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