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Can It Really Be 30 years?

How do you go from taping a television show in your living room to commanding your own studio at Wisconsin’s largest PBS station? You do it one stitch at a time.


Nancy Zieman is one of our industry’s most humble leaders. I’ve seen her blush when recognized by 20-somethings in swanky malls, and graciously respond to waitresses when they ask if she’s that lady that sews on TV. I’ve seen her carry her own bags (way too many of them), bind her own quilts, mend a missing blouse button on a borrowed machine and step in front of a live studio audience to thunderous applause.  I watched her reveal a lifelong fantasy in front of 500 hysterical ladies when she appeared in a cheerleading uniform and did the infamous Saturday Night Live cheerleading skit.


I’ve seen her channel Emeril Lagasse with Stitch it up a Notch. I’ve cried with her in a movie theater, on the phone and in person (we ride similar sappy emotional roller coasters). We’ve burst into laughter when flubbing lines during a taping and high-fived each other when we’ve gotten it right.


We’ve enjoyed beautiful gourmet meals from Madison to Houston and simple home-prepared meals in my house and hers. She has a terrific 5-minute fudge recipe and like any good Wisconsinite has a drawer full of quilted casserole covers just waiting for the next potluck dinner.


She makes everything she does look easy and that’s why her show has been the number one sewing show for 30 years. She’s comfortable in her television classroom and draws her viewers in to watch her break down complex projects into simple steps. She has set the bar in our industry and frankly, she doesn’t get the credit that she deserves. First there was Julia Child teaching America how to cook and then there was Nancy Zieman teaching the USA how to sew.


How did Nancy celebrate 30 years of success? By counting her blessings, surrounding herself with some of her favorite people and sharing the moment with 100 of her raving fans. I was honored when Nancy Zieman asked me to be a guest on the 30th anniversary of Sewing With Nancy. What company!


Nancy, herself, of course, Gail Brown, Mary Mulari and Natalie Sewell. These ladies are the cream of the crop – all talented with their own gifts and each of us share a special relationship with Nancy.  Gail and Nancy’s friendship dates back to the ‘70s when they were decorating their first homes.  Mary Mulari, the most frequent guest on SWN with over 40 appearances, met Nancy in Minnesota during one of Nancy’s classes, since then they’ve sewn everything from aprons to zippers.  A Wisconsin landscape quilter, Natalie Sewell unleashed Nancy’s new-found love of landscape quilting over a dozen years ago. Together they introduced thousands of American quilters to landscape quilting through television, books, personal appearances and quilt showings.


Out of the four of us, I’m the new kid on the block since I first met Nancy in 1999. Initially I was awestruck but she quickly put me at ease and allowed me to teach her and her audiences machine embroidery. And along the way, we’ve been blessed with a genuine friendship that spans the miles and years.  I’ve learned so much from her, like how to sew, how to teach on TV, how to be true to your calling and how to run a successful business.


It was an honor to be a part of her anniversary celebration– a whirlwind and an honor. There was a special appearance at the Wisconsin Public Television board meeting where they toasted champagne to their fair-haired favorite child; a taping in front of a live studio audience; a comedienne and an invitation-only dinner.  Most of all there was sheer joy and admiration for Nancy. She has worked hard against unbelievable odds – for thirty years. She tapes every two weeks – which is a phenomenon in itself.  All other sewing shows tape an entire season in one week. And although the prep can be overwhelming, it is over in one week.  Not for Nancy, every two weeks she has to get her game face on (and nails) and present an educational and entertaining show. I think that’s a lot of pressure. Hasn’t she done it well?


Click here to see the anniversary show! And leave a comment on Nancy’s blog to win one of 30 great prizes!


Sewing with Nancy is made possible by a team of people!





  • Mary

    Thanks for the review. I watched the video in the morning and totally enjoyed it. It was nice to get to see her family. Anxious to see the second part.

  • Susie Mackenberg

    That was a hoot! I really enjoyed watching the video; it’s so much fun to look back and to make fun of ourselves, our silliness — not to mention our fashions, hairdos, etc. Thanks for sharing this on your blog, Eileen, you made my day!

  • Sue Winnie

    Love the “runaway bride” tale! Thanks for all your help through the years. I too started out sewing in 4-H at the age of 7-8. Continue the great job!

  • Chris Horton

    I cannot stop watching Nancy’s videos on how to make so many things. What I especially like about her is her delivery. Her speech is slower and distinct and makes it easier to “get” what she is teaching. I DVR her show and keep many of them a long time.
    I also enjoy them on the iPad. I appreciate and thank her for giving so much to the sewing America.

  • Gail Beam

    I really enjoyed Nancy’s 30 yr anniversary video as I have watched her show many times. Looking forward to part 2.

  • Jackie B

    I’ve watched SEWING WITH NANCY for may years now. You mean so much to the sewing world-you are inspiring and innovating. Your shows over the last 30 years are still fresh in my mind, I have taped them and watch them over and over. If I have a need to relearn a sewing skill I know where to turn. I’ve told my husband, children and friends that I’m not to be interrupted (under any circumstance) NO MATTER WHAT! when I watch your shows on local TV every Saturday morning.
    Keep up the great work.
    I’ve seen you in person at Sewing Expo’s and have felt extremely honored to have had the opportunity. YOU ROCK NANCY!

  • Kathy Schmidt

    I cant believe its 30 years! been watching since the very first year when I was 20 ( you so the math) And no matrer where ive lived, surrey,bc canada; coos bay. Oregon or now in northern bc canada I have been a faithful student. Hopefully I can enjoymany more years following & learning.
    Thanks Nancy

  • Shirley R

    Eileen, thanks for covering this on your blog. I went over to Nancy’s blog and watched Part I. What a delight! I’ve watched her shows for so many years; it was great to see the old clips. How well I remember how our hair styles evolved over the years, LOL!

  • gayle hill

    Congratulations to Nancy on making 30 years. I love her videos and enjoyed watching Nancy’s Anniversary Video. I like to see how things are done so these videos are perfect for me.

  • Diane Cockman

    This was so much fun to watch. To see how everything has changed and be able to laugh at our mistakes. Nancy you have done a wonderful job teaching sewing. It was nice to see your husband and children. The runaway bride was very funny. Thank you Eileen for posting this on your blog. Can’t wait for part two.

  • Myra Allen

    My family laughs at me because I set my alarm for 5:30 on Saturday morning because I want to be up for Sewing With Nancy at 6:00 a.m . Yes, I can go to the PBS website and view the show, but it just isn’t the same. If I need a sewing question answered, my first step is to see what Nancy says. I love her notions. When I watch her show, I feel as if I have a good friend beside me showing me step by step, how to complete a project.


    Myra Allen

  • patty sack

    I have been taping Nsncy’s show for years – both in case I’m not home when it airs and so I can rewatch it to make sure I understand all her directions. I have her books and dvd’s. I love her show!

  • Nancy Vandertoll

    And one day I hope to move back to WI to take some wonderful classes! Thanks for thirtybyears and here’s to many more.

  • Rosalee

    I have watched/taped Nancy’s shows for years, used many of her products! I truly enjoy Nancy and her guests and have learned “sew” much over the years! Congratulations Nancy!! Keep it coming!

  • Carol Seavitt

    Thanks Eileen for sharing such a great friendship with us! Can’t wait to see what Eileens Blog looks like after 30 years:) And many congrats to Nancy too.

  • Doree Shandera

    What a wonderful woman Nancy Zieman is. I have had the pleasure to see her at a quilt show as an entertainer. What a hoot. She has really been part of so many lives and so many generations. Thank you for showcasing her in the blog today. Looking forward to watching the video.

  • Mary Haggenmaker

    Nancy Zieman has been my inspiration and my “bumps in the process smoother”. I have watched her for years and actually taped a lot of her shows. I was heartbroken when the PBS stations in my area, Washington,DC and Maryland stopped carrying her shows. I guess I will end up having to buy some DVD’s if they have them.

  • Linda

    Thanks for sharing Nancy’s 30th show on your blog. I would have missed it, since we don’t get current shows in our area. It was fun to hear her stories. I’ve learned so much from her over the years.

  • Claudia

    Thank you sooo much Nancy for all the great ideas and inspiration over the years. I have so many of your wonderful books and have learned so much from watching you. You are truly awesome!!

  • Bonnie Gray

    I love her show and her products. She has an impeccable sense of style, design and class!
    Thanks Nancy!

  • Kathy

    Happy Anniversary! I love the comment compairing her to Julia Child. We need someone to teach the 20 somethings to sew and keep this craft growing.

  • Karen

    Thanks for sharing about the show.

  • Barbara

    Congratulations on your 30th Anniversary Nancy! Enjoyed watching this video. I’ve only discovered the Saturday morning shows nine years ago and have been watching ever since. Nancy inspired and renewed my passion for sewing. In the last nice years, I have purchased two single needle embroidery machines, a serger, and now a multi-needle (10 needle) embroidery machine. Thank you for taking the time to explain and teach on your shows. I will continue to watch for a long time! God Bless You!!

  • Brenda Howard

    I so love Nancy and love watching her show and learning. It was great to meet you in Houston at Festival. I came up to you in the food court (Pink wheelchair) I am really enjoying my foray into embroidery and can’t wait to learn more. Thanks for all you do.

    • eileenroche

      Hey Brenda! Good to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by. Festival was great, wasn’t it? It always energizes me to walk the vendor hall and view the quilts. So much talent under one roof.

  • Doreen

    I met Nancy at a sewing event on the northeast coast and she was wonderful.

  • Florine Bynum

    I found Sewing With Nancy after having my first child in 1982, she is now 30, and like my daughter, I have loved every moment of Nancy’s show! I truly have watched Sewing With Nancy for 30 years and had the opportunity to see her in person in San Jose Ca., actually Milpitas, Ca. THANK YOU FOR THE 30 years of SEWING and hopefully many more!

  • Doreen

    Just watched the video and it was great.

  • Jessie Fyfe

    Many years ago, now, my husband and I took 3 weeks to visit the west coast and on our way back home, we took a little detour up the California coast and across the Wisconcin just so I could visit Nancy’s store. When we got there Nancy was in a meeting and I thought I lost my chance to meet her, but one of her people apparently let her know I had come from Pa to meet her and being the most gracious lady that she is, came out of her meeting and surprized me. I was in one of the aisles shopping and she came up behind me and asked if she could help me!! When I turned around to speak to this sales person and saw Nancy standing there, I was stunned, to say the least. I think the word is “star-stuck”!
    She was so nice to me. I’ve never forgotten it.

  • Donna

    I’ve learned a lot from watching Sewing.with Nancy. I like that you cover many different areas of sewing. Thanks for all you’ve done.

  • flashhabermerkezi

    You could certainly see your expertise in the paintings you write. The sector hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. All the time follow your heart.

  • susana molnar

    Dear Nancy & Eileen & Mary thanks for all the nice lessons and all the easy & hard instructions,I’ve watched them all since 30 years ago!!!!!
    I will never tell you how therapeutic you are,worked as RN for 52 years,had 2 kids,had a husband with a stroke,of course plus all the house work and there on Sundays was Nancy,most of the time taped because of my grueling schedule,but when I sat & watched her I went to another dimension that helped me keep my mental health.
    As you see I don’t want you guys to know because you might charge me for therapy but please continue for 30 more.Millions of thanks. susana