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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!