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Making Nancy Proud

Honoring Nancy Zieman

by Beth Cooper
Jenny Doan and Nancy Ziemen

Nancy Zieman. Pioneer. Sewist. Educator. She was all of this and so much more.  We honor her legacy by continuing her mission – a mission to teach others the joy of making it yourself.  What is “it?” “It” can be a quilt, a coat, a bag, or anything that you desire to make yourself. 

I first saw Nancy on tv.  It was the mid 80s and I was in grade school.  My best friend’s mother watched her program every Saturday morning on PBS.  I was intrigued because my own mother didn’t sew and everything Nancy was doing was new to me.  I remember watching her and thinking that I could never sew something and run a sewing machine like that.  If you would have told me then that I would grow up to be a lot like Nancy and that I could sew like that, I would not have believed you! 

For the next ten years I didn’t see much of Nancy or give her much thought until… dun, dun, DUN!!!  I took a quilting class!  No, not with Nancy (I wish!).  It was a small class at a local quilt shop in a tiny town in Southern Illinois.  A friend had invited me to go with her.  It sounded like fun and the shop owner assured me that a beginner could take the class.  And I was the beginningest beginner that there ever was.  I promptly went to Wal-Mart and bought a $99 sewing machine and some thread.  I took that machine (still in the box, mind you) to my first class.  There, I picked out a beautiful selection of fabric to complement what I had already bought at Walmart.  My sweet friend, Emily, helped me unbox my new machine and set it up.  Then she showed me how to thread it.  She explained what the bobbin was and how to wind it.  Twice.  And by this time I had missed the instructions on the first block and the class was probably at least half over.  Thank goodness they were all patient with me!

It was time to start sewing.  Pedal to the metal and I was off!  Except no one had told me that I had to lower the presser foot before I began!  Oh geez.  You can imagine what that first seam looked like.  And that was when I began my close relationship with Jack the Ripper.  That seam ripper and I were suddenly besties.  The pattern for this class was a sampler and each block was different.  Each block was also hard as heck and knowing what I know now, that quilt was definitely NOT a beginner quilt!  Thankfully, I am incredibly stubborn, full of grit, and I refuse to give up.  Ever.  Ask my husband.  He will testify that I am indeed stubborn as a mule.

Being a strong-willed woman (doesn’t that sound so much more empowering than stubborn?) is an asset though.  I wasn’t going to give up on learning to quilt even though I was a beginner quilter in an intermediate class.  I stuck with it.  I persevered.  I sewed.  I unsewed.  I sewed again.  And I improved.  I got so much better.  That first quilt is still pretty messy when I look back on it, but honestly, I love it.  It is a symbol of growth, goals, and perseverance.  And I bet you have a quilt or sewing project like that, as well.

The path to greatness has to start somewhere.  My sewing journey started in a little back room of a quilt shop but so many others’ started with Nancy Zieman.  She loved educating others and teaching them how to sew.  As Julia Child was to cooking on PBS, Nancy was to Sewing on PBS.  She was a true pioneer.  She began Nancy’s Notions in 1979, the same year I was born.  It was a huge success and she reached so many sewists through the years.  Sadly, Nancy passed away in 2017.  In May 2020, Missouri Star Quilt Company took over Nancy’s Notions.  Nancy left us a legacy and some pretty big shoes to fill.  But that’s okay.  We are always up for a challenge. 

Be ready.  Nancy’s Notions is going to be the go-to place to learn.  To be inspired.  To figure out how to tackle your next big project.  We are going to knock your socks off (after we teach you how to make some) and Nancy will be proud. 

‘Til next time,


Jenny Doan of Missouri Star and Nancy Zieman

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Barbara chennault
Barbara chennault
2 months ago

Thanks for this story. With tears in my eyes, I’m sorry to hear that Nancy passed away. Was just watching “sewing with Nancy” on PBS -show 2913. I love keeping up with her show and other creative shows on P BS❤️🌻

Elizabeth Rose
Elizabeth Rose
29 days ago

I too grew up watching Sewing With Nancy on PBS. I didn’t realize she had passed away. I don’t remember specifics of the shows, but I remember she showed a wide variety of sewing techniques. I stepped away from sewing for many years after spending a summer in college working in a costume shop (sewing burnout got me), but picked it back up with a vengeance during the pandemic. Now I have a quilting stash and my phone is full of pictures of ideas for my next quilt!

28 days ago

I really enjoyed her shows. She was a true inspiration to me and many others I’m sure. She was and still is much missed.

17 days ago

Oh man, I didn’t know Nancy passed away. She just so happened to run across my mind this morning and I came to the site. She had a beautiful spirit.

14 days ago
Reply to  Lea

Miss Nancy is now in Heaven and is sewing and repairing angel wings and parts of the clouds. We shall miss you.

12 days ago
Reply to  Vicki

Greetings Miss Lea!
I just thought I would reply to you per your request.
Feel free to email me to chat or to talk about sewing
Take care and have a safe holiday!

Diane Leahy
Diane Leahy
14 days ago

I wish I could still purchase some of the books Nancy had that went with the show and projects she was featuring. If there are any in storage, I would love to purchase some.

Leah Capili
Leah Capili
6 days ago

My mom loved watching Nancy Zieman on PBS every Saturday, and she and dad even traveled to visit her store. My mom passed away in May 2017 but even the weekend prior to her passing, in the nursing home, she watched Sewing with Nancy. I always smile at that. My mom like Nancy was a beautiful seamstress and I remember thinking when Nancy passed away some months after mom, that they are quilting and sewing and sharing stories.
It was through Nancys Notions that I found Missouri Star Quilting Co.

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