Millions of women learned to sew while watching the inimitable Nancy Zieman on public television's, Sewing with Nancy. Many of them have Googled phrases like "stroke Nancy Zieman" in an effort to discover the reasons behind the partial paralysis of Nancy's beautiful face. Viewers purchased products Nancy used through Nancy's Notions, followed patterns she created for McCall's, and enjoyed meeting distinguished guests via the show. While today's Christian women read of Lydia and the Proverbs 31 woman and wonder how we can ever practice our faith so well in today's harried existence, Nancy Zieman was quietly living out her faith in Wisconsin. Her large Lutheran family ordered their lives around the farm, the seasons, and the church. As Nancy wrestled with the difficulties borne by the Bell's palsy, she also learned to rely heavily on God and believe that He had a purpose for her, a life lived to honor Him. Little did she realize that God would take a woman with half a paralyzed face and bless her with the longest running sewing show on North American television. For the first time, Nancy shares openly about the Bell's palsy that not only affected her appearance, but also her esteem and physical abilities. Readers learn about the growth of Nancy professionally: from addressing catalogs at the kitchen table to growing a multi-million dollar notions business - and personally: marrying Rich, then growing a family through birth and adoption. Through it all, the picture emerges of a hard-working woman of staunch faith who overcame various and varied obstacles to become what she is today: successful, humble, skilled, gracious, grateful and loved by millions of viewers. For any woman who has wondered how God could possibly build a purposeful life from one so unlikely, Nancy Zieman serves as a beautiful example of a life lived one step at a time, as He allows.
My grandma and mom taught me to sew; helping me make dresses and skirts from age 8 until I was hopefully proficient on my own. I never became a very good seamstress, but I do admire people who are. I know I’ve seen a few of Nancy Zieman’s sewing instruction episodes on public television at some time. Just like her book, they may be interesting and helpful...but are a little slow for a general audience.
Reading about Nancy Zieman’s 1950s childhood on her family’s dairy farm is similar to reading Laura Ingalls Wilder. We, who grew up in the suburbs and cities, have no clue about life in rural Wisconsin. Maybe we would all have benefited from working more closely with our families as children. Zieman says, “We learned their character, were witness to those challenges that concerned them, and learned how to manage as adults by watching them.” As a child, I didn’t understand what type of work my dad did or where he went all day until I was well into high school. Quotes from friends and family members pepper the margins of the pages with homegrown wisdom. Nancy’s mother says, “We never felt poor. We just didn’t have much money.”
I enjoyed reading about the daily routine and chores, about the disciplined life, about making meals and especially about participating in 4-H projects. Later, I admired Nancy’s persistence and developing business acumen. This girl from a rural farm negotiated contracts, coached production crews on camera angles, wrote books, created patterns for McCalls, and started a sewing notions company – leading it to great success, via catalog and storefront. Her husband and family worked with her and supported her every effort. She writes her story with honesty, humility, and appreciation for the joys in her life. Physical illnesses never slowed her down – although she relates how she struggled through them at times. I know I saw her program a few times, but I never noticed the childhood Bell’s palsy that affected one side of her face. I think it’s because she is such an attractive, confident, capable teacher.
Would-be seamstresses, entrepreneurial spirits, and those who like to read an account of farm life will enjoy this autobiography.
*Reviewed by Colleen*