Nancy Zieman and McCall’s

Nancy Zieman in 2012. From the McCall's blog
Nancy Zieman in 2012. From the McCall’s blog

We were saddened to learn of the passing of Nancy Zieman on November 14th. A McCall’s licensee for many years, Nancy was an icon in the home sewing world. We asked Kathy Wiktor, McCall’s director of retail and consumer promotion, to share something here about Nancy. 

There are so many ways to describe Nancy Zieman: author, seamstress, entrepreneur, and TV personality. And in a more personal way: creative, professional, innovative, and one of the nicest people in our industry.

A little bit of history: Gail Hamilton, former vice president of marketing for McCall’s, first introduced Nancy to the McCall Pattern Company in 1989. Nancy was well known at the time for her Busy Woman’s Sewing Book, Nancy’s Notions, and Sewing with Nancy TV show. Nancy presented three designs using her sewing techniques from her book, and the rest is sewing history. Her McCall’s jacket design M4085 was an instant success.

An early Nancy Zieman sewing pattern for McCall's
An early Nancy Zieman sewing pattern for McCall’s

Throughout the years Nancy had her pulse on what the sewing community needed, and she followed up her first success with a group of patterns entitled “Sewing With Nancy.” Recognizing that women were now working and raising kids, leaving little time for sewing, Nancy answered with the Ten, Twenty, Thirty Minutes To Sew pattern line, a big success for McCall’s and Nancy.

McCall’s was also proud to sponsor her PBS series “Sewing with Nancy,” where she brought sewing and the McCall’s brand to households across the nation.

I was part of the McCall team that worked alongside Nancy for many years, helping to bring her designs to life. She was a wonderful, talented lady and I am honored to have known her. Many of the original McCall’s employees who worked closely with Nancy have retired, but I reached out and asked two of them to share some of their thoughts about Nancy:

Nancy DiCocco, former senior vice president of marketing, merchandising and design: “Nancy Zieman deserves a huge thank you for promoting our industry, sewing, and the McCall Brand. Nancy was always professional, easy to work with, and her business reputation was impeccable. We should be proud to have worked with such a talented, creative person in our industry. She was a very special woman.”

Carl Lalumia, former McCall’s sportswear designer: “I had the pleasure and privilege of working with Nancy on her designs for many years. I am so thankful that she was able to share her craft with so many people. She was always inspiring and a joy to work with.”

And Carolyne Cafaro, McCall’s current senior vice president/creative director, had this to say about her: “Nancy was a consummate professional who had impeccable taste and who understood her customer well. She was a key member of the McCall Pattern Company family for many years, Nancy was always a pleasure to collaborate with and we will greatly miss her.”

• • • • •

Do you have a favorite Nancy Zieman tip, book, notion or pattern? If so, please feel free to share it here in the comments.

29 comments
  1. It is with great sadness that I learned about Nancy’s passing. I would like her family to know how much we loved her and and will miss her. xox

  2. loved her show and she will be greatly missed, RIP and condolences to her family.

  3. loved her show and she will be greatly missed .R.I.P. Nancy.

  4. Nancy was the help and support that I needed when I returned to sewing after a many year absence. Sewing with Nancy was inspirational and answered so many questions I had. I truely believe she was as warm in person as she was on her tv show. She will be missed here, but what a wonderful addition to the sewists in heaven.

  5. I loved Nancy’s calm and on nonesense, practical tutoring mainly seen on U Tube (I am a UK person). A great loss to our craft.

  6. Nancy was an amazing lady and I greatly admired her teaching. I have some of her books and patterns, and am so sorry to hear of her passing. My prayers go out to her family and close friends. She will be sorely missed. Mary from Nanaimo, BC, Canada

  7. I am so sad to learn of Nancy’s passing, I thought she would have more time with family and friends.
    God bless to the family and know she is a beautiful angel
    From Ontario Canada xx

  8. So sad I learn a lot from her just by watching her technique.

  9. I remember watching Sewing with Nancy shows starting in the ’70’s. There was no Blogs, Instagram or YouTube that we have now; so her show was like having a sewing friend or buddy to teach me something new or how to sew something better. I have and had several of her patterns and lots of her notions. Though I did not know her personally, watching her shows revealed a caring, professional and her passion for everything sewing. We truly lost a sewing icon!

  10. My condolences to her family. Ms Zieman was on my tv every wednesday over 20 years ago. She encouraged me to try new things, like different materials, different stitches, and most importantly, just to believe in myself.

    I am sadden by her death. She was important to me as a young mother and wife. I would sit in front of the TV, taking notes as fast as I could, in the days before vcrs. Then I would move to my sewing machine to put into practice what I had just learned.
    Thank you, Nancy Zieman, for making sewing cool again

  11. Nancy Zieman was and is without peer in the home sewing industry. She was a leading light, an excellent teacher, an inspiring entrepreneur, a wonderful designer, and entirely committed to sewing, quilting – and the advancement of these movements and arts.

    I have a Nancy Zieman fleece jacket that i made 15 – 20 years ago. I want to be buried in this jacket. I wear it with warmth and gratitude every time i slip it over my head. I have Nancy to thank for it. The world has lost a great leader and friend. Praise God to you – Nancy – for your life and for the eternal life that you’ve now inherited. Thank you.

    1. This was a beautiful sentiment! Thank you, I’m sure we all couldn’t have said it better! I only wish she had longer to spend retired with her family……

  12. She was rge first person I watched who sewed on tv. My mom forced me to learn to sew a skirt for the church junior usher board and I was somewhat resentful. Nancy made it seem fun and practical. I also learned the pivot and slide method of pattern alteration and you could not tell me NOTHING! She will not be forgotten and will always be thought of with fondness and gratitude!

  13. Awesome talented woman I will miss her tutorials

  14. My favorite Nancy Zieman book is, “Sewing Express.” Through that book, she taught me how to make a neat and professional looking notched collar. That one tip was so invaluable! She will definitely be missed.

  15. Nancy was an icon in the sewing world and will be missed.

  16. My children & husband knew that when Momma’s sewing show was on they had better hush & not ask for a thing for 30 minutes. Didn’t matter if the house was burning down it had to wait. Throughout the years I learned so much from Nancy and the many guests she had on her show. Even if the show was something I didn’t “do” or had much interest in I’d watch anyway because there was always a chance there would be a snippet of information I would be able to use in something else. Nancy always came across as your friend the kind who would come in through the back door into your kitchen sit & talk with a cup of tea or coffee & then go with you into your sewing room to show you a neat way to sew, stitch or quilt something. Her Nancy’s Corner was a great way to meet people who were doing something for others & would usually give us a chance to join in too, like her pillow case dresses for Africa, the pillow cases for hospitalized children or watching women become empowered because they learned to sew & operate a non electric sewing machine with skill & pride in their work. Nancy Zieman leaves the world with a beautiful legacy of faith, hope & a love of sewing & people who’s lives she touched.
    Thank you Nancy Zieman I will miss you.
    Becca G

  17. I loved Nancy my namesake too. I went to WI for her sewing weekend and also met her at shows. She was so knowledgeable and innovative. I have Babylock machines which she endorsed and sold. I have VHS tapes of many of her shows. She will be missed.

  18. I really hated to hear this~!….She was an awesome lady.
    RIP, dear Nancy

  19. To her family: Thank you for sharing this lovely, talented lady with us for so many years. She was such a big part of our lives and then through us to other lives via the things we made, the stories we passed on and how she inspired us. We are extremely saddened by her passing.

  20. I very much appreciated Nancy’s 10-20-30 Minutes book. I seldom had time to see because I thought I needed at least an hour at a shot. It never occurred to me that little things like winding bobbins, changing needles and threading the machine might be all I got to do in one day, but that was okay. Another day I could sew one seam maybe two. Thanks to Nancy I changed how I measured progress on a project. Instead of looking at what I finished (which seemed like little progress) I tracked the number of pieces left to sew together. I got a better feeling of accomplishment when my goal was to reduce the pieces instead of “finish the bodice”, etc.

  21. I was at a charity quilting day when the news of Nancy came across. I am deeply saddened. I was glad to know she had her faith in God to lean on. I saw her more regularly than my own children. We shared a love for sewing & quilting. I don’t know how we go on after losing someone we have loved so much. I tear up at each blog & comment I read about Nancy. You are not forgotten. Thank you for all you gave of yourself to the many of us. Vicki

  22. I was saddened to hear of Nancy’s passing. Had just received our quilt guild’s September notes mentioning her retirement, then the next day to hear she was gone was a shock. While watching her shows for the last several years I learned a lot. My prayers go out to her family.

  23. We will all miss Nacy Zieman You gave us all your talent.To remember you and your time. God bless your family
    I will pray for you.
    Shirley

  24. I watched Nancy’s show from the very beginning and learned so much. I have some of her teaching materials that I still use to refresh my memory. Prayers to her family – RIP Nancy.

  25. Nancy’s show was one of the first sewing videos I landed on when I first returned to sewing 2 years ago after an almost 40 year hiatus away from it. She helped me so much! I have MANY of her notions – her seam gauges are in regular use as well as her ruler stand, magnetic pin holder, book holders and the lap table. I was saddened to hear she had passed! She will be missed. Thank you for this lovely tribute to her and her untiring work in encouraging all of us to prevail through the challenges and frustrations and hold steadfast to our love of the craft.

  26. My prayers and heart are with Nancy’s family and friends. I really enjoyed learning from her. My favorite book of Nancy’s is “Pattern Fitting with Confidence.” It has helped me a great deal and I’ve recommended it to all my followers and students of my Beginner’s Sewing Course. Thank you, Nancy, for all that you contributed to the sewing community. You are loved and will be missed.

  27. When one has so much more to learn from a person….and though one is so far away, you find yourself wishing again & again they were close at hand to share expertise and perspectives — that’s when the passing of an icon hurts the most. What a pioneering woman! A woman of great spirit. I pray for those who will miss her most.

  28. I am saddened by the passing of Nancy Zieman. Like many others have written, she was a wonderful teacher, sharing her knowledge in an understated yet highly efficient way. Her kindness shone through. By all accounts, she was also a wonderful person. I have some of her patterns and some of her books. The landscape quilting book she co-authored is one of my favorites.

    The knowledge she shared with countless students will live on, and so will she in our memories. Godspeed, Nancy.

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