Nancy Zieman: The Rest of the Story Giveaway


Nearly ten years ago I was setting up our first ever retail booth at Quilt Expo in Madison, Wisconsin. Quilt Expo is one of our favorite shows as it’s produced by Wisconsin Public Television and Nancy Zieman Productions because has a friendly feel to it. It was a hot and humid September day and my t-shirt was damp from the sweat of pushing a heavy cart repeatedly between our booth and our van. In the distance I saw Nancy Zieman in a crisp suit and dress shoes carrying a single quilt over her arm. It was the first time I had ever seen her in person and admired her for being so successful that she had staff to delegate the heavy lifting.

The following day, the first of the show, we sold out of almost all of the merchandise we had brought! Bill drove three hours in the middle of the night with a van full of fabric and we made more kits until 4am. “It was spotting Nancy Zieman that was our good luck charm,” I told Bill.

A few years later, the day before we launched Modern Quilts Illustrated, I spotted Nancy in Houston going up an escalator. I hoped it was a good omen. It was. A few months later Nancy and I were copied on the same email for a blog hop. I told her she was our lucky charm and we had a good laugh about it. A friendship developed over the years and we even spent the night at her home once and enjoyed a delicious meal cooked by Nancy herself. Nancy graciously wrote a blurb on the back cover for our book A Kid’s Guide to Sewing and featured us three times on Sewing With Nancy. Mostly, though, she was a deeply caring and considerate friend and our family adored her.

When she was struggling with cancer we happened to be traveling through Europe. I emailed Nancy that we were praying for her in every cathedral we could find in France, Spain and Italy and we did. We even brought her back some Papal Holy Water from the Vatican, even though neither of us was Catholic. “Gotta cover all the bases,” I joked when I gave it to her. Periodically during her treatments,¬† I emailed her pictures of our foster kittens because I knew she loved kittens and hoped her suffering would come to an end. It didn’t end the way I hoped.

When we got the email last summer that her cancer had returned, our whole family was saddened. In any field it’s hard to find someone who is encouraging and is rooting for your success as a business and as a person. Nancy was one of those rare people for us.

It was our last conversation, however, that always stays with me. It was the morning of Quilt Expo 2017 and we had already been told that Nancy was too ill to attend the show. Many of us were sad but knew that carrying on that show and making it successful would be one way to honor her. Around 7:15am as I was getting in the shower, my cell phone rang. I saw that it was Nancy and picked it up with great excitement. She said, “You told me once that I was your lucky charm so I wanted to wish you a great show.” Naturally I burst into tears. It was an emotional phone call and she said that she was very weak. I knew that this would be our last phone call as her cancer was progressing quickly. I told her that we loved her and thanked her for her friendship over the years. Hanging up the phone was extremely difficult knowing that we would likely never be able to speak again.

For those of you who have read Nancy’s wonderful, inspiring and occasionally heartbreaking, autobiography Seams Unlikely, there is now a followup book written by Nancy’s husband of 40 years, Richard Zieman, entitled Nancy Zieman: The Rest of the Story. The book chronicles where Seams Unlikely ended and documents the unimaginable struggles Nancy faced in her last few years. It also includes lots of family pictures of Nancy with her family and describes how she kept her faith close throughout her life and especially in her final weeks.

If you’ve admired Nancy’s sewing skills, you will be even more stunned at the strength of her spirit as you read all that she endured from a lifetime of medical challenges. Nancy Zieman Productions has graciously provided us with two copies to share for a giveaway. If you’d like to enter to win a copy of Nancy Zieman: The Rest of the Story, please leave a comment below sharing with us what you learned from Nancy.



Quilting Magazines: An Endangered Species?

design, quilting

We were saddened to read today that publisher F&W is shuttering four craft magazines including Modern Patchwork and Quilty. In the past few years, we’ve watched one quilting magazine after another close. It’s heartbreaking to see so many talented writers, photographers, art directors and staff lose their livelihoods. However, those who follow industry statistics know that quilting industry growth has remained statistically flat for the past few years. Fabric designers know that the notoriously long production schedules for traditional magazines mean that it’s extremely unlikely that by the time the magazine is printed that the fabrics shown will still be available. Many fabric lines have a life span of under a year and magazines book quilt features over a year in advance. Advertisers know that they must divide their ad budgets among a variety of sources that didn’t exist when most of these magazines began.

Although we are sad to lose beloved publications, we want to reassure our readers that Modern Quilts Illustrated and all of our other publications have very different business models and continue to enjoy robust sales. Modern Quilt Studio has a project in an upcoming issue of Modern Patchwork and we hope that the company’s plans to finish¬† issues already in production before they cease includes the issue that will feature our quilt project. Either way, we have three publications already in the pipeline to share with you in the coming few months so stay tuned.


Overdye Success!

design, eco-craft, fabric, general crafts, inspiration

We love the very sturdy oak chairs that we bought from Ikea for our dining table in 1999. One of the chairs appeared on the cover of Quilts Made Modern in fact. The have arms, fit our bodies well, allow us to have Settlers of Catan marathons and invite guests to linger comfortably for conversation after meals. They are cushioned and they have slipcovers that wash when there’s a spill. They are small enough to fit 8 at our table but large enough for a person and a small dog to curl up and for me to sit “criss-cross-applesauce” during said game marathons.


However, over the years the avocado-green covers had become stained and faded by sunlight. We looked for years for replacement covers and couldn’t find any. We also tried a variety of other chairs but none were as comfortable as these. They are also much sturdier than many chairs owing to their oak frame. The slipcovers are complex and would be very time-consuming to reproduce. So we decided to overdye them with an indigo dye. We calculated all of the chemicals needed and purchased the dye and chemicals from Dharma Trading. Taking advantage of the heat and the day off, we spent much of July 4 stirring and washing the slipcovers. We are delighted with the results. They feel and look like dark-wash indigo linen that has a really nice patina. We knew they wouldn’t look brand new but would have a soft wabi-sabi look that fits with our casual home. The color is crisp and perfect for us. Most of all we’re thrilled to be able to extend the life of the chairs and not add anything to a landfill.

If you are interested in doing something similar, read up on the many online tutorials first. If there’s top-stitching on your piece, assume that it’s polyester and will not take the dye. Our covers are top-stitched with a green thread so we planned the overdye color to work with the green topstitching and it does. Also stick to an analogous color in a dark value if possible; indigo over avocado green yields a deep dark blue that’s slightly greener than the original dye. A deep red would likely have yielded an earthy brown. Natural fibers take overdye the best so our 100% cotton slipcovers were the perfect candidate for this project. We did our dyeing in our garage for easy stirring, rinsing and cleanup. At some point, we’ll sew new slipcovers but for the interim, this was a great solution for us.