Nancy's Notions - May 24 2020
The Nancy Zieman Story
photos courtesy of nancyzieman.com, nytimes.com, current.org, schmetzneedles.com
"The love of sewing is our common thread." -Nancy Zieman
Nancy Zieman was an unforgettable woman and a visionary whose influence has changed the sewing and quilting world forever. She was a successful author, designer, businesswoman, TV producer, national sewing authority, and host for 35 years of the show “Sewing With Nancy.” Her legacy continues on in the millions that she taught and the remarkable life she lived.
Nancy’s Early Life
Nancy was born on Father’s Day, June 21st, 1953, to Ralph and Barbara Luedtke in Neenah, Wisconsin. Being raised on a dairy farm, she was no stranger to hard work. After graduating from Winneconne High School, she went on to complete a double major in Clothing & Textiles and Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. In 1977, she married Richard Zieman and together they had two children, Ted and Tom. Early on, Nancy’s career centered around her love of sewing, including working for a sewing store in Chicago, and freelancing as a sewing instructor in Minnesota.
Sewing With Nancy
In 1982, she co-produced “Sewing With Nancy,” a half-hour sewing show that aired on Wisconsin Public Television. It wasn’t long before the show was broadcast nationwide, turning Nancy into an icon in the sewing and quilting world. In the early years, Nancy was the driving force behind producing the show, developing scripts, and even taping the show in her own living room! She remained the host and executive producer of the show until just a few months before she passed away. With over 900 episodes filmed, Sewing with Nancy has run longer than any other sewing program in North America!
Smiling Through Bell’s Palsy
Nancy often referred to herself as “the Poster Child for Bell’s Palsy.” Bell’s Palsy is a condition she acquired as a toddler due to an ear infection, which caused her face to be partially paralyzed. Though this condition presented Nancy with unique challenges in her life—she was extremely self-conscious as a child—it couldn't keep her from sharing her light with the world.
Nancy was always open to talk about her condition. On her blog Nancy wrote the following:
“This morning as I was reviewing the key words that you, my readers, are using to search for information about my TV show and blog, I gulped when I realized that within the top 20 search terms were these words: Nancy Zieman Face, Nancy Zieman Stroke, and Sewing with Nancy Stroke. I certainly haven’t kept my paralysis a secret; after all, I wear it! Yet, many of you still wonder. So, I decided to explain my paralysis. It’s just one of the unique features that makes me–me!
Perhaps the question that most of you want to ask me, but are afraid to do so, has nothing to do with fabric and thread. The topic—my face! Obviously, I’m not symmetrical. My eye and mouth on my right side have a partial paralysis called Bell’s Palsy—it happened (due to an ear infection) when I was a toddler; I was just over one year old.
During the 1950’s the treatment was to wait it out—it will get better. A high percentage of people recover from this paralysis. I wasn’t so lucky. As a child I was extremely self-conscious, my mom most recently told me that she prayed that I wouldn’t become introverted. Her prayers were answered.
Not being the cheerleader or prom court type—that was the ultimate goal in high school, I turned to creating with fabric and thread. Winning a ribbon at the county fair or a prize through the Make It Yourself with Wool contest, required skill not looks. Sewing became my outlet, passion, and eventual career."
Thankfully, Nancy never let Bell’s Palsy keep her from sharing not only her tremendous talent, but also her inner and outer beauty with the world. Her unwavering determination to teach and inspire, despite her condition, have touched countless minds and hearts.
Starting the Next Adventure
On November 14th, 2017, Nancy left this life, but continues to shine in the next. The mark she made in the lives she impacted through her family, her show, her company, her creative works, and her extraordinary character will endure in perpetuity.
There are so many ways we can honor her legacy including watching touching tributes and reading wonderful words about her, but we believe that one way we can honor a powerful teacher and creator like Nancy Zieman is to create. Pick up a rotary cutter and some fabric, dust off your sewing machine, fill up those bobbins, and create something beautiful in your world that didn’t exist before now!
Nancy’s Notions Today
In May, 2020, Missouri Star Quilt Company purchased Nancy’s Notions. Jenny Doan, the smiling face of Missouri Star’s quilting tutorials, remembers watching “Sewing with Nancy” faithfully on Sunday mornings and loved to learn from Nancy’s skillful instruction. As Jenny’s career progressed, she found herself crossing paths with Nancy from time to time and was always elated when Nancy would put a hand on her shoulder and say an encouraging word or offer a listening ear. Her memories of Nancy are extremely fond, so when the opportunity came to bring Nancy’s Notions into the Missouri Star family, she was thrilled.
Now that Nancy’s Notions is a part of Missouri Star, work is underway to relaunch a Nancy’s Notions retail store in Hamilton, Missouri, to help further her vision of inspiring and educating for years to come. Thank you for your continued support! We hope to honor Nancy’s legacy in the best way we know how: to teach, inspire, and provide everything you need to continue on your creative journey.