too stopped sewing for the most part in the mid 90’s. I made my sister’s wedding dress (because I didn’t know I couldn’t) and made some great dresses that I loved and wore to death. I love the two in the magazine you made… I made some very similar. I don’t have many photos either.. .photos were expensive to develop and you didn’t know they didn’t work out till you got them back. I think we weren’t so ‘selfie’ obsessed either. I see a lot of the fashions coming back too. My favourite pattern company was Style. Everything was expensive then, but it was still cheaper to sew. No so much now. My favourite fabric is rayon.. I’m going to a sale tomorrow to stock up.. I went too many years with none about so I’ll get some while it’s popular.

    • Johanna
      September 17, 2016 at 8:26 am

      Yes it’s such a different time then, sewing was something you just did and not so much to be documenteded and shared to the world. And yay for the rayon comeback! It’s just one of the best fabrics out there, both to sew and to wear. Hope you come home with some great finds!

  • Rikki
    October 15, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    I got a kick out of your 90’s photos, lol:) I first knew I wanted to sew my own clothing in the 90’s, when I read about Betty from Archie Comic Books sew her own clothes. Its so great to have this online sewing community. Not many people I knew sewed when I picked it up, especially not young women. I just love Have you written reviews there? I’d like to check out some of your stuff!:)

    • Johanna
      October 16, 2016 at 10:06 am

      Lol, I had no idea Bettie sewed, what a great inspiration! And yes it was so un-trendy to sew back then, it felt like a novelty hobby that only really old folks knew how to do. And yes, I’ve been registered at Pattern Review since 2003, and done over 80 reviews, because that’s something I really appreciate myself and I always check that site before I sew up a pattern and it has helped me avoid so many disappointments! My reviews on Pattern review (Johanna Lu)


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