Smile, You’re on “Sewing With Nancy”

Nancy Zieman host and producer of The Sewing With Nancy Television Show

Smile, You’re on “Sewing With Nancy”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Perhaps the question that most of you want to ask me, but are afraid to do so, has nothing to do with fabric and thread. The topic—my face! Obviously, I’m not symmetrical. My eye and mouth on my right side have a partial paralysis called Bell’s Palsy—it happened (due to an ear infection) when I was a toddler; I was just over one year old.

During the 1950’s the treatment was to “wait it out–it will get better.” A high percentage of people recover from this paralysis. I wasn’t so lucky. As a child I was extremely self-conscious, my mom most recently told me that she prayed that I wouldn’t become introverted. Her prayers were answered.

Not being the cheerleader or prom court type—that was the ultimate goal in high school, I turned to creating with fabric and thread. Winning a ribbon at the county fair or a prize through the Make It Yourself with Wool contest, required skill not looks. Sewing became my outlet, passion, and eventual career.

The path between 4-H sewing and producing/hosting Sewing With Nancy is very convoluted. It has taken me through many turns, detours, and interesting byways. I’ve learned to realize that what I teach and how I teach via TV and DVD is what you’re most interested in seeing.

Being a public figure with a facial paralysis has prompted many people to write and ask questions when a friend or loved-one is stricken with a comparable paralysis. Sometime I kiddingly say to my staff that I’m the Bell’s Palsy Poster Child. I’m happy to hold this self-imposed job.

One of my suggestions when contacted by a viewer is to contact a Neuromuscular Retraining Clinic; I went through retraining treatments in the 90’s. Since I’m not qualified to give medical advice—isn’t that a good thing—I recently invited Dr. Justin Sattin, Neurologist and Medical Director of theUW Health Comprehensive Stroke Program, to be my guest for a Nancy’s Corner segment on Sewing With Nancy. Dr. Sattin explained the differences between the onset of a stroke and Bell’s Palsy, plus treatment options. You can watch that interview on the first program of Landscape Quilting Workshop DVD and TV show (program #2417). Wisconsin newspapers also featured tidbits of my interview with Dr. Sattin. Here’s a link to the newspaper interview written by Jane Burns.

Nancy with guest, Dr. Justin Sattin, medical director of UW Health's Comprehensive Stroke Program.

The reason for sharing this information is to answer a question, pass along information, and give encouragement. A letter written many years ago, that I’ve kept when I question whether or not I should be on TV, reads as follows:

Dear Nancy, This has nothing to do with sewing but about your inspiration to me while I was recovering from an operation. I had a weakness on the left side of my face and my mouth badly drooped. So your face was the first one I imagined and for the whole six days I was in the hospital I kept saying, “If Nancy can do it, so can I.”

When we’re taping Sewing With Nancy, the floor director counts me into each segment by saying, “Take a deep breath and smile.” I give you the best smile I can. After all, most of us deal with one issue or even two—I just happen to wear mine!

Nancy’s autobiography—Seams Unlikely

Seams Unlikely, an autiography by Nancy Zieman of Sewing With Nancy

Since the first posting of this blog, I have written an autobiography, Seams Unlikely. For more information, click here to read about the book.

Bye for now,

Content in this feed is © copyright 2011 by Nancy Zieman and may not be republished without written permission. You’re welcome to forward the email to a friend or colleague but it’s not okay to add the RSS feed automatically as content on a blog or other website.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  • Harriet Campbell
    February 15, 2011

    Thanks for sharing I know it is hard when I was 9 I was run down with a run away car I had a lot of head injurys and lost every that I had learn it has been a long and hard road because some of it has never can back I am thankful that my husband has been great and has help me alot Happy

  • Barb
    February 15, 2011

    Nancy ~ you are indeed an inspiration for so many of us and for so many reasons.  I, too, wash stricken with Bell’s Palsy about 4 yrs ago.  I actually knew what it was only because of you ~ and getting to meet you several years before, where you spoke about Bells.
    I was lucky that I realized immediately what was happening and got to a doctor who immediately started me on meds and physical therapy.  It was about 90% gone in just about a month or so.  The other 10% will probably remain with me forever… showing more when I am tired.
    Thanks again ~ for always being so forthcoming.

  • Patricia Hersl
    February 15, 2011

    I love your smile. I remember reading about your Bell’s Palsy in one of your books. You are so right. We all have something. I think it just shows that beauty shines. You are well loved.

  • judi Cabanaw
    February 15, 2011

    I always wondered what it was that cause you smile the way it is.  You are truly an inspiration to all.  I find over the years I realized I never “saw ” your face as different I focused solely on what you are saying about the show subject.  I was learning that your face didn’t matter as much as what you were saying.  Wow it was a revelation I didn’t realize untill I recently read your story.   Keep up the good work 

  • Shirley Clark
    February 15, 2011

    You are definitely an inspiration for many! My son had Bell’s Palsy nearly 2 years ago at the age of 31. He was so miserable, but never missed a day of work. We were so thankful that he didn’t have any lasting effects. Of course, now they have medications for you to take.
    Thanks for sharing your story. I think I had read this before, but I’m glad to hear it from you.

  • Jean Bradford
    February 15, 2011

    Thanks for sharing, Nancy. I have always wondered, but very much admired you for all you’ve accomplished despite physical appearances. If only everyone could be so self confident! You are a marvel, and the rest of us are thankful for your expertise and knowledge. Keep it up!

  • Ruby
    February 15, 2011

    Thanks for sharing your story.  Yes, most of us have 1 or 2 issues we are dealing with — I say it is Life.  I do enjoy your shows, your teaching and will probably never get to meet you in person but you and your service have reached more people than you will probably ever know about.  Keep up the good work.  MS Hugs

  • Debra
    February 15, 2011

    Nancy all I can say is that you are BEAUTIFUL inside and out!!!!  Keep up the EXCELLENT Work!!!

  • Kelly Sas
    February 15, 2011

    I never knew your Bell’s Palsy story.  It is just one more piece to the amazing Nancy Zieman. Thank God your mom’s prayers were answered!  I can’t imagine the world without Nancy Zieman and Nancy’s Notions.

  • Emily Schroeder Orvik
    February 15, 2011

    Nancy –
    You’re wonderful – one of Wisconsin’s best exports! Thank you so much for always being kind and gracious and inspiring. Thank you so much for being you and an inspiration to so many. Can’t wait for the spring event in Beaver Dam!

  • Diane
    February 15, 2011

    Thank you for sharing that Nancy.  As a retired dental professional I’ve seen a few cases of Bell’s Palsey.  Fortunatly there are treatments nos.  I for one am grateful you didn’t let the side effects hamper you, since I’m a big fan. 

  • Diane
    February 15, 2011

    Thank you for sharing that Nancy.  As a retired dental professional I’ve seen a few cases of Bell’s Palsey.  Fortunatly there are treatments now.  I for one am grateful you didn’t let the side effects hamper you, since I’m a big fan. 

  • Valerie
    February 15, 2011

    I have been watching you teach for years. I look forward to your show each week! You’ve been such an inspiration to me. I have scoliosis and in school wore a Milwaukee brace which is from chin to hips, but I too found one of the loves of my life while wearing it, sewing! Keep smiling, we love you!

  • Gayle
    February 15, 2011

    Nancy, I honor you so much for sharing your journey.  You are very inspiring, both as a human being, and as a teacher.  You are a real Light in the world!

  • Lucy Barron
    February 15, 2011

    Isn’t it wonderful how something that could have been so crippling to you, gave you the drive and inspiration to be a superstar in the sewing, embroidering and craft world!  I have seen your show off and on since the ’80s, and sometimes purchased notions from you back then.  But in 2007, I got back into sewing BIG time and added embroidering.  I was so excited to see that, yes, Nancy was still here for us sewing people; and I will be here for many years to buy your books and products.  Your shows, books, tips, and online store have been instrumental in my own success at developing my hobby skills; and I know so many others who feel the same way.  In this economy, so many people are coming back to sewing and do-it-yourself crafting.  Just your being around will help them.  I wish to thank you so very much and hope you will be around for many more years to come!

  • Christine
    February 15, 2011

    I have to tell you your my inspiration!I was born with 4 AVM’s in my brain, I was told that where there at in my brain I cannot have them removed.  But, one day watching your show, I thought if Nancy can do it, so can I. Now sewing is my passion, I have a home based bussiness and just love it!!! Thank you Nancy!!

  • MaryLouise
    February 15, 2011

    Thank you Nancy for sharing with us. I think you are so pretty and appreciate your program SEW MUCH!! Oh yes, keep smiling…… makes me smile : )

  • Gena Harakal
    February 15, 2011

    Nancy, Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.  I am a firm believer that everyone does indeed have their own cross to bear.  Personally, I stutter and have a hard time speaking when I imagine that everyone is looking at me.  I also can’t speak as fluidly as others.   You are an inspiration for imperfection in all.  Carry On and Sew Stuff!!  I love what you do.

  • Ellen
    February 15, 2011

    Not sure I have anything additional, but want to add my THANKS to you for what you have given to me.  Your instructions make projects easy.  You ‘glow’ – can’t believe your director has to remind you to breathe and smile.  You are a national treasure!

  • Cindy Crawford
    February 15, 2011

    When I first starting watching your program years ago…I knew…without being told that you’d had Bell’s. When I was in my early 30’s…20 years ago now…I experienced a sudden paralysis on the left side of my face that turned out to be Bell’s Palsy. I’d never even heard of Bell’s Palsy! There was no treatment and I was advised that it usually resolves itself. So that’s what I assumed would happen. I had just started a new job managing a fabric store on the North Shore in Massachusetts. I went to work with only half my face working; half smile and one eye that didn’t completely close.  You know…not one customer ever stared or even looked at me strangely. They were totally focused on all the lovely inspirational fabric and notions in the store.  I was home with “my” fabric!  Luckily for me, it did resolve itself completely in a few weeks time. But the outlet of color, fabric and creativity that I was fortunate to be surrounded by, helped me through that anxious time. You are an inspiration to us all on so many levels. I can’t thank you enough for all that you have taught me. Please never stop!!!

  • Lynnie
    February 16, 2011

    Thank you for sharing your story, it was inspirational! I have watched your show from the beginning…these days my husband wakes me up on Saturday morning with coffee and the remote so I won’t miss “Sewing With Nancy”.  He’s a keeper! (So are you).

  • Barbara Landi
    February 16, 2011

    Of course I was a little curious about your facial issue when I first started watching your show.  But after several shows, I gotta say I just didn’t see it any more.  I am glad now to know the cause.  But honestly it is such a small part of who you are and the job you do.  I’ve learned so much and been very inspired by you and your show.

  • Mardell Grayhek
    February 16, 2011

    Thank you for sharing. I have wondered what  your story is but to tell you the truth I haven’t noticed the Bells Palsey for a very long time. I guess it is like having a good friend that is so honest and giving that one only sees what is inside. Your talent has been a good thing for you and must have been a boon in your youth. I love the lessons I have learned over the years from you, not only the sewing but also the way you care for other projects the women have taken on for the good of others.

    I wish that I could attend the Sewing Expo in March. It is only about 275 miles and maybe I can swing it. The schedule and list of vendors looks like quite a bit for a first timer.  However, it would be great to take a live class from you!

  • Julie Blake
    February 16, 2011

    Dear Nancy,
    In a country that has seen, and continues to see in some areas, prejudice and segregation of people of color, people with mental illness, and people with disabilities, I think, and hope, that we are now more knowledgeable, and, hopefully, more understanding.
    I think it wonderful that you put yourself out there as a role model for others. I think, though, what is most important is that unless someone else mentions it, I don’t notice the paralysis – it is you, Nancy.
    We still have a long way to go to full acceptance, (models and their unreasonable figures are at the forefront of my mind), but with your beautiful face, your personality, and your wonderful teaching skills, along with your obvious love for your fellow man, as shown in many Nancy’s Corner articles, maybe we are one step closer to believing we are all the same – human beings.
    Thank you Nancy.

  • Jeanne
    February 16, 2011

    Nancy, you are such an inspiration to everyone, so creative with your sewing talent.
    I myself have had bell’s since the early 80’s, I cover it up with glasses. It affects my eye more than my mouth. I went to a neurologist once who said that he would cut the good side to match the bad side, really! I was in my early 20’s when it happened so it was real hard to be a young woman with a lopsided face. My roommates used to sneak in my room to watch me sleep with one eye open. Stress and fatigue affect me the most.
    Once I met a stranger on the street, a woman who had a scar on her throat and a paralyzed face and I talked with her about it, and she had no chance to recover since her nerves were cut during surgery.
    Have you ever tried electrical stimulation such as a TENS unit to excercise the paralysed side? When I have the time to do it it helps me a bunch.
    Your husband must be a gem because he saw what was inside and not what is on the outside.
    I sent 41 little dresses for africa to you last month!,
    You are amazing,
    Thank you Nancy,

  • Margaret C.
    February 16, 2011

    Dear Nancy,
    It’s funny, when I read the 1st sentence of this blog – I said … “That’s me!  I want to know.”  What a testimony of the power to overcome what life threw at you at such an early age.  Truly, you are an inspiration to many of us.  I personally learn so much from your shows & enjoy Sewing with Nancy regularly!
    Again, thanks for sharing and being so open!  You are a beautiful woman & certainly blessed with a special gift, which you freely share!
    Margaret C.
    Baton Rouge, LA

  • Suzanne Miles
    February 18, 2011

    Nancy, you have made incredible “lemonade” with your life, and we sewers are the beneficiaries!  I love your show. You inspire me to try new techniques with your clear easy to follow instructions, and I’m always amazed at the depth and breadth of your knowledge.

  • Nancy Anderson
    February 20, 2011

    Hello Nancy,
    I am one of your many fans and have watched your wonderful teaching for many years now. Thank you for sharing your story. I knew you had some paralysis, but didn’t know the cause of it. You’re very brave and kind to share this info, plus bring on a doctor that can inform others about it. I love your teaching and your talent! My golly, you are so good at all sewing methods: clothes, quilts, decorating, pattern fitting–all of it!!! Thank you so much for sharing your talents and skills with the rest of us who don’t have it–I’m certainly one of them. I tune into your show to learn about sewing! And you teach so much and have a heart of gold–where true beauty is stored. I agree with many of the other ladies: Your BEAUTY shines through the TV!

  • Jeannette Brown
    February 26, 2011

    I too had Bells Palsy in 2007.  I woke up one morning with it.  Luckily I was able to see a doctor within a few hours.  He started me on the Valtrex plus Prednizone which was probably why I have no paralysis left, just a tiny droop on my right eyebrow.  I felt like a fool when I tried to talk, as some letters I just couldn’t pronounce as it also affected the muscles in my mouth, plus the right side of the face.  I noticed it on you when watching your show, but didn’t realize how long you had the palsy.  I thoroughly researched it on the internet, and found that it was better to wait for several weeks before attempting facial exercises.  After about a week, I was feeling muscle twitches and within one month most of the paralysis was gone.  Hope this lets people who get Bells Palsy to get you medication ASAP as this helps to get it reversed.  Enjoy your show whenever I have time to watch it.

  • Pat Beesley
    February 26, 2011

    Thank you so much for sharing your story.  I find sewing to be my outlet as well and spend so many hours in what I call “sewing room therapy.”  Please know your beauty shines far beyond any physical attribute and your teaching skills are superb.  I appreciate every one of your episodes because I learn so much.  Please keep teaching us for years and years. 

  • Marsha
    February 28, 2011

    I too had Bells Palsy . It happened this summer when I contracted a severe case of Lyme’s Disease. It was devastating, but fortunately I was able to recover to a point where no one could tell. I have admired you, Nancy for many years, and admire you even more for “going public”.  as a healthcare worker, and as a person, I know what it is to overcome hurdles like this to live our best life. I am sure you inspired so many people!  Keep up the good work!!

  • Wendy Zick
    August 1, 2012

    Thank you for being so open about your condition. You have so many wonderful projects! You are an inspiration for all of us.

  • Barbara Wilson
    March 17, 2013

    Not about your face just wanted to say thank you for gettinf me so excited about sewing. You did what my grandmother tried for years. I feel like i grew up with you and now our girls watch and create right along with me! Thank you for the many many years of inspiration you’ve brought into my familys life.

  • Laura
    May 11, 2013

    Hi there, I thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us. 2 months ago my sister underwent radiation and chemo treatments that has left her with nerve damage in her face. She is a health educator and I have not been able to find the right motivation to encourage to return to work. … until now.
    We moved to our new home in January 2013 and decided not to get cable or satellite TV so we now use our ROKU. I found some of your shows last night and I am so thrilled. I was watching your 30th anniversary program and can’t believe you showed a clip for the cooking segment where you made a pasta. I remember that show and thought how cool to take it full circle. I have quite a bit of VHS tapes of Sewing with Nancy that I recorded. I wanted to share a quick story with you. When my second oldest son was in high school he told his home economics teacher (which had a different name) that I sewed. She asked if I would take over her class while attending a one hour meeting and I of course jumped at the opportunity. The kids were making a variety of easy things, boxers, pillow, and t-shirts. As I was walking around assisting the kids I showed them easier ways to do a few things. I kept hearing but Mrs….. said to do it this way. I reassured them that a very famous seamstress taught me a better way to achieve the same, if not better, results in less time. I knew their teacher wouldn’t mind and she didn’t. I loved their excitement when tried “my way”. Thank you again for being an inspiration to so many.

  • Dana Cetz
    August 18, 2013

    Thank God you didn’t let the Bell”s Palsey keep you from sharing your awesome shortcuts for sewing. I couldn’t imagine the sewing world without you.

    You see I too have limitations and I think “If Nancy can do it I can do it too.” It’s soooo awesome how you have let your viewers aware of this condition because you do not know how many people you helped saved from more harmful effect.

  • Jamie
    September 12, 2013

    Hello, Nancy! I just want to say that ever since I have been watching you ( since 1982 ) I have thought that you were one of the most elegant and beautiful women that I had ever seen and I still think this today. Just yesterday I, after visiting your site for some tips, I remarked to my husband that you look as young and lovely as you did back in the 80’s….you must tell us your secret!

    Thank you for sharing your story, talent, elegance and beauty.

  • Deborah Cade
    November 4, 2013

    Thank you for sharing Nancy. I have also had Bells Palsey twice! The first time I was young and newly married had it on both sides of my face. I got it from sleeping in front of a fan. The second time was in 2003 and it was from having electric stimulation on my neck at a chiropractor’s office. I still have residual effects but thank goodness not the pain as it was so very painful. Blessings to you Nancy and thank you for being an inspiration to us!

  • Joyce
    December 29, 2013

    Thank you so much, Nancy. I have had residual effects from Bell’s Palsy since 2006. The right side of my mouth doesn’t move as well, and my right eye doesn’t close completely. It’s been a very difficult adjustment, as people used to tell me I was beautiful and had a lovely smile. I don’t watch TV much, but my husband told me about you and your show, and I looked it up on youtube today. When I saw you, my first thought was how beautiful you are! And how courageous, and how grateful I am to see you. You are an inspiration to people in many ways.

  • Jennifer Lodge
    January 2, 2014

    Thanks for sharing Nancy! You are beautiful!!

  • Talithia
    January 9, 2016

    Nancy you are beautiful

  • Joyce Atkinson
    January 5, 2017

    I have always love to read your books you kept going and i love it now I am now 70 year old and still your books . Right now i am use the book Sew Easy Embellishments and i love it. Keep up the good work

  • Trish Hll
    April 13, 2017

    You are so lovely and I was surprised to read that it was Bells Palsy because I had this too in my 20’s when I was working in production assembly at IBM. The doctors thought it was a virus or bacteria. It did go away in about a month. When I first woke up as saw what happened I thought I had a stroke but said to myself you are only 22 years old…not possible. Called my Mom and she came to me and took me to the ER. Also my stepson had it also when he was in Medical school and fully recovered. You have made the best of this situation by your out going personality and lovely attitude. Love your sewing shows and you have taught me to quilt. I am now making for my grandchildren “Memory Childhood Quilts”. I have found fabric of all there favorite activities and including a picture of their pets and family that I am sewing into the squares and when they go off to college I will use it as a gift so that when they get homesick for family and pets they can have it on their dorm room bed to cheer them up and remind them of their Lovely childhood and family.

  • Elaine Mcpherson
    April 16, 2017

    I saw ur show where u showed the embellishment needles attachment, where can I buy one?

  • Arlene
    August 30, 2017

    Im one of the lucky people who had Bell Palsy and fully recovered. It just happened over night and I woke with left side of my face all drooping. Thought it may have been a stroke but turned out to be Bell’s Palsy. Your a beautiful lady doing a beautiful job thank you for all your inspiration

  • Marsha Grady Gonzalez
    February 24, 2018

    Hello Nancy, my name is Marsha Grady Gonzalez of New Orleans, Louisiana, and I have been watching your show for decades. I enjoy it tremendously and have learned so much.

    Nancy could you revisit and present the “Tippy” Doll on a future show. She is from the late eighties or early nineties. I lost the doll and the pattern in Hurricane Katrina in 2005. I have two granddaughters now and would like to make one for each of them.
    Thank you for being the lovely and talented lady that you are. God bless.

Post a Comment