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.

23 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.

  9. I have been binge watching Nancy’s shows. I was particularly impressed when she had a 12 year old child as a guest who was a quilter and who also had a physical disability. Nancy talked about the disability with the young girl which I thought was so impressive to address and discuss it as being “ok” to talk about!!

    In addition Nancy was a wonderful teacher. Sad we’ve lost her but happy that her programs live on.

  10. I have learned so much about Quilting with Nancy. I am pretty much home bound with my husband who is disabled, so I take care of his needs and am teaching myself to quilt. I have been sewing since I was about 6 years old by making doll clothes from scratch (with no patterns). I look at them now and wonder how I made such tiny little stitches for Barbie when she came out. Oh yes, I still have the first Barbie made, I think it was 1959.
    Anyway, I have made many small baby quilts, but am ready to tackle a real quilt, and through watching Nancys shows I hope to do that. I hope I would have made her proud. I will miss her and my condolences go out to her family. Sincerely, Leslye McCulloch.

  11. I’ve watched Nancy many years and loved her show but sadly learned today on TV Remembering Nancy so I quickly went online to Nancy Zieman. I read everything about her. My deepest sympathy to her family, She was and is so pleasant to watch. Glad her show is still on T.V.

  12. I am a more recent viewer, and would not miss a show, recording and rewatching…..When searching the web for more shows, I found out she was gone. Such a wonderful person ….. my heart breaks for her family’s loss. Even though I’ve never met her, I am saddened that she will not be with us in coming years. She is my coffee mate every morning even in absentia………….

  13. I was sadden to read of Nancy’s passing. She was so thorough and clear in her teaching method. I can’t believe she is gone .oh my God What a loss!!!


  15. Sewing with Nancy has been a staple for my tv viewing. The information is timeless and fueled my love of sewing. I especially find it a fascinating subject during COVID-19 living and I’m sure this show has contributed to the increased interest in sewing. If you want truly professional results to any sewing project you will never tire of the tips given by Nancy Zieman. I mainly do clothes construction but I do make quilts from time to time and I always refer to Sewing with Nancy to hone my skills. Thanks to reruns, everyone can still enjoy her expertise as long as it’s needed. She continues to inspire; that is her legacy.

  16. I have watched her shows since I graduated in 1982.still do. A 👑 of sewing her show was an inspiration and her guest.

  17. I’m a deaf woman. I started to watch Nancy’s shows a couple years after I started to sew. Her shows are so relaxing & clear that I had no problem following through. I will miss her sweet personality! Condolences to her family!

  18. I have enjoyed watching all of Nancy Zieman’s different sewing and quilting television episodes on PBS and will continue to view her rerun episodes as long as they are aired. She is such a delight, with so many great techniques and tips. I recently realized she had passed only a few years ago. I would like to express my condolences to all her family and friends, as well as my gratitude that we are still blessed with her knowledge.

  19. I too will miss Nancy’s quilting and seeing videos; she was so very talented! Thanks, Nancy and I hope they provide you with a great sewing machine in heaven!

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