The Extraordinary Founder of International Quilt Festival, Houston

In 1974, a passionate quilter with a keen instinct for business put on a small quilt fair in her home city of Houston. Earlier that year, Karey Patterson Bresenhan and her mother-in-law had opened a quilt and antique store called Great Expectations and the fair was a way of saying thank you to their customers. The store (which eventually closed in 2003) grew into one of the largest quilt stores in America and the thank you fair became the International Quilt Festival, Houston; a celebration of quilts that is acclaimed across the world and draws tens of thousands of quilt fans to the city each year.


international quilt festival houston

Karey’s initiation into the art of quilting came in 1963 when she joined her grandmother, mother, aunts, great-aunts and cousins in a 24-hour quilting bee to complete her wedding quilt. Apparently, her grandmother cautioned her to “take pretty stitches’’ as she would be waking up beneath this Touching Stars quilt for the rest of her life.

It proved to be a life-changing experience. Combining her love of the craft with her business acumen, Karey went on to be a driving force in the creation of the American quilting industry. Having launched the International Quilt Festival (IQF), there was no stopping her. She went on to found Quilts, Inc., the parent company of both IQF and the wholesale trade show, International Quilt Market. She is also a co-founder of the International Quilt Association, founding director of The Alliance for American Quilts, a co-founder of the Quilt Guild of Greater Houston, and a founder of the Texas Quilt Association. No wonder Karey was inducted to the Quilter’s Hall of Fame in 1995!


quilt exhibition houston

Celebrating quilts past and present

Karey is also an expert quilt historian and a keen collector of both antique and modern quilts. In 2011, together her cousin Nancy O'Bryant Puentes, she founded The Texas Quilt Museum in La Grange which provides a fine showcase for both antique and contemporary quilt art. She has also built an important corporate collection for Quilts, Inc. which is open for tours, and a personal collection comprising family quilts, rare antique quilts and contemporary works by quilt artists working today. But whatever collection she is sourcing for, Karey’s criterion for buying is simple: love!

Texas quilt museum
                                                                                                                                                 Texas Quilt Museum


We will be travelling to Houston to visit the extra special, 50th anniversary edition of International Quilt Festival & we'd love you to come too! Discover the holiday here