This past May, I headed to Salt Lake City for Quilt Market, including a Schoolhouse presentation for Stitch by Stitch. I was excited and nervous (in part because I had to track down all the samples from the book and was in the middle of moving, so figuring out where everything actually was turned out to be a little stressful), and then I learned that I’d be presenting immediately following Nancy Zieman. Which is a lot like finding out that you’re a mid-season replacement sitcom that will be airing immediately after “Friends,” circa 1997. Which is to say, it’s awesome if you’re good, but it kinda kicks you in the gut if you’re not. But, you know, no pressure.
Nancy Zieman, if you’re not familiar with her work (and if you fall in that category, odds are you think her name sounds pretty familiar but you can’t quite place it, because I bet twenty bucks you’ve heard of her even if you don’t think you have) has been hosting and producing Sewing with Nancy on PBS for over 25 years. She’s a powerhouse, and not only hosts her own television program but also founded Nancy’s Notions, is the author of dozens of sewing books, and is one of the most inspirational and influential members of our little sewing community. If you can sew it, Nancy has done it, and that ain’t just whistling Dixie.
So there I am, with my roller bag of samples in tow, my editor at the back of the room*, waiting my turn. I had arrived in time to see all of Nancy’s A to Z presentation, and lemme tell you: I took notes. I was so impressed by this book and what it represents, I couldn’t help but nod vigorously as Nancy made each point in her talk.
Sewing A to Z isn’t a project book. It’s a techniques book. It’s entirely designed and intended as a reference, one that organizes basic and advanced skills in a way that you can look up something to refresh yourself on how to accomplish a sewing task, or read it through in order to get some ideas for techniques you might find unfamiliar. Nancy’s signature is clear illustration (did you know she’s worked with the same illustrator for over 20 years, on each of her books?) and “Notes from Nancy” in the margins that give you tips for applying each of the skills she mentions.
Two of them made me want to jump up and shake her hand right there in the convention center–I had never seen them before, but had to work hard to get back on track with what Nancy had to say after, because I was so busy processing what she’d said and how the technique worked to listen with both ears.
First: twin-needle topstitching. So, I’ve done my share of twin-needle sewing, and I love the results that you can get. Here’s the kick: I have frequently run into trouble with the threads from the two spools getting tangled with one another, and it can be really (REALLY) irritating. Nancy pops up with her advice: “So, you just put your two spools of thread on the spool holders so they unwind in opposite directions, and the thread won’t tangle.” Say whaaaat? Yes, Virginia, it really is that simple.
Image: me geeking out on how simply I can solve an issue I assumed was simply the twin needle’s cross to bear.
Second: making perfectly (PERFECTLY) squared corners on intersecting seams, like pillowcases or the points of collars. I’m telling you, I nodded me head so hard when she walked through this technique that I thought my noggin would pop off. Never would have thought of this EVER, but it’s such an elegant approach. And what makes it even better is even Nancy admits she didn’t invent it–she learned it from looking inside factory-made pillowcases and copied the technique. Sigh.
Here it is in action–because I could describe it all day, and I don’t think you’d believe me when I say how quick and simple and cool it is, or how dramatic the results are:
Both these techniques are in Nancy’s new book, Sewing A to Z, which is available now. It is a seriously spectacular resource of techniques and tips, things that you will actually use in a format where you can access the information and remember it’s there for later. Great, clear illustrations and clean, simple instructions. No fluff, no excess, just the meat. I have full-on added it to my sewing library, right where I can reach and find it easily and often.
After Nancy’s presentation, I went to the front of the room to prepare my samples. I think I was trying to be cool (which I most decidedly am not) and nonchalant. I smiled, nodded, and finally scrounged up the chutzpah to say, “I really enjoyed your presentation.” Nancy was lovely, asked my name, complimented my samples, and was on her busy way. She’s every bit as nice as you’d hope, and doggone if she doesn’t have the sewing chops to back it up. I am now officially one degree away from Nancy Zieman, y’all. Best watch out!
Interested in winning a copy of Nancy Zieman’s Sewing A to Z and a WHOLE bunch of other really amazing prizes? Leave a comment here, and follow along on the rest of the blog tour! Lots of stops, lots of interviews with Nancy, and plenty of chances to win. Winner will be selected on September 10, 2011.
Sewing A to Z blog tour (featuring some of my very most favorite blogs!):
15-Aug Nancy Zieman’s blog
17-Aug Sew Mama Sew
18-Aug Diary of a Quilter
20-Aug Amy’s Creative Side
23-Aug Crap I’ve Made
24-Aug Eileen Roche’s blog
25-Aug I’m Just a Guy Who Quilts
27-Aug Sew Serendipity
29-Aug Lazy Girls Designs
30-Aug Pat Sloan Blog
31-Aug Tallgrass Prairie Studio
1-Sep True Up
2-Sep Sew News
7-Sep V and Co.
8-Sep The Cottage Home
9-Sep Colette Patterns