Hovde Elevates Quilting to an Art Form

Melissa Hovde with a quilt she made during a retreat held in a one-room school in South Dakota.

Melissa Hovde found that her latest quilt had made it into the finals of the national Hoffman competition last week.

Hovde explained that the material company based in California, specified that quilters had to use five of different 15 pieces of Hoffman material in designing the quilt.

The quilts selected will now go on a tour around the country. “It was my first time of entering,” said Hovde, who lives in South Dakota, and has made 100s of quilts.

This particular quilt was designed as a circle rather than a square. There were specifications for the size of the perimeters. That meant Hovde figured the perimeter of a circle to make sure the completed project met specifications.

This quilt, designed by Melissa Hovde, has been selected to be in the Hoffman finals. Part of the requirement was using specified material.

Hovde designs functional art—the kind of “cloth art,” that many may not be familiar.

The mother of three boys and the head of graphic design at GPLocal in Rapid City, Hovde began quilting in high school, when her grandmother, Noma Sazama, showed her how to do a checkboard pattern with two shades of purple.

“She showed me on a potholder how to do it,” Hovde said, and then expanded the potholder to “a queen-sized quilt.”

Over the next six years she designed and sewed quilts for high school and college friends.

Her quilts are intricately designed with an artist’s eye for color: the blankets are more like fine art–almost too beautiful to be used on a bed.

Circling the News visited Hovde in her “design studio.”  At one time it was a playroom for the three boys.

Now, it is her room. Two children are in high school and a third is in middle school. Her husband Erick simply calls the room the “Quilt bar.”

There was lots of material, cut in different sizes and shapes in different boxes around the room. “Quilters have a stash of fabrics,” Hovde said. “I have so many projects happening now.

“I already have three quilts in my brain,” said Hovde who tries never to throw any scraps of material away.

On one wall, a plastic tablecloth, with a cotton backing had been hung and served as a design wall. Hovde showed how different blocks can be placed and then removed to a new location, allowing a quilter to opt for best square replacement.

Melissa hangs different blocks on a the wall and then rearranges them to determine the final project.

She has a quilt tracker, which lists the different stages of the projects she’s working. Currently she has 70 quilts in different stages from “is it an idea?” to “Have I bought the material?” to “Is it ready to be blocked?”

Hovde, who after high school, won scholarships to the University of South Dakota said making quilts appeals to her mathematics and graphics arts background. She also has a keen sense of color and design.

Many people who quilt, use a pattern. Experienced quilters like Hovde are paid to test quilt patterns.

“It’s like proofreading, making sure the pattern will work,” she said.

That means someone who has designed a specific pattern, sends it to Hovde to see if it can be replicated.

One pattern she perfected involved letters. Hovde used the scraps of material from a star quilt and added that to the quilt—and then did a random pattern on the side. “The hardest part was making it not perfect,” she said.

This was part of a quilt pattern that Hovde tested.

Generally, after a quilt is completed, there are scraps of material left. “I don’t like to throw anything away,” she said and saves the pieces to possible be used in a “crumb quilt.”

She’s currently working on a pattern for a woman in Australia, using denim. “People throw so much in landfill,” Hovde said.

Her mother-in-law used to sew that family’s clothes. When she passed away Hovde rescued the material that was in her sewing basket. “I didn’t want it o go in the dumpster, “Hovde said, and then she and sewed 12 quilts for family members, in remembrance of Erick’s mom.

Each quilt is different and unique and “I tried to let the fabric talk to me,” she said.

She calls quilting her therapy, allowing her to block out stress. “It’s a mom break,” she said. “It’s relaxing to me.”

(Editor’s note: some of the following quilts Hovde made using material rescued from her mother-in-law’s sewing basket.)


(Editor’s note: the following sheet explains the cost of quilting.)

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3 Responses to Hovde Elevates Quilting to an Art Form

  1. Paula H Deats says:

    Now I see why people so cherish quilts! Works of art (the sharp isoceles triangles, the blue ones with stars and offset boxes!). No wonder we never slept under them in our grandmothers’ houses. They were collectibles. (Still are: I have 1 or 2 tattered ones to grace the beach.)

  2. K.C. Soll says:

    Thank you, Sue; shared on my F/B page.

    Would you please give a shout-out about the next (CERT) training? The next Community Emergency Response Team training starts Tuesday, January 9 (for seven consecutive evenings) from 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM (ish) at the American Legion Hall Post 223 (on La Cruz).

    The class is limited to 20 participants. Sign-ups are now being accepted. Age (+/- 15+)

    Here is the sign-up link: https://www.cert-la.com/

    Thanks for all you do, Sue.

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