Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Recycle, Repurpose and Refashion


HERE'S WHAT'S HAPPENING IN BEAVER DAM, WISCONSIN. At the Nancy's Notions Retail store -- MARY MULARI is doing a completely free-form class, hands-on, two-day workshop. Which (in my own mind, anyway) -- is ALL ABOUT THE FRANKENSEWING...!!

You can bring something along that you want to work on -- although, there will be a field trip to the local Goodwill Store. AND YOU NEVER KNOW what treasure you might find!!
Do you remember the last time we made a trip to the Beaver Dam Goodwill store?

And -- boy0boy0 -- DID WE HAVE FUN!!

Mary can turn curtains into elegant wraps...or old cashmere sweaters into mittens...and my specialty is taking a jazzy Size S...and turning it into a jazzy size 2X...

November 16-17, 2018 ($159)
Recycle, Repurpose, and Refashion
with Mary Mulari


Join Mary at Nancy’s Notions Retail Store for two days of makeovers, thrift shop visits, and trunk shows filled with ideas to restyle textiles from tablecloths and shower curtains to too-tight shirts. You’ve seen Mary creating magical makeovers on Sewing With Nancy and this is your chance to spend hands-on, brainstorming time with her. Maybe you’d like to start a T-shirt quilt (Mary’s got a great technique that saves time and money), renovate a sweatshirt, or create some classy fabric wraps…It’s up to you!

Sign up now before the class is filled. We’re sure to have a great time being creative together!

News Flash:

A very special addition to Mary’s event:  She will be joined by her friend and Midwest YaYa Sister Rita Farro for still more fun and inspiration with thrift shop finds. Rita’s had lots of experience resizing clothing for adults and kids—she calls it Frankensewing! Wait till you see how she’s adapted athletic wear and bathing suits  for herself and converted outfits for her grandkids. This is your chance to spend creative time with the queens of Repurposing. Come prepared for a collection of new ways to sew and serge. Nancy’s Notions will provide the sewing machines for us to use.

Projects to consider and bring along:
T-shirt Memory Quilt - you’ll need 35 pre-washed T-shirts (or 18 if you want to use designed fronts and plain backs) and 4-1/2 yards of pre-washed flannel 
Sweatshirt and T-shirt makeovers - prewash and bring along with possible coordinating fabrics to use or choose something from Nancy’s Notions Retail Store
Reversible Aprons - use a vintage tablecloth or feed sack fabric for one side of the apron (Mary’s patterns will be available)
Doily or Hanky table runners - bring your stash along and let’s see how we can put them together for a contemporary way to use these vintage items
A favorite top you’d like to wear, but it’s a bit too small…
A special piece of fabric you’ve been saving but haven’t found a good use for it yet…something that could become a fabric wrap? 
If you have a question about a project or something you’d like to bring, contact Mary at


*CALL 800.725.0361 TO REGISTER*
Recycle, Repurpose, and Refashion
With Mary Mulari
November 16-17, 2018

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Syracuse Airport

So, my vacay was off to a GREAT start. The plane landed in Syracuse, and I told Marion I'd meet her in Baggage Claim.

That seemed like a good idea at the time...

Except for the fact that the Syracuse Airport has been undergoing a $50 million renovation...for many years...and somewhere along the line, they forgot that THEY STILL HAVE CUSTOMERS...

Marion was having trouble figuring out where to park her car...and how to get to Baggage Claim...

Meanwhile,  I walked the entire length of the terminal -- twice. I kept looking for a sign that would direct me to Baggage Claim.


Honestly -- all I need is ONE SIMPLE SIGN.

Don't get me wrong...there were SIGNS...
Like this one, for example.
Eventually, I learned that Baggage Claim is on the other side of this sign. But how could I possibly know that?
I finally asked a worker how to get to Baggage Claim. Annoyed, he pointed and said, "through those doors."

When I looked puzzled, he said, "I wish I had a nickel for every time I was asked how to get to Baggage Claim...."

Yeah, I'll bet...

Hummm...I walked out...and then through this "portal" thing...
Which was very strange...really...I felt like I was going to be beamed up to space...
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF ALL THAT -- they finally posted this one pitiful sign!!  Truly -- the baggage carousel is VISIBLE from the place where this sign sits.  Totally ridiculous, Syracuse!!MOVE YOUR DAMN SIGN TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE INHOSPITABLE DOORS...

Monday, October 29, 2018

My trip to Syracuse on United

This week is going to be ALL ABOUT MY CANADA VACATION. I was really looking forward to this little get-away. Marion and I had been planning this for months...and there is nothing I enjoy more than catching up with a good friend.

Tuesday, I got up at 4:00 AM to leave on my 6 AM flight from Moline to Chicago. Then, a 2 1/2 hour layover until my flight to Syracuse, New York. Marion picked me up and we drove two hours to Kingston, Ontario. Then, I reversed the whole process on Saturday...
Here's the thing. I LOVE TO TRAVEL. Really. I know it ain't what it used to be -- and I don't see how they could possibly make the airplane seats any smaller. But, still, I LOVE TO TRAVEL.

I'm pretty laid back when things go wrong. The truth is -- THAT'S often where the most memorable stories come from -- right??

I always travel with books to read. When I got on my first United flight out of Moline, I started the 1987 biography of Dorothy Parker.

I started reading it on the plane...but it was a short flight...
And, I was SO EXCITED to have two free passes into the United Club!! When we landed in Chicago, I could hardly wait to GO TO THE CLUB.
We landed in the B Concourse...and the United Club is in the C Concourse...
Free newspapers!
Delicious assortment of breakfast foods...
And beverages...
Comfy chairs, great views, good reading lamps...
A full bar!!
I settled into a chair, and then realized I LEFT THE DOROTHY PARKER book on the plane!
By the time I realized what I'd done, it was too late to go back to that gate...and I'd probably lose my opportunity to use the United Club...Damn...

Oh well -- there's no point in crying over spilled milk. I had to let it go.  I started to read my Plan B book...and settled in to enjoy my very rare United Club perk...

After two hours in the club, it was time for me to find the gate for my connecting flight.  I went to C-3, and waited for my group to board the plane.  As I got up to the counter, the attendant scanned my boarding pass and his face lit up.  He said, "You're Rita Farro?"

I said, "that's right."

He reached under the counter and said, "I believe this belongs to you." and he pulled out my Dorothy Parker book.


Really.  When's the last time you heard a story like that?

Well done, United Airlines!!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

NZ Letters...Featherweights

In November 2017, I was going down to Florida for my second annual visit to Fitness Camp. I wrote seven letters in advance of my trip to Florida...and set up my email to send one letter every morning.

This is the last letter I wrote to Nancy...

November 13, 2017
Dear Nancy,

Sometimes,  a person’s happiness (or sadness) can be measured by WHAT THEY DID NOT KNOW...

For example -- I came into the sewing business in the late 80’s when I opened a fabric store. My logic at the time was that EVERY STORE used to have a fabric department...Younkers, Penney’s, Sears...and nobody was doing that any more. So THIS WOULD BE A GOOD TIME TO OPEN A FABRIC STORE.
It never once occurred to me that they got rid of their fabric departments because of declining sales...Oops...

In this case, ignorance was NOT was gonna be bankruptcy...

I soon realized I was never going to make enough money to pay my bills selling fabric -- so I became a Viking sewing machine dealer. I spent the next ten years touting the TOP OF THE LINE...Every new model that came out was my NEW FAVORITE MACHINE. The more features it had -- the better, right? I closed my store about the time machine embroidery was coming on to the scene.

Fast forward 15 years or so -- it was October 2014 -- when I encountered my first actual group of women sewing on their little Singer Featherweights. It was at an event in Waterloo, Iowa, and I was STUNNED...I mean, the simplicity and beauty of these little vintage relics.
It had never once occurred to me that a simple, quality straight stitch sewing machine might be all a person needed...

Soon after that light-bulb moment, I bought a Featherweight at an estate sale for $150. It was in perfect condition...and I fell in love.

Then, I found a second Featherweight, which I bought for my sister Ronda. She is the one who nearly MANUFACTURES those ragged edge flannel blankets, and she wore out a Viking #1100, and then wore out a Babylock, too.
When we had our first Sister’s Sewing Weekend -- and my sister Deena used my Featherweight to piece a quilt she was making for her grandson. She bought her first Featherweight THAT SAME DAY -- on Craig’s List.

My sister Deb was there from Nashville. She has WORN OUT three top of the line Pfaff embroidery machines...and I never thought she would be a candidate for a Featherweight. But, she purchased her first Featherweight (a white one) on her way home to Tennessee...

Here’s the current tally:

Rita:  Two Featherweights
Ronda:  Three Featherweights,
Deena:  Five Featherweights (one of the rare free-arm machines, known as the #222),
Debra:  Two Featherweights (one white, one black)

Also, my TMBC crew ALL own Featherweights now (Sandy, Linda P., Linda K., Jackie, and Sharalan).

And, along the way, we found out that Singer also manufactured a wonderful wooden folding table that the Featherweight fits right into. The table is desirable, and much sought after. (it often sells for between $300 - $500 on ebay).
So, of course, we HAD to have that as well. As of this sisters and I all own ONE folding table.

When I think about all those years when I was a sewing machine dealer...thinking I knew so much, and it was all about the top of the line -- aargh -- sometimes less really is more...



Next week, I'll be back from my exciting visit with my friend Marion. (IN CANADA)...and I'm going to resume a normal blogging rhythm.

There will be some Frankensewing...I'm pretty delighted with my velour projects....

and I haven't had a chance to tell you about some of my other Fall adventures!!

Friday, October 26, 2018

NZ Letters....Aunt Glad

October 23, 2017


Dear Nancy,

Halloween always makes me think of my Great-Aunt Glad…and since I’ve been writing these letters to you, and telling my parents story….it makes me see her in a new light.

Gladys Soltau married Barnard Wolf in 1931 and they farmed in the Princeton area. Uncle Barney (we all called him that) was a talented machinist, and during WW II, he worked his way up to shift supervisor at an aluminum factory. He was promoted to be a plant supervisor at a larger plant in Indiana, but the move to a different state didn't work out. Uncle Barney had a “nervous breakdown.”

I’m certain he had an anxiety disorder. But, at the time, there was no diagnosis or treatment (it isn’t much better today) -- so they moved back to Iowa, to a quieter life with less stress.

They settled on a small Scott County farm. There was a deep creek behind the main house and Uncle Barney had to cross a homemade bridge to get to the fields. It was a very stressful thing for him to drive a tractor 10' above the water...and no matter how much work he did to improve and strengthen that bridge, he just could not deal with it.  After a few years, they "swapped" farms with another family. Uncle Barney and Aunt Glad moved 4 miles down the road and the Spies family took over the bridge farm on the Bluff.

Uncle Barney did carpentry work to make extra money. When we built our house in 1981, Uncle Barney helped built our screened-in porch.  I can still see him, throwing his hammer on the ground when a nail bent, or something wasn’t quite square…he’d throw things, and start cursing…WOW, could that man cuss!
In 1986, I was about to open my fabric store -- and Uncle Barney came to the warehouse where I was sorting through a semi-load of fabric.  He said, “this is one huge damned puzzle, honey…”  

He died of a heart attack two weeks later.

Aunt Glad was the complete opposite of her sister Pearl (my grandmother). Aunt Glad's home was modern, up to date and always immaculate. Pearl was a a terrible housekeeper and her appliances were older than she was. Aunt Glad was a happy person, who seemed to take things in stride. Pearl was always miserable, worried that somebody was taking advantage of her. Aunt Glad was the busiest old lady I ever met. She kept a daily journal, and she had some activity every week…card clubs, luncheons, Senior Citizen events. Pearl disliked her neighbors...and her outings were so infrequent -- she wore the same navy blue special-occasion dress for over 30 years.

After we moved into our house, we’d have Aunt Glad and Uncle Barney over for dinner. Uncle Barney’s favorite dessert was lemon meringue pie. I made that pie many times, and got pretty good at it. But it is A LOT OF WORK…after he died, I went about 20 years NEVER making it -- then, several years ago, Elliott told me lemon meringue is HIS favorite dessert -- so, now, I’m back to making it…and it’s still A LOT OF WORK.
When he maybe 9 years old, Ross made a salt-dough ornament for Aunt Glad. It looked like a teddy bear, and he wrote, “# 1 Ant” on the front -- and she hung it on the knob of her kitchen cabinet. It was there when she died.


This is a picture of me with one of my should-win-an-award lemon meringue pies!!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

NZ Letter: Cousins' Porch Party

November 3, 2017

Dear Nancy,

I swear, I am not a man-hater...who only sees what they do WRONG. I love John, and I wouldn’t have the life I have today if I hadn’t married him.

But, when any man enters the room, he has a complete expectation that he will naturally become the center of attention...and all conversation shifts to him.  IT HAPPENS EVERY TIME.

And it's just a hard thing to deal with...even when you see it coming.

Way back in the 1990's, I was having a “Cousin’s Party” on my porch.  Linda had recently moved back to Iowa after 20 years....Jackie was home for a rare visit...My sisters were here, including Deb, who lived in Florida at the time.  In our adult lives, we have NEVER been together like this.  We had lunch, and were drinking some wine coolers (remember those?).  We were laughing, and talking...and getting caught up on each other's lives.  One person could hardly finish a thought before the next person was off on a different tangent.  It was late in the afternoon, and we were hungry again, so I’d just put some snacks out on the table -- when John came home from golf.

I knew EXACTLY what was going to happen next. John would come out on the porch to say hello -- and one of my sister/cousins would politely ask “how are you?” -- AND HE WOULD SIT DOWN AND START TO TELL US ALL ABOUT HIS GOLF GAME. We’d hear about how he birdied the 4th hole...then, his partner made a 12’ putt on the 9th hole...they finished 4th ....but the tournament only paid the first 3 places...OMG. My girls would get quieter and quieter....and the entire rhythm of our fabulous, rare day together would go down the drain.  They'd start to look at their watches... and make excuses to leave...

Because I didn’t want it to be over...and who knew when we'd be together again (it has actually NEVER happened)...when John started walking to the house, I whispered.... ”everybody follow my lead....”

John came out on the porch, and, with a big smile on his face, said, “this looks like quite a hen party”...

Of course, they all said hello and smiled...and John took another though he was going to join us...

At that exact moment, I said, “yes, we’ve been busy catching up...turns out three of us are going through menopause -- and we were just comparing hot flash stories.“

John stopped in his tracks...looking confused...

Then, I turned to my sister and said, “so, Ronda -- you quit using tampons? Have you really gone back to using Kotex pads?”

Before Ronda could even react, John had turned his back to RUN UP THE STAIRS to escape to his den...

We were laughing so hard....we could not breathe...for awhile...

But then, the party went on until late that night. We finished the taco chips and guacamole, and took a break to run into Princeton to pick up a pizza. I shudder when I think of how close we came to NOT having that long-overdue catch-up.
Sometimes, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do...


I often sent some random photos of Nancy -- with people she knew...(I didn't have a picture of that long-ago porch Cousins' party)...

Rhonda Pierce, me, Nancy and Deanna Springer...(Quilt Market?)

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

NZ Letters...(CIA)

October 28, 2017

Dear Nancy,

Before I finish writing about my brief career with the CIA -- I get to tell you about the dream I had last night.

I dreamed about you….and when I woke up, I remembered it. AND THAT NEVER HAPPENS. It was one of those wacky dreams that never makes any sense. I was staying at a beautiful hotel, but for some reason, didn’t want to PAY for coffee…so I was looking for a coffee cup that I could use. There was a beautiful big staircase, and I came floating down, wearing a billowing long skirt of some kind of chiffon fabric (obviously, I wanted to be inconspicuous as I was trying to steal coffee.) Then I saw you -- wearing an orange Chanel-like suit. You were beautiful…every hair on your head was perfect. You were sitting on a sofa off to the side of the room…we made eye contact, and you smiled at me...but you were, of course, surrounded by people, waiting for their turn to talk to you…

It's probably all about everybody being down in Houston for Quilt Market, eh? I imagine that's what it was always like for you, Nancy...hoards of people lining up to have their NZ moment...

Then I woke up.

….when I left off my story, it was 1969 and I was about to take the FINAL step for my TOP SECRET security clearance with the CIA. As I went up those steps to CIA Headquarters, my stomach was in knots because this was THE LAST MAJOR HURDLE. The CIA thought they were so clever, hiding their headquarters behind a forest of trees, with an exit marked, “Bureau of Pubic Roads”. Anyway, getting on one of the little Blue Buses that ferried employees to and fro was a very big deal for me.
The final lie detector test was famous for washing out new recruits. But, I thought I ACE this sucker. Because, from all reports, the questioning centered around “do you smoke marijuana?” And, honestly -- I was the ONLY PERSON I KNEW who had NEVER smoked pot.

But, alas, altho they did ask those questions -- they were much more interested with my visitors from Wartburg College who came into town to participate in the Peace Demonstrations. Aarg…

The shocking thing at the time was that, clearly, they had, at the very least, tapped my phone. And it seemed like they knew so much -- they must have been following me. And I remember thinking, “DON’T YOU PEOPLE HAVE ANYTHING BETTER TO DO??” Really? YOU THINK I’M SOME KIND OF THREAT TO THE GOVERNMENT?

Which, as it happens, was exactly what they thought. After that Lie Detector test, they told me the CIA didn’t want me.  And, oh, by the way, there were another 7 government agencies that also didn't want me. Because of my association with the peace movement, I would be black-listed from 8 government agencies.

I was incredulous. The day they delivered this news, they told me, in a very matter-of-fact way, “you cannot work for the Executive Branch of the US government and demonstrate against the President’s Policies.” Apparently,I'd missed that important memo...

Welcome to the Nixon Administration…

Tomorrow -- my CIA Cover Story…

I imagine you are getting daily reports from Houston, Nancy...I know you are being missed down there. I hope you got to see your grands this's been ALL ABOUT HALLOWEEN around here.

Tomorrow, I might have to take a break from my fascinating, albeit BRIEF CIA career to write about Lilly's costume...


My dear friend Rita, 

Tomorrow I hope to give you a call. I so love your letters and I wish I could respond to each of them but please, please write the CIA story for your grandchildren. No, write all of it for your grandchildren.

That was a cute summary of the dream. I’ll have to give orange a try.

Consider yourself hugged,

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

NZ Letters: chicago and trains

This week, I AM TRAVELING. But, since I have so many new readers (following the Richard Zieman Book Blog Tour) -- I've decided to share some of the letters I wrote to Nancy last year.

I wrote about normal stuff. But, like everybody else, my normal life is kind of, as the weeks went on, I wrote about my friends and career with the CIA...


August 18, 2017,

Dear Nancy,

Wednesday, our train ride/day trip into Chicago went great…and Thursday I needed MORE than a nap.  I went into a Grandma Coma…

My cousin Jackie spent the night here on Tuesday -- sleeping in the new/old/guest room. She remembers the cousin’s party we had up in that room -- the night it got painted. I will never change any of that. And the back of the door has special meaning for her and me...

In 2002, Jackie and I were in New York City. We were taking the train to Boston to attend a book launch for a friend of mine. We went to Penn Station to catch the train…and found the right track…we were standing there, 20 minutes early…but the train never came. We checked the board many times, and were certain we were exactly where we were supposed to be. No train came…the appointed time came and went…

We asked an Amtrak employee about the train to Boston. He told us to look at the board (which we’d already done -- but it was on the main level of the station -- we were two levels below at this point.)

After about 45 minutes of standing in the same spot…clearly, it was way past schedule now, but we were afraid to move….We were not experienced train travelers, and we didn't know what to do next.  We AGAIN asked the guy  about the train to Boston…(this was our third conversation with him.)

That was the end. He was exasperated...and with a big snarl, he said, “That train has left the station. You’ve got to quit talkin' bout that train.”

That became a mantra for both of us. Another way of saying  GET OVER YOURSELF…

Anyway -- here's a picture of that door....and Jackie with the kids at Union Station in Chicago.


Monday, October 22, 2018

Nancy's Gifts to Me...

I told you I was going to write about the gifts I received from Nancy Zieman....

In the 1990's, I wrote a little book called, "How To Dress With Style When You Feel Like Cher, But Look Like Roseanne."

Mary Mulari recommended me to her friend Nancy Zieman, who invited me to be a speaker in her retail store in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. It was only my second out-of-town speaking gig...and I was more than a little nervous.

I drove three hours to Beaver Dam, and checked into the Park Motel. The morning of my seminar, Nancy picked me up at 8:00.  Her son, Tom, (a toddler then), was in a booster in the back seat of her mini-van.

Although I don't remember much about the seminar I presented on that day in the Nancy's Notions store -- I do know it was the beginning of an exciting new career for me.

For the next 20 years, I presented seminars at stores and sewing guilds in almost every State in the Union.  I was invited to speak at American Sewing Guild Chapters, and the biggest and best consumer shows in the country.  I wrote the book, "Life Is Not A Dress Size" -- and I did a 12-city book tour.  Eventually, I landed my dream job -- doing Public Relations and Marketing for the Sewing and Stitchery Expo in Puyallup, Washington.

That evening, we were driving to her house to eat supper.  She pulled into her garage, turned off the van and said,

"You're really good at this, Rita.  But you need to double your fee."

I didn't know it then...but that was Nancy's first gift to me.


20 years later, her last gift was a beautiful set of wind chimes...which I have hanging on the back corner of my house.   Nancy sent a note with the chimes.  She signed it --  "consider yourself hugged, Rita"

And whenever I hear those chimes -- I feel that special Nancy hug...

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Nancy and her friend Marilyn

The best part of my job with the Sewing and Stitchery Expo in Puyallup, Washington -- was, of course, THE PEOPLE.  Every day, I got to connect with other women who shared my love of sewing.  We seemed to have the same attitude about life...and I looked forward to seeing them every year.  One of those people was Marilyn Norton...
This picture was taken in 2010? Mary Mulari and me with Marilyn and her Mom...

On Wednesday,  after I wrote my Nancy Zieman post, I received this messsage from Marilyn:

Happy Anniversary to you and John!! Doesn't it make you wonder where does the time go??We'll be married 53 years in Nov.Yikes!!

I wanted to respond to your blog today about Nancy. One of my favorite memories was a Friday night live at Expo with Nancy...

That day, Nancy sat at our lunch table(with me and my friend Sherry).  We talked about the classes we had taken.  After she finished eating lunch she said all I need now is a piece of chocolate and I'm good.  I handed her one out of our lunches.

Later while we were walking the show thru different vendors a hand reached out and grabbed my arm.  I looked up and it was Nancy Zieman. She smiled at me and said thank you for saving my life this afternoon. I was blown away. But that was the kind of woman she was.

Because I try to honor her I bake cookies monthly and deliver them to either the fire station or the police.I don't think we'll ever see someone else quite like her.


I was delighted to find these pictures. From 2013 -- the night Mary and Nancy did Kick It Up A Stitch...
Marilyn and her mother were sitting in the FRONT ROW..
They are waving for my camera...
One of the WORST pictures I ever took (and there's lots of competition for that prize)...but you can see Marilyn's Mom is laughing, right?
THIS IS MY BEST PICTURE of the two of them on that night...
And this is my BEST PICTURE EVER...after they won one of Nancy's momento-door-prizes...
Thanks for taking the time to write to me, Marilyn, and share a Nancy story.

She would be very pleased about the cookies...

Friday, October 19, 2018

Nancy and Mary Kick It Up A Stitch

Mary Mulari was a frequent flyer on Sewing With Nancy. She and Nancy made exactly 654 television shows together (that is my guess, and possibly a gross exaggeration).

When I was invited to write on the Blog Book tour for Richard's new book, I knew you'd want to hear from Mary...

Mary Writes:

Reading all the wonderful blog tour tributes to Nancy this week reminds us all how special she was, how much she contributed to our lives, and how much she is missed. So many voices on the tour have expressed this all so well. I have been overwhelmed by those of you who have reached out to me, recognizing my loss of a great friend and sewing partner. Blog-less as I am, I am jumping onto Rita’s tour with a report of working with Nancy to present “Kick It Up a Stitch,” the seamsters’ version of Emeril’s kitchen escapades.

It all started at the end of one of Nancy’s visits to my home in Minnesota. I wasn’t paying close attention to the time, so I delivered her to the Duluth airport too late to catch her plane. (Don’t worry…she reminded me of that several times while we were on stage!) While waiting for the next plane, we sat in the vending machine room and began to plot the K.I.U.A.S. program for Nancy’s Notions Sewing Weekend.

The plan was to show a real sewing project from one of our books or patterns and then show a “kicked up” version of the same project. Mixed in was the preparation of recipes that somehow related to the sewing projects. For the first performance, the Beaver Dam High School Jazz Band played during the breaks and prep times of our program. The band director and members were given samples of our food preparations to taste. It was an ambitious program that involved kitchen tools, ingredients, and appliances along with a sewing machine, photocopier, and sewing tools. I’ll never forget the audience shocked response when I diced celery for Newfangled Caviar with a rotary cutter. Then I got to splash Nancy when I turned the electric beaters on high speed for the dessert preparation. Oh, we really had fun and so did our audience. We should do this program again!

The second presentation of K.I.U.A.S. was the one taped for PBS.

 It’s the one you can watch on a DVD or at This time the high school jazz band came from Memorial High School in Madison WI.  It was the first time Nancy’s brother Dean and my future husband Doug saw us perform. Nancy’s Blonde Joak Book made an appearance and she had several opportunities to share her favorite blonde jokes and brand names of products, something she never did during a normal Sewing With Nancy program. (see the photo of the apron).  You may have known Nancy to be a serious sewing personality but you saw her fun and humorous side during this program, and also during her live seminar appearances.

Our third show was evening entertainment at the Sewing and Stitchery Expo in Puyallup WA. The band from a local college arrived at the last minute so we had little time to prepare them for the crazy stage acts of sewing and cooking and taste-testing our concoctions.  Our assistants Judy and Chris brought all the kitchen supplies from their homes in Portland and helped us cook and clean up afterwards. Along with Deanna’s ever-present and valuable help, we couldn’t have done it without all the back stage workers.

Here’s why I want to share these memories with you: These performances were memorable highlights for both Nancy and me. It was so much fun to be silly on stage with appreciative audience members joining us in laughter. Nancy would like you to remember her in this way along with the “real” sewing she shared. After all the heartfelt, moving testimonials and tributes, I believe Nancy would say, “Okay, let’s talk about something else.”

So this was something else, the light and funny side of Nancy.



One of my crappy, fuzzy photos -- but Deanna was ALWAYS there, behind the scenes, in this case, with an actual script for Kick It Up A Stitch...cuing the music, and the band, and the props...
It was a sold-out audience that night.  More than 800 people...both Mary and Nancy were nervous.
I hadn't quite learned how to take pictures yet...but here is a long table full of food/sewing props...
The Ya Ya Stalkers were an important part of the back-stage team -- bringing MANY props from their own homes.
Both sides of the room were filled to capacity.
Babylock gave away FIVE SEWING MACHINES that night!!
Were you in the audience that night?

Many people have told me that they never laughed harder in their was shocking to see the FUNNY, HILARIOUS side of Nancy Zieman..and, along with her friend Mary, they created MAGIC for us...
And, tomorrow -- I'm gonna share a NZ story from somebody who was in that audience...

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Nancy Zieman

On July 22, 2017, I received an email from Nancy, saying the cancer was back...and she was going into hospice.

I wrote back one of those tearful LIFE IS NOT FAIR...and YOU HAVE MEANT SO MUCH TO ME...emails...I reminisced about some of my memories -- and how important I felt the first time I walked the aisles of Quilt Market with NZ. EVERYBODY would come up to her, and say how much they loved Sewing With Nancy.

Nancy Zieman was ALWAYS, without fail, gracious and kind to every person. Posing for every picture, noticing every sewn garment, remembering names of dealers she hadn't seen in years...she was amazing.

Then, I thought about how everybody in her world felt the same way -- and we were all trying to tell her what a difference she made, and to thank her for being such a wonderful friend...

And how depressing all those heartfelt good-byes would be.

Here's the thing. When somebody is dying -- you don't know what to say. NOBODY DOES. When compared to dying -- everything else seems unimportant and trivial. Of course you worry that you'll say the WRONG thing. Even Hallmark can't figure it out. It's too late for a "Get Well Soon" card...

But the worst mistake you can make is to say I decided I would write to Nancy about normal, everyday stuff.

Dear Nancy,

I will continue to send these Iowa reports, Nancy...because you were so encouraging...

When I wake up, one of my first thoughts is that I hope you have a good day. Then, remembering the kindness you always showed people, Nancy -- I take a look at my own day, and determine to make the most of do something be pass it on in some way.

(...blah, blah, blah....and I wrote about a Grandma Camp baking adventure...)



I love to vicariously live through your emails. You have no idea what these notes mean to me. The story of the fondant (Which I have never attempted to make),  Monday cleaning, book club, are priceless. You’re one of the BEST grandmother’s I know. Wish I could hear Lily sing from Hamilton!

Next week if all goes well, the boys and family will be here to celebrate Adeline’s first birthday. I will control from the couch, but being there is the most important part.

Your kind comments about talking to people during trade shows is not totally true. Flying to Paducah, the plane was cancelled in Memphis, I rented a car and asked other quilties to drive with me. I gave the map (pre-cell phone days) to someone I later learned didn’t know north from the bottom of her purse, and arrived in Paducah 2-hours later than we should have. (I should have commandeered the map sooner.)

After the quilties waved bye bye, I was famished with a headache as big as a house, took a trolley to a restaurant, and had a quiet dinner in a corner. On the way back to the hotel, 6-7 fans got on the trolley and screamed “Nancy Zieman,” I nodded but didn’t elaborate... A week later I got a scathing letter from one of them, “How dare I  . . . .” It was awful. Only once in my career (that I know if) did I ever want to hide in a corner when a viewer approached me and that was the payback. Now you know!

Mornings are my best time so I better get answering other emails. Thank you for theses glimpses into your life, make me smile...


Starting on July 27, 2017...I sent an email to Nancy every morning.   My last email to her was November 13, 2017.

Tomorrow -- the gifts Nancy gave me...

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Nancy Zieman, The Rest Of the Story

When I was asked to be on the Blog tour for Richard Zieman's new book, Nancy Zieman, The Rest of the Story -- I didn't hesitate. OF COURSE!! WHAT AN HONOR!!

But writing this post about Nancy is hard. When I read Rich's book, I cried. Again. Because Nancy didn't get enough time. Because she was such a good person, and a wonderful friend, and I miss her.

Also, here's the pressure, people. A Blog Tour means you have already been reading about Rich's new book, and other people who were much closer to Nancy have written very eloquently about her.

Our friend Eileen Roche wrote a wonderful tribute to Nancy to kick off this blog tour -- and, as I read it, I cried...again...and mostly I just wanted to say A BIG DITTO!! I can't say it any better than Eileen did...really...Nancy Zieman was a remarkable woman, and her life was an inspiration.

When I got the email with the pertinent information about the Blog Book Tour, my assigned date was October 17...and I suddenly knew EXACTLY what I wanted to say.

October 17 is my wedding anniversary. Today, John and I have been married for 48 years.

So what, you say?   What does my anniversary have to do with Nancy Zieman?

Stay with me for a minute.....

The day we got married, October 17, was a beautiful fall day...and, over the last 48 years, we have often enjoyed a drive "up north" to see the fall foliage.

I refer to our traditional anniversary road trip as "The Wisconsin Cheese Tour".
It's about 3 hours from our home to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin...
But, of course, a major element of our Cheese Tour is the EATING.
And one of our favorite restaurants was Benvenuto's in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Where the food is terrific -- and so is the company. If they were in town, Nancy and Richard would join us for dinner.
On this night, Nancy and Rich could not resist holding a friend's new twin grandbabies...

I went back into my photo archives to find this picture of Nancy and Rich.  Because, on this day, I am celebrating my own wedding anniversary -- and I want to take a moment to admire the 40 year marriage of Nancy and Rich Zieman.  In his new book, Nancy Zieman, The Rest of the Story, he shares a lot about the last five years of Nancy's life.

Rich was a wonderful care-giver, and I know Nancy felt his love and she often told me she was lucky to have him.

But their life together was about a lot more than luck.  More than any couple I know -- Nancy and Richard Zieman changed the world they lived in.  And they made a difference in so many people's lives.  For starters -- it's impossible to measure the impact they had on their beloved home town of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.  They started Nancy's Notions as a mail order business in their basement.

And LOOK AT WHAT THEY DID..!!  Eventually, Nancy's Notions became the largest independent employer in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin...

Thanks to their hard work, sound business practices, vision and risk-taking -- Nancy and Rich provided employment for hundreds of people.  These were the kind of decent jobs that change lives.

Their employees were proud to work for Nancy's Notions, and they were able to buy homes, and cars, and send their kids to college.

Nancy was many things to many people...
And we're all going to miss her. Her family most of all.

Good job, Rich....on sooo many levels...

Thanks for inviting me to be on the Blog Tour, Rich and Deanna.  And the Blog Book Tour is moving on...but I've decided to write a new post about Nancy every day this week.  Tomorrow, I'm going to write about the gifts....

P.S.  For all the pertinent information about Rich's book...please check back on the earlier blogs on the tour...they are WAY more computer savvy than me....and they put up GREAT LINKS  (good job, Pat Sloan!)

P.S.S...If you leave a comment, you will be eligible to win a copy of Rich's new book.  Also, click on the badge (on the right side of this post) to find out more about the book and this Blog Book Tour.