Quilt Artists Learning from Each Other: International Quilt Festival at 40

While October skies and falling leaves make most people think of pumpkins, harvest time, and Halloween, a quilt artist's fancy turns to the International Quilt Festival in Houston.

To most of us who attend (or hope to attend), Festival has always been the worldwide mecca celebrating the art of quilting, taking over three floors of the giant George Brown Convention Center for four days every year.

international quilt festival quilt scene four founders gail vernon
"The Four Founders" quilt by Gail Thomas, featuring from left: IQF founders
Karey Bresenhan, Nancy O'Bryant, Jewel Patterson, and Helen O'Bryant.

But did you know that IQF emerged 40 years ago from an antique shop run by Karey Bresenhan (IQF founder and president emeritus) and her mother-in-law?

As Karey tells it, they opened the shop to help pay debts from her unsuccessful run for state office, hanging quilt art on the walls to cover the bare spaces. When the quilts sold better than the antiques, Karey opened a quilt shop.

The first Festival was a small "thank you" event for customers with one display and one exhibitor. To Karey's surprise, 2,000 people showed up. She decided to make the Festival an annual event, and now more than 60,000 quilters flock to Houston each year to see old friends, new quilts, and to learn from each other.

For the last two years, I have been one of those pilgrims. And I can tell you the one thing I am sure to pack for my trip this year (along with comfortable shoes and a little spending money) is my camera.

I take my camera to remind me of why I go to Festival in the first place: for the inspiration that can only come from being entirely immersed in the creative quilting community.

And the community is so diverse! Take, for example, landscape quilts. You can walk through the exhibits at Festival and see landscape quilts by art quilters, modern quilters, and traditional quilters. The variations created with fabric and thread are endless, and I learn something from each one.

I'm also always on the look-out for new art quilters, contemporary quilters, and modern quilt artists to feature in our magazines, so I can share their techniques and artistry with all of you.

If you've never been to Festival, I sincerely hope you can attend one day. In the meantime, I'm pleased to join with Karey in bringing you the latest edition of International Quilt Festival: Quilt Scene.

Each year in Quilt Scene, we do our best to immerse you in the flavor and texture of Festival with pictures of award-winning quilt art, articles and how-tos on the latest techniques and projects, modern art quilt patterns from up-and-coming quilt artists, and, most of all, the energy and joy of being with other people who quilting art as much as you.

If you can't join us to celebrate 40 years of IQF in Houston this year, I hope you will raise a glass of something bubbly while you enjoy the 2014/15 issue of International Quilt Festival: Quilt Scene

P.S. Have you ever attended Festival in Houston? If not, where do you go to learn from and enjoy the company of other quilters? Leave your comment below.


Other topics you may enjoy:


Art Quilt, International Quilt Festival Quilt Scene, Quilting Daily Blog

4 thoughts on “Quilt Artists Learning from Each Other: International Quilt Festival at 40

  1. I’ve never been to IQF but in Grand Rapids MI we had an AQS show in August and West Michigan Quilt Guild show this past weekend. Inspiration exploded from both shows. I’m going to print the pics I took and keep them in a album for inspiration. Enjoy IQF. I learn a lot from your articles. Thanks for the work you do to inform readers about the creative life.

  2. Lucky me because I live in Houston. I went for the first time in 2007… Thought 8 died and gone to heaven! It changed my creative process and i’ve met so many inspiring people,!

  3. I haven’t ever been to Houston, but have enjoyed quilt shows in Atlanta, Duluth, Raleigh,& Charlotte. I am always overwhelmed by quilt displays. Victoria Findley Wolfe and Bonnie Hunter are two authors whom I follow.