By Mike Ferrians
The Times 

Conversations with Mike

Dayton business owner Wendy Frame helps put the pieces together


November 19, 2020

Mike Ferrians

Wendy Frame of The Quilting Frame.

DAYTON-You can easily estimate the time it takes to machine quilt a piece of functional art, but who counts the hours of piecing it together? Or the love stitched into it? On a recent chat with Wendy Frame, of Dayton, she showed me two quilts brought to her by clients of her longarm quilting business, The Quilting Frame.

"A customer found this quilt her mother had pieced during the 1930s," she said, referring to the project he was quilting during my visit.

"She didn't know she had it. It was all hand-pieced," she said, referring to that tangible piece of intangibility.

She is using a Cotton Seed quilt pattern, popular during that era, creating a piece of textile art that represents time, nostalgia, and connection.

Frame has been a craft artist all her life. She's done it all: tole painting, cross-stitch embroidery, leatherwork, scrapbooking, beading, macramé, and of course, quilting.

"I pieced my first quilt 32 years ago," she told me.

Frame was a 4-H leader for ten years, focusing on helping kids discover the art of quilting. In July 2019, she accompanied her granddaughter, Ana, to the annual 4-H Quilt Camp at Columbia County Fairgrounds. They took their resulting pieced project to Vonda Anderson, who ran the longarm quilting business on Main Street in Dayton.

Frame was quite interested and asked questions about the process. At one point, Anderson turned to her and asked if she would like to buy the quilting machine. A week later, the computer-operated Gammell longarm quilting frame (or "bed") was in Frame's hands.

At the time, she was a demonstrator and group-project leader for the papercraft company, "Stampin' Up!". She left that behind to start her own business, The Quilting Frame. The name just made sense, she said.

She set up shop in a beautiful, converted sheep-barn at the David Frame ranch on Tucannon Road, land owned by the Frame family since the early 1960s. It also happens to be the office of American Energy, Inc., a Frame family engineering firm focusing on wind, solar, and hydroelectric energy projects nationally. The farm is a place of creative businesses including The Quilting Frame.

"So far, I just do edge-to-edge quilting," Wendy says. Custom quilting is also possible on the machine, as is manual quilting.

"I have a few smaller pieces in mind to experiment with when I'm ready to play with that," she said.

She showed me pieced projects she has found at St. Vincent's thrift store in Dayton, ready to quilt. Additionally, she has 14 projects to complete for customers. With this healthy workload, she isn't taking any new orders until January.

"I feel honored to do every piece," she said.

It takes her about 20 hours to quilt a king size bed cover, where smaller pieces may take only two hours. She carefully monitors progress as the machine operates, interrupting it to roll the quilt forward, two rows at a time. After she finishes quilting, it is up to the customer to complete the project by sewing the binding around all the edges.

Frame's "charity" work focuses on quilting lap quilts for Veterans. She charges nothing for these. Her clients are twin sisters who turn out dozens of these lap quilts. The sisters happen to be Vonda Anderson's mother and aunt and live in Burbank, Washington. They give all their donation work to Wendy for quilting.

Frame spends three days a week on the longarm, letting customers drop off and pick up projects at her home in Dayton. The computerized machine runs off a software program that includes 500 different edge-to-edge patterns. She enjoys working with customers to help them choose the design and thread for their quilting. Often, she says clients let her choose.

You can find The Quilting Frame on Facebook, where Frame posts pictures of every project she completes. She won't run out of projects anytime soon.

"Quilting is just as popular as it ever was," she says.

Clearly, it is her heart's work to help "frame" these treasures of time, skill and relationship.


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