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Fear comes in many different sizes

Fear can grip you in the most predictable and unpredictable moments. It’s common to look at a newly-purchased blouse and hesitate to put it in an embroidery hoop. I don’t sweat much if it’s a $10.00 tee-shirt. But a $90.00 blouse? Well, hesitation would be a good thing. Hesitation makes me evaluate, plan and act. I would print templates of the embroidery designs and audition them on the blouse. I would tape them in place, put the garment on and then stand in front of a mirror with a critical eye. Once I’m satisfied with the placement, I would test the design and stabilizer combo on similar fabric before tackling the $90.00 blouse. That’s how I overcome that fear.

The last few months have been a wonderful whirlwind of Stitching Sisters events across the country. I’ve had the opportunity to meet many readers of the print magazine and blog. My last Stitching Sisters event for the season wrapped up in Salem, Oregon at Rich’s Sewing Center. I really enjoyed meeting the students and, may I add, what a beautiful state! I decided before leaving the area to overcome a longtime fear—yes—I chose to zipline through the forest. I still remember the sage advice the zipline trainer gave me– “All you have to do is take one step. Look up, don’t look down. Keep your eyes up.” What an amazing, frightening rush!

After racing through at ridiculous speeds through a forest—I had to ask myself – is there anything more fearful? Have I overcome all that is to be feared? Not quite, I had quite a hurdle waiting for me in Dallas.

I returned to the Designs office—just in time to go before a video camera and film with none other than Nancy Zieman! Nancy and I have known each other for years—I’ve had the opportunity to work with her on her TV set in Wisconsin numerous times. The professionalism, calm and experience she and her staff bring to the industry is astounding. And now I was returning home with the opportunity to show her my new TV set—and to work with her on a new product we’ll be introducing in the Fall. Just like the ziplining experience, I was faced with a rush of thoughts. Would she approve of the set? Will the cameras work? What if we film and there’s no audio?

I remembered the zipline trainer’s words, it all begins with one step. I told myself to stop worrying and get doing! I made some final preparations before picking up Nancy and then it was back to the studio to get a full day’s work jammed into one afternoon!

Through the years, I have loved working with Nancy and have learned so much from her – for those of you who don’t know – I actually learned to sew at the age of 27 by watching Sewing with Nancy. She doesn’t believe me when I tell her that I learned everything from her but that’s the truth. Later, she taught me how to be a fair business partner, how to lead a team and how to love what you do. One thing I still haven’t mastered but she most certainly has – is the ability to survey a situation and define a clear path to complete the project at hand. She’ll tell you she’s bossy, but I’ll tell you she’s a leader and she’s very smart. It’s delightful to work with her.

Nancy and I taped each of the segments with ease and I can’t wait to share the new embroidery product with you! Just as the $90 shirt, the ziplining or taping experience have proven—keeping your eyes open—staying focused and embracing your fear/challenge will always lead you to a path of success.

I see so many embroiderers with a bit of fear in their eyes when they’re about to begin a new project. Afraid to start, afraid to ‘mess it up’, afraid to take that first step. I always encourage them to plan, evaluate and then press go. After all, unlike ziplining, it’s not muscle and bone we’re worried about, it’s just fabric and thread!

So tell me, have you also been a student of Nancy’s? Have you learned to sew, quilt or embroider from her on TV or maybe in person, at a Love of Sewing event? Leave a comment and tell us what and how you’ve learned from Nancy and you could win a $25.00 coupon for use on any Designs product on our website.

The winner of the giveaway from last week is… Susan Spiers!  We’re going to be sending you a Magna-Hoop for your Singer Futura! 
Susan Spiers
The Magna Hoop seems like the one I could use. I luv to adorn fashions to give them some pizazz! or sometimes something on the feminine side! I have a Singer Futura CE-150, do any of these fit it?

Congratulations, Susan!




  • Treasa Brookman

    Hi! Eileen,
    I go way back with Nancy Z. About 30 years ago I was a 4-H leader and I got permission from her to use some of her tips and shortcuts with 4-H’ers. She was so generous. I used to be able to watch her her on our local PBS Station. they changed. But I got a Baby Lock Elegante’ because of her. I really enjoy it wehn I get time to use. it. I must remember her 10-2030 minutes to sew. NOt worry about trhe whole project.
    Thank you for your work also.

  • Pat Kircher

    Hi Eileen,
    I have learned a majority of techniques from Nancy Zieman. She is my hero in teaching the art of sewing.
    Pat Kircher
    Pleasant View, TN

  • Kathy Harrison

    I began watching Sewing with Nancy years ago on a local PBS station. I never missed an episode since I recorded each one. It was a great idea, because I was able to go back a rewatch shows whose topic I was not skilled on. I still love to watch Nancy sew, she makes it all look so easy! It was a thrill to meet her (and you) last year at the Texas Roundup and I was the lucky winner of the Nancy Zieman painting that is hanging proudly in my sewing room.

  • eileen

    Hi Kathy,

    How cool is that! I, too, have a Nancy Zieman ‘painting’ in my office and I treasure it. The ‘painting’ is a limited-edited print on canvas of one of Nancy’s fantastic landscape quilts.

    And I use to tape episodes also, but wasn’t very religious at labeling the tapes. Got to be a bit of a problem when my family would be watching a taped Philadelphia Eagles football game and Nancy would pop up and start demoing how to install a zipper!

  • Ruth

    I bought my first serger in 1986 & used it a lot for my young boys,myself &,home dec. Having gone back into the workforce in 1990 the serging went from little use to nil. I bought a new “White” 4 thread serger in 2005, retired in 2006 but was not using that white thing. Alas Nancy Zieman to the rescue. August 2008 I ordered “Serge With Confidence” book & dvd AND “Simply More Techniques Serger Workbook”. Now I am “FEARLESS” at using the serger for me, my home & grandchildren.

  • Gail Beam

    I too loved watching Sewing with Nancy. Her tips and easy techniqes are great for someone like me who only had a semester of 8th grade sewing.

  • Wendy

    I have watched Nancy on our local PBS station for years. I have the DVR set to record her every time she comes on so I can watch them at leasuire. I have not had the pleasure of meeting her in person, but would love to.

    Oh and we don’t make “mistakes” we make “design oportunities”.

  • Claudiabhe

    Speaking of fear–I am getting fearless with my computer (I have 2 laptops, an old one and a new one).

    I learned a very hard lesson! NEVER try to transfer a software program from one computer to an external hard drive to put into another computer! it sounds simple enough but don’t do it. There are drivers and other important files that will not transfer.

    So after searching for the original installation CD and not being successful, my dealer ordered a new one for me. I am still working with Software Support to have either laptop recognize everything on the program. The new laptop downloaded the program, accepted the registration number and old dongle but will not send it to the machine! The old laptop still had an older software downloaded on it and will send the designs to the machine in the older format. So now I am designing on one laptop, saving the design on a USB and installing it on the old laptop and sending it to the machine. One just has to be patient and not get so fearful that one gives up!

    My dealer and my computer guru hubby and Software Support will eventually have me sending from both laptops.

    I keep some of my machines (Pfaff 2140-70, Juki Quilter and Bernina Activa 125) at my summer residence and keep my other machines (Viking Diamond, Brother Disney, Elna 945 Serger, Singer Featherweight, and Janome Gem Gold) at my ‘regular’ home where I teach sewing to kids after school in a free program called Teens Sew Cool!

  • Martie Dutro

    I knew a little bit about sewing before I started watching Nancy in the 1980’s. Oh, I looked forward to her and loved it. The biggest thing that I learned from her was to be bold and break out of the box when it came to designing. Whether accessories or clothing patterns she taught to “make it your own”. Eileen, your workshop seminars continue that education as I have learned so much from the one I attended in Sacramento, CA.

  • Maryanne Peaslee

    I have watch Sewing with Nancy since the Oregon Public Television started Broadcasting her I would say in the mid to early 80s. I have learned so much from her techniques I would love to take a class if she ever taught one in Oregon. I discovered the Cotton quilting patterns from her show and how to fit a pattern to my old body. Her steps were so much easier than classes I have taken in the past. I wish she would create more series more quickly LOL.


  • a hollar

    this is my first time blogging. i am fearful. however, i love watching Nancy Z. she is an inspiration to me and many of my friends. we especially like the variety of interesting ways with fabric. She always keeps “it” fresh and interesting and always presents the show with style. i love dme and have been a subscriber from day one. thanks

  • Janice Murry

    I to have been watching and tapeing Nancy on PBS for many years. I learned to fit patterns, surging, quilting and embroidery techniques, as well as how to make purses from her over the years. I bought a Janome 10001 several years ago, and have wished many times that I had bought the one Nancy uses on her show and in the 10-20-30 minutes to sew articles in DME. I love the magazine and look forward to it each addition. Thank you for so much inspiration.

  • Miriam Landers

    I’ve watched Sewing with Nancy for as long as it has been on the air, I believe it was 1984. I have taped most of her shows over the years and continue to pull one out and watch if I’m working on something I have not done for a while. She has taught me to adjust patterns to fit me, to breakdown a complete sewing project into 10-20-30 minute segments, to serge and sew with confidence, to take ready mades and make them fit and to embellish then with style. Several years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Nancy, she is just as wonderful in person as she is on TV. I so look forward to seeing Nancy and you together again, I know it will be outstanding.

  • Mitzi Barker

    I’ve enjoyed Nancy’s show for years, and always learn something new. I don’t always use it right away, but her demonstrations are so clear that the techniques seem to embed themselves in my memory, ready for retrieval at just the right time!

  • Jean Guenther

    I am lucky to live in Wisc. about 1 hour from Beaver Dam & Nancy’s Notions. I have gone to most of the sewing weekends since they started and go to Nancy’s class every other year. I also record the TV shows. I always learn something new. She is so bubbly in person.

  • Claudia Wade

    Eileen – I have been watching Nancy forever it seems. I used to record her shows on vhs tapes (remember those?). My daughters who are in their mid-30’s now remember me watching Sewing with Nancy when they were in grade school.

    Not long ago, one of my daughters happened to be visiting when I was watching a current Sewing with Nancy episode on my dvr. My daughter said “Is that Sewing with Nancy? Is she still on tv? wow, she doesn’t look any older now than she did when I was in 5th grade!.” I had to agree. Nancy is an excellent sewing teacher. I love her calm, easy demeanor. claudia w

    • eileen

      Hi Claudia,

      Here’s a little scoop – a few years ago, Nancy and I were shopping in a posh mall in Dallas and entered a rather young and trendy store. Wouldn’t you know it, the 20something girls behind the counter gushed over her when they recognized her! It was too cute!

  • jean rabe

    Well, Eileen, I guess age has its benefits! I will be 77 in August, and last April I ziplined. I had always wanted to do it, but never had anyone with me who would sanction it. This year, my youngest son (45)said, “Anything you want to do, we’ll do!” It was great–over the Mexican jungle and river. Hardest part for me was climbine the mountain.

    But I do have a big fear. I will probably never get to finish the projects I have started or those I hope to do. My daughter, who is a longarm quilter, has promised to finish a couple of special things, to sort through my fabrics and threads, and to give everything she doesn’t want to my friends who quilt and embroider. But who knows? Maybe I will be one of those who finally gets it all together, has a neat sewing room, and has the walls plastered with her FINISHED projects. Where there’s hope….

    • eileen

      Hi Jean,

      You ziplined at 76! wow – I hope I’m blessed with your spirit and health when I’m 76. I will not try to give you advice on your fear of finishing projects. Your wisdom probably outweighs mine but here’s how I look at it. Right now, I don’t fear unfinished projects, I fear I won’t get the chance to tackle new techniques. That would break my heart more than a clean sewing room and tidy, finished projects. I want to keep learning and stretching til I run out steam. But Jean, as you know better than I, my attitude and fears may change before I’m 77!

      My hat is off to you – and kudos to your son! Very thoughtful of him to ask if there was something you wanted to do and help you make it happen. If you get the urge to do it again, go to Washington State – you drive up the mountain instead of climb! Happy Fourth!

  • Claudiabhe

    I forgot yesterday to comment on Nancy’s TV programs. I have watched them for about 10 years and have learned so much from her!

  • Mary M.

    I have been watching Nancy’s show for many years. It is my favorite show to see listed on my DVR! I have learned many wonderful things from Nancy and you. Keep up the good work!!

  • jean rabe

    I also forgot to mention Nancy! I have loads of her programs on my TIVO–so many that there isn’t much room for other things. Over the years, she has been not only a help but someone who makes me enthusiastic–so much so that she alone is reponsible for many things on my ToDo list. Each time I watch a show, my enthusiasm for spending a day in my sewing room grows. She is a Godsend to all of us in the world of dreams.

  • Ruth

    I remember watching Nancy Zieman when she was just about the only instructual programing on TVon the local PBS staion. I am sure I have learned many more things and remembered then from watching than I can mention.

  • Kitty

    Nancy has taught and inspired me for decades. I have VHS tapes from the beginning of her career. Once I sent a tip which she aired. A teen-aged boy told me later he said “I know her!” Started him watching and sewing! Nancy has helped me inspire many young people (mostly 20 grandkids) through the years. I can’g thank her enough.

  • Alice M

    She is on every Sunday morning on our PBS station. If I can’t be home to watch I record it so I can watch later.
    Love her show and I have learned many different techniques from it.

  • Susan Spiers

    I have watched Nancy’s show. I am just starting to quilt & I enjoyed watching her & guests show how different looks can be achieved besides basic quilts. I learn something new & exciting every time I watch her. She has been quite an inspiration to me!

  • lana

    On page 8 of the may /june issue of Designs in embroidery Eileen has said to visit her blog to download digitized grommet designs in two sizes. I can not seem to find them anywhere! I admit I am new to machine embroidery and also am new to blogging and I am sure I am in the wrong spot. I hope someone will read this and point me in the right direction.
    Thanks, Lana

  • Katrina

    I love Eileen, the most important thing I’ve learned from her is placement! And not being afraid just to go for it and embroider!

  • Cindy

    I have enjoyed Nancy for many years. I receive her magazine, and I always know I will find something new to do on her website or in the magazine.

  • Mary Newman

    I have watched Sewing With Nancy for years and have many of her CDs and Sewing Books. My favorite catalog is Nancy’s Notions. I get many ideas for projects from her and “couldn’t live without her”.

  • Deb Fischer

    I have recently purchased 5 of your Stipple quilting designs and am only 6 months away from Retirement (whooo hooo). This is my dream – to be able to make a quilt (with yours and Nancy’s help of course) for each of my 10 grandchildren who are currently ages 2 through 12. I am so looking forward to using the Sea Shell Stipple that I’m actually distracted at work. I see sea shells everywhere!

  • Dotti Deffenbaugh

    Hi Eileen.

    I have been reading about your snap-hoop, and magna hoop.

    I have never seen any of these large hoops that will fit my Singer 6000. Are there any out there??

    I joined a quilting guild, in January, and have enjoyed trying to combine some of Sashiko designs, and others from embroidering, with my quilting.

    Thank You

  • Paule-Marie

    I have been watching Sewing with Nancy for years (I’ve been sewing for about 52 years). I can always find something to learn on Nancy’s shows. My fear? making mistakes – I’m a perfectionist – and a numbers person- what can I say? I have gotten better about that over the years, though.

  • Mary Rowland

    unfortunatly I do not get Nancy’s show where I live (Pittsburgh PA) but I do watch thru her on line link at her web site and I love it.

  • Janice G. Hajek

    I wanted a Cadillac sewing machine when my husband retired. So I got a Viking SE. I was so afraid to try embroidery. I got all the magazines I could lay my hands on. I read, and read and then faced my brand new toy.
    NOW, I love it the opportunities I have at my hands to make the things that I have always wanted. My fear was so groundless and I lost so much time. I truly enjoy machine embroidery and have had so many compliments from friends that I share my accomplishments with. I truly enjoy the looks on their face when I said that I made it with my embroidery machine. What a satisfaction!
    Thanks for the magazine, the freebies and all the ideas. I hope to be at my machine for many more projects that I have waiting.
    Janice Hajek

  • Sally Bombardo

    Hi Eileen,
    I having been reading about the magna hoops and am wondering how they work? If they work using a magnet will that affect my embroidery computer in my machine? I would love to have one of these hoops because I have terrible arthritis in my thumbs and is very uncomfortable using the hoops I have now.

  • Becky Arender

    Thank you for your wonderful tips!

  • Sandy

    I love to shop Nancy’s Notions – and her short video lessons available on-site (and can be downloaded for future reference!) are terrific. I love sewing for kids, but with none in our family have found ‘charity sewing’ wonderful … my primary ’cause’ is the local shelter for women/children. However, Nancy has instructions for ‘pillowcase dresses’ for little girls with an opportunity to donate to children in Africa! What fun! And my Viking Designer SE makes bringing fresh ideas to completion! Since time away from home is rather restricted, Nancy’s tips, supplies and video lessons are invaluable!

  • suzy

    Eillen will the snap hoops come in larger size for the Designer SE . I know right now you have the 200 x 200 .

  • Debbie

    I have been watching Nancy even before I bought a sewing machine. I had the dream to sew and create art quilts for years, but now because of Nancy I am doing baby apparel and embroidery designs on everything I can hoop. I loved the show on machine embroidery which taught me alot about how to hoop harder items, which expanded my skills. Keep up the good work and hope to see more Nancy in the magazine

  • Anna-Marie

    I learned from Nancy on internet, been viewing dvd’s online. I’m from south africa and can not meet her in person, would like to. Love all she do.

  • Doreen Linehan

    I saw Nancy in Rhode Island and learned about her Landscape Quilts. She was so informative and made everything look so beautiful.