Mary Mulari — “Never Underestimate the Power of a Woman with a Sewing Machine”

Mary Mulari

Mary Mulari

(Originally published October 2014, Inspired to SEW. Written by Rita Farro.)


One of the busiest sewing teachers in America — Mary Mulari is the author of 28 sewing books, most recently, All Occasion Fabric Wraps.

Growing up, Mary always thought she would be a teacher.  After college, she taught junior high English.  She and her husband also had a retail sporting goods store in Aurora, Minnesota where they sold sweatshirts.  In an effort to boost sales at their store, Mary was inspired to create a sweatshirt decorating class for local community education.  The classes became so popular, she self- published her first book, Designer Sweatshirts.

Mary Mulari and Nancy Zieman

Mary Mulari and Nancy Zieman

At that time, Nancy Zieman was living in Minnesota and she was also teaching community ed classes.  They became friends and stayed in touch after Nancy moved back to Wisconsin.  When Nancy started her mail-order notions company, Mary sent her a copy of Designer Sweatshirts. The rest (as they say) is history!!  Mary has been Nancy Zieman’s most frequent guest on Sewing With Nancy.  To date, she has made 52 appearances.

Where do you get your inspiration for new books or topics for Sewing with Nancy?

Mary:  I am an avid reader.  I love books, magazines, and catalogs. I am always sketching, even when I’m waiting in airports or on vacation at the lake.  Sometimes the stones on the shore will inspire me, or the carpeting in a hotel will give me an idea for a new design.  I usually carry a small notebook, but sometimes I tear out an article or sketch an idea on a restaurant paper napkin, etc.  I put those sketches or notes in a large tabbed three-ring binder.

aaimage-1If you had to pick your favorite project on Sewing With Nancy — what would it be?

Mary:  The ZIPPER RIBBON TOTE.  I still remember the reaction of the college students who operate the cameras because they were fascinated by the project.  Unlike anything I’ve ever shown — it brought them out from behind the cameras to see how it worked . . . .

Mary’s sewing inspirations have morphed and changed over the years.  Her interest in turning ordinary sweatshirts into stylish fashion garments led to an enthusiasm for appliqué, and she has been credited with reinventing machine appliqué.  At some point, Mary was inspired by vintage aprons, which led to her popular best-selling line of apron patterns.  Each apron is reversible and takes two one-yard cuts of fabric.  Her most popular pattern, The Church Ladies Apron, has sold over 60,000 copies. Her newest apron is called the Family Girls Apron Pattern, with sizes for mom, grandma, daughters, and dolls, and is available at a retailer near you.


aa2014-09-17-12.54In November 2014, Mary made a guest appearance on Sewing With Nancy which focused on her new book, All Occasion Fabric Wraps.  Mary loves wraps or shawls that can be easily carried wherever you go.  Wraps also make wonderful gifts (one of her favorite topics). They are perfect for travel (she’s written several books about travel gear). They can be embellished or personalized with machine embroidery or appliqué (she is, after all, the Appliqué QUEEN). You can recycle wool sweaters or your mother’s vintage wool coat into a beautiful new wrap. (Recycling has been a recurring Mary Mulari theme for several years.)

What does sewing bring to your life?

Mary:   Sewing satisfies a need for me.  It produces a creative buzz in my life.  I don’t think there is anything more powerful and satisfying than MAKING a gift with your own hands and skills.  Sewing allows me to personalize any gift and knowing how to sew means I can fix things and solve problems.  One of my favorite quotes is, “Never underestimate the power of a woman with a sewing machine.”