February 2010
4-H Extension Corner

Goat Coats from Angel’s Wings

 

Pam Dean can embroider show dates, dates of birth, special awards or any other message on her custom-fitted animal coats.

Someone once said the best way to be a success in business is to find a need and fill it.

But Pam Dean also knows that sometimes you FIND that need when you’re on an entirely different path!

Pam began her business, Angel’s Wings, primarily as a tribute to her late mother, Grace Robinson, who instilled a love for sewing into Pam’s psyche when Pam was just a child. Pam had no way of knowing the soft, cuddly blankets and other items she sews and embroiders for babies and others would morph into custom-made coats for goats and other animals!

While Grace was hampered by severe asthma and other health problems, she sewed all sorts of things like the cheerleader outfits, band uniforms, color guard and other needs for students at Tarrant High School in Jefferson County.

Pam shows how to embroider a special animal’s name and other statistics on their custom-made coats.

 
   

"They would just come to our house and Mother would sew," Pam remembered. "When I was about ten, she really started me sewing, both by hand and on the machine. Hemming and things like that.

"When I was in the seventh grade taking home economics, we had to make a jumper and model it in a fashion show. I brought mine home and my mother made me take the entire thing apart and resew it ‘correctly.’ I finished about 5:15 the morning of the show. Mother had a few things to say to that teacher about teaching us to sew correctly!" Pam laughed.

"Mother had a natural talent. She’d look at a dress in a store or in a catalog, lay out some newspaper and cut out a pattern to fit whoever she was making it for.

"When I was Rifle Captain in the band and my sister was Color Guard captain, mother made all of our outfits like that," Pam recalled.

 

Flaco models his custom-made goat coat (front view, below, and side view).

 

While Pam modestly said she didn’t inherit her mother’s talents, her creations featured in her shop beg to differ.

Pam worked for the Jefferson County School System in Pinson Elementary’s library for 27 years. During that time she had also been sewing and embroidering from home.

She and her husband, George, who works for Alabama Power, now live on 60 beautiful acres situated partly in Blount and partly in Etowah Counties atop Straight Mountain. She began Angel’s Wings about 19 months ago and spends her time between designing, embroidering and making things for the public and her two little "angel" granddaughters, MaddiLynn and GraceAnn Dean.

She’s even embroidered ribbons used by the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders in cheering camps thanks to word-of-mouth, from one friend, who knew another friend, who knew another….

And that’s kind of the way the "goat coats" started as well.

Tracy Martin was visiting with Pam and Donna Blackwood at Quilting and Such next door. She mentioned problems she was having trying to keep her 12-year-old pet goat, Flaco, warm in the colder months.

Flaco has a benign throat tumor that grows out instead of in, making fitting any type of non-customized blanket or goat coat a problem. Flaco’s health has also caused him to loose a lot of his hair, emphasizing the need to keep him extra warm.

Dr. Joe Hastings in Oneonta has sent samples of Flaco’s tumor to Auburn University and it is so rare even the Auburn specialist were perplexed.

Meanwhile, Flaco just keeps contentedly eating and roaming around the Dean’s farm with Tracy’s other eight goats. (When Tracy is not tending her farm, she is a regionally-known artist utilizing scrap metal for unusual sculptures!)

Tracy explained, "Goats ARE addictive. I had a goat when I was a kid and then I fostered one about 18 years ago when I worked for the Shelby County Humane Society…. He was blind…"

The goat was eventually "legally evicted from my house in Birmingham," Tracy explained, "so I found my place on Straight Mountain and the rest is history. All in all, I’ve had 13 goats during my life on the mountain."

Tracy began talking to Pam and Donna about Flaco and his special needs and how a coat she’d ordered was just not large enough for him.

Pam said, "I adjusted that one and we were just allowing a little here and a little there."

Eventually, Flaco wound up with his own custom-made goat coat, with flowers, butterflies and his name embroidered on it! It has an inside layer of rainbow-colored fleece for added warmth. (While we didn’t get a photo of it, rumor has it that husband George’s modeling Flaco’s newest coat for the sewing stores’ customers was a big hit in downtown Oneonta! "He has such a great sense of humor and has been my biggest supporter," Pam noted.)

After Tracy’s urging, Pam has begun making other animal coats, which can be custom-sized for the individual goat, sheep, horse, etc. for the tiniest premature critter to a bigger, elderly animal who just needs extra warmth.

"All I need are the animal’s measurements," Pam said. "From neck to tail, from front legs to back. I guess this shows I will try anything! It can be for a tiny animal or one that is really large."

So now amidst the purses, blankets, baby outfits and other customized items inside Angel’s Wings, you may find a bright jumper featuring Velcro straps and a name like Flicka embroidered across the top for somebody’s unique equine or caprine "angel"!

"This is just the perfect job for me now in my life," Pam said. I love being here every day. There’s no hesitation every morning when I awake and know I’m going to get up and go to work here."

Pam feels her mother would be especially supportive of this new sideline for her Angel Wing’s business.

"She was never afraid of trying something new," Pam explained. "She was happiest each day if she learned something different."

Pam can be reached at Angel’s Wings on First Avenue in the historic Tin Town section of downtown Oneonta by phoning (205) 625-7410 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and from 10 a.m. til 2 p.m. on Saturdays. She can be open other times by special appointment.

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer who lives on a Blount County farm. You can reach her through her website www.suzysfarm.com.