The Indiana household retains the dream of the late lady’s seamstress alive
BEDFORD, Ind. – Pam Oldham was never concerned about how much money her sewing was making. For the experienced seamstress, it was always about the quality of the work and the satisfaction of the customers.
Her husband, Michael Oldham, said nothing makes her prouder than tearing apart a piece of clothing, changing it, and putting it back together as if it had never been touched.
“There was nothing she could do,” he said.
“I don’t think she would refuse anything,” said her daughter, Mary Elizabeth Mason. “She enjoyed the challenge.”
Sewing was Pam’s passion. She learned the intricacies of custom sewing and alterations from her mother Mary Moore in her Bedford alteration business, who worked there for 20 years. In 2016 she realized her dream of opening her own business, Pam’s Sewing and Alterations, at 1420 L St. in Bedford.
Business was good and during busy times Pam was in the store 70 hours a week.
At the end of February, Pam fell ill and had to go to the hospital. Her condition worsened and in April Pam died of complications from pancreatitis. She was 53 years old.
The shop closed as the family husband, Michael; Son Tristen; and daughter Mary Elizabeth – coped with the loss.
On Monday, Michael and Mary Elizabeth sat at sewing tables in the store reflecting on Pam’s life and love for sewing. All around her were memories of Pam. Her machine, a singer 20U, pictures of cats, walls with sewing presentations, spools of thread and zippers.
“Pam always wanted her own shop,” Michael said. “I think it was the social part of it. The family could visit her, and she had been so long that everyone knew her. ‘
Mistakes were rare, but Michael remembered a customer once bringing a brand new suit jacket to change. Pam mistakenly cut too much of her sleeves. She did her best to fix her fault on the jacket, but ordered another jacket from the store, just in case. Michael said when the customer walked in, Pam explained what had happened and showed him how she had fixed the sleeve.
“He was happy with it and didn’t want the new jacket, so she returned it,” he said. “But she was like that. She was willing to pay for the jacket. «
Last week the store reopened and Mary Elizabeth took over the seamstress.
At first she wasn’t sure she could return to the store. Mother and daughter worked together for two years, their sewing machines just a few meters apart. Mary Elizabeth was in the place her mother had spent so many hours working on everything from wedding dresses and ball gowns to suits and uniforms.
“If I’m here alone it will be difficult,” she said. “If the sewing machine breaks or doesn’t thread, I just want to ask mom for help.”
Michael tried to find a seamstress who could work in the store, but there were no buyers.
Ultimately, it was about honoring Pam and keeping her dream alive.
“The idea of coming here and tearing up your dream … well, I couldn’t do it,” Michael said.
Pam loved her customers and her customers loved her.
“I used to hate going to Walmart with her because she knew everyone and it would take me forever to get out,” Michael said affectionately.
Mary Elizabeth smiled at the memory, “It was a process when you went shopping with her.”
As a certified cat lady, Pam brought her cat Watson to work every day. The walls of the shop are decorated with photos of cats.
Michael said Watson, now retired and a cat staying home, was popular with customers, many of whom asked about him when they stopped by the store.
Another interest from Pam was the Bedford North Lawrence Marching Stars. Michael said she served as the group treasurer, providing snacks and accompanying them on band tours. Whether it was volunteering or running the business, Michael said their philosophy was the same.
“She always believed that it was important to be a good person and that you always get more in return than you give when you help others,” he said.
The sewing shop is currently open from Wednesday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. It offers fundamental changes as well as a 20% discount for work on uniforms worn by the military, police, and other first responders. A third-generation seamstress – her grandmother owns The Sewing Shop in Mitchell – Mary Elizabeth educates herself so she can provide the modification services customers request.
“It’s an honor to keep mum’s dream alive,” she said. “I just hope I can make you proud.”
Her father turned to her and smiled. “You already have that,” he said.