Health issues end ‘Sewing With Nancy’ host’s career

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Nancy Zieman premiered her public television sewing program in 1982.

Nancy Zieman, who taught public TV viewers how to sew over 36 seasons of her show Sewing With Nancy, has retired due to health issues.

Zieman told viewers in a blog post Saturday that retirement “came as a shock to my family and me.”

She had been diagnosed with bone cancer in March 2015 and breast cancer just four months later. She underwent treatment for both through May 2016. During that time Zieman and her team continued to produce new episodes and repackage old ones. “We skipped a few beats, but not too many,” she wrote.

But a scan in July showed that one of the cancers had metastasized, “and additional treatments would not be helpful,” she wrote. “It was a devastating day, realizing that my life and my career, as I had known it, would end.”

Sewing With Nancy premiered in 1982. This season, Zieman recorded 15 new episodes. The final episode, “I Sew For Fun,” featured kids ages 5 to 9, including her granddaughters.

Nancy Zieman Productions will continue its partnership with co-producer and presenting station Wisconsin Public Television on its annual Quilt Expo, which draws more than 20,000 visitors each September. This year’s expo runs Thursday through Saturday.

“Working with Nancy for so many years has been a rare privilege,” said WPT GM Malcolm Brett. “She has been a generous partner and friend.” Brett added that Zieman “could have taken her passion anywhere, she chose public broadcasting. That says a lot about her commitment to education and her devotion to her fans.”

Zieman was an early adopter of digital platforms, said station spokesperson Michael Harryman. Sewing With Nancy was one of the first programs promoted on the PBS app, he said, and episodes “continue to lead PBS viewing statistics for locally produced shows watched and downloaded online.”

She was also an early public TV blogger and one of the first hosts to use webinars, Harryman said. “She’s been an incredible leader of tech’s role in do-it-yourself and the public media space,” he said.

Zieman founded the mail-order sewing supplies business Nancy’s Notions in 1979. She sold it in 2003.

Seams Unlikely, her autobiography, was published last year. She is the author of more than 40 sewing and quilting books including The Art of Landscape Quilting, Let’s Sew and The Best of Sewing With Nancy. She also designed for McCall’s Pattern Co.

Zieman’s Sew To Give and Quilt To Give outreach initiatives encourage hand-crafted donations to nonprofits such as cancer treatment centers.

She also speaks about Bell’s palsy, which paralyzed the left side of her face. Zieman was diagnosed as an infant after an ear infection.

11 thoughts on “Health issues end ‘Sewing With Nancy’ host’s career

  1. Nancy Zieman will be greatly missed. So very sorry for loosing her.. Even with her terrible health issues she continued to share her ever expanding sewing talents.

    • I just wanted to add to your comment Charlotte. She will be missed. I was just watching her show when I realized she had passed earlier this month. I’m male with zero interest in sewing. I just found myself watching her show for the 1st time around 3 years ago. I really don’t know why I continued as a dedicated viewer. I really feel her passion for sewing, quilting, etc. came across and her genuine warmth shined across. I found her shows to be relaxing and I felt she really put her guests at ease. She interviewed her guests as if they were good friends. Yeah, I miss her already……

  2. I had the privilege of watching Sewing with Nancy with my Mom when it aired. I was a newlywed, but tried to watch this show with Mom as often as I could. Mom loved Sewing with Nancy, and only 10 years after we learned to watch this together, my mother developed cancer and passed away. These last 25 years, I always had a little piece of Mom with me for Sewing with Nancy, and our general love of sewing. Thank you Nancy Zieman. You will be dearly missed by many!

    Bye for now (if I maybe so bold to use Nancy’s usual sign off.)

    Dawn Higley

  3. Nancy was an amazing teacher, with a knack for breaking things down into simple, absorbable pieces of information. After watching each show of “Sewing With Nancy” (I used to record them on at home on VHS, back in the days!) left me with a sense of new learing. I was also impressed by her gentle manner and demeanor. I have just finished reading “Seams Unlikely”, her biography too. It helped me get to know other dimensions of her life and personality. I was particularly moved by knowing how she managed to accomplish all she did in spite of her chronic health issues. I hope her family also knows of the love and support that strangers (like myself) have for Nancy :)

  4. I was just watching Nancy and googled her episode on sweatshirt makeovers and found out she had died. I feel as if I’ve lost a friend. She was a very gentle soul. I hope her legacy continues.

  5. I will miss Nancy so much, I am a dedicated sewer and looked forward to her programs every week. She inspired me to join a charity quilt group by teaching simple way to make pretty quilts.
    My sympathy to her family, I know they will miss her too.

  6. I will miss Nancy’s programs. I am a beginner quilter and have learned so much watching her videos. Mommy thoughts and prayers are with her family

  7. I’ve also been watching Nancy for a few years myself. I was always so impressed with how eased and relaxed I felt watching her program. I was so sorry to hear that she passed because her shows were educating and taught me things I thought I knew already. Fun to watch ‘Sewing with Nancy’.

  8. I am from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I’ve watched many of Nancy’s shows when I was a young girl. I happen to come across the best of Nancy on cable. I DVR several shows including “I sew for fun” My heart sunk with great sadness when I read she had passed. She was a wonderful educator on TV and she taught me a lot about sewing. She will be truly missed.

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