Karey Bresenhan’s reason for opening a quilt shop was not typical. Well, in part it was—she loved fabrics and quilts. But the less typical reason was that she needed a way to pay bills generated by her run for state legislator. “It seemed perfectly reasonable to me at the time,” she says. “I enjoyed selling merchandise and I could pay off my debts. It was fun to help people make something to take pride in and enjoy the process along the way.”
It’s obvious that Karey’s a creative thinker, but the results of that thinking have surprised even her. In 1974, she held a quilt show as a thank-you gift for her Great Expectations customers (she’s since closed her shop) and 2,000 people attended. Thanks to Karey’s skills and business acumen, the event grew into what we now know as International Quilt Festival, which this year drew more than 62,000 attendees. In 1980, at the urging of a friend, she started Quilt Market to introduce shop owners to the latest and greatest products in the quilting industry. In its first year 187 retailers perused about 80 vendor booths; this year, more than 3,000 shops owners had more than 1,100 booths to tempt them. Most recently, Karey and her cousin, and Nancy O’Bryant Puentes, opened the Texas Quilt Museum in LaGrange, Texas.
That museum will be the recipient of the proceeds from Moda’s upcoming Collections for a Cause, Mill Book Series circa 1892. Moda’s founder and CEO Howard Marcus Dunn, better known as Mark Dunn, chose the museum in honor of Karey’s efforts. “I go back with Karey to Quilt Market in the late 1970s, when it was held at the Shamrock Hilton in Houston,” says Mark. “The industry wouldn’t be what it is today without it and the same is true for the International Quilt Festival. Karey’s done a lot for quilting and a lot for Texas.”
The fabrics in this collection were gleaned from mill books—volumes of actual fabric samples woven by textile mills—that Mark collects. “I have them from the 1700s and 1800s and they’re a real history of textile printing,” he says. “I always say a beautiful print is a beautiful print. Good designs don’t change—they’re timeless.” While he delights in reprinting these textiles for their visual beauty, he’s equally enamored with their history. “I’m fascinated by the way that old quilts and fabrics document the time period and mood of the people,” he says. “Reproducing them gives me an opportunity to carry them forward to the next generation.”
Karey, a fifth-generation quilter, is thrilled by both the beauty of these fabrics and by Moda’s generosity in sharing their proceeds. Her tendency to dream big continues, as she imagines the things she’d love to see at the museum. “The money can do so much: help pay for shipping to bring in special exhibitions, help us add books to our library, help us start a lecture series,” she says. “The Collections for a Cause donation will allow us to take some dreams and make them come true.”
To learn more about the Texas Quilt Museum, visit http://www.texasquiltmuseum.org.