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I’m finishing up the details and packing for the quilting cruise. I’m very excited and can’t wait until tomorrow morning. . . although setting the alarm for 2:45am is a bit terrifying!

Over 100 excited quilters will be joining us. I can’t wait to get started.

I love the ocean and I love the Caribbean. The colors of the water are like none I’ve seen.


I’ve always wondered why the colors are such a beautiful blue/green. From the research I’ve done, I’ve discovered several reasons.

#1: The color and depth of the sea floor. The Caribbean is very shallow compared to the Atlantic ocean, and it has very white or light-colored sand, which reflects the sunlight back up better. The combination makes the water a distinct blue color.

#2:  There is less iron in the Caribbean waters. Algae grows with iron in the water. Also, the colder water creates more iron to release into the ocean.

#3:  The answer is scientific: Light absorption colors the water. Sunlight, composed of electro-magnetic radiation ranging in color from red to blue, is scattered by particles suspended in the water. The shorter blue wavelengths scatter more effectively and are absorbed less rapidly than the longer red and orange wavelengths. Seawater appears blue for about 100 feet under the surface, then becomes black with the absence of light. In essence, sunlight performs a tango on the water to account for the brightly colored Caribbean Sea. (By contrast, the Red Sea is red because it contains algae that release reddish-brown pigments; the Yellow Sea is yellow because rivers fill it with mud; and the Black Sea is black because it is essentially landlocked, resulting in little oxygen except near the surface and a bottom filled with hydrogen sulfide.)

Whatever the reason, the blue of the Caribbean is hard to describe. The blue is an almost mystically lucid blue, the blue of watercolors.

I’m often asked, where do I get my inspiration?  It is all around me!  The color of the caribbean has inspired several of my fabric collections:

NL002505  Shade Cascade

I’m often asked, where do I get my inspiration?  It is all around me!  The color of the Caribbean has inspired several of my fabric collections:

   2008-3  Essence by Karen Combs

It has even influenced some of my quilts!

Celtic Vision by Karen Combs

Celtic Vision by Karen Combs, from book, Celtic Pieced Illusions by Karen Combs.


Interesting where a cold, gray day can lead! 

I started this quilt several months ago when it was cold, wet and dreary outside. I wished for summer and let that inspiration lead me. The quilt, Summer Dream was the result. (Posted in “gloomy outside, cheery inside”  and  “the quilt glows“)

I just got the quilt back from my Terry, my Long-Arm quilter and she did a fantastic job!  (Terry Dramstad from Quilts, Ink. in Cooperstown, North Dakota)


I used my Shade Cascade™ fabrics for perfect shading from light to dark. The shading gives the quilt a beautiful illusion of depth and movement. The colors I used are Sky, Glow and Pansy.




The pattern is now on my website. . . You never know where inspiration will lead. I wonder what is next?

As a traveling teacher, packing and unpacking are part of my job. As soon as one trip is over, another is upcoming. For the few weeks, I’ve been making lists and packing for Spring Market. Everything has to be shipped tomorrow, so I’m getting down to the wire.

This year Spring Market will be held in Portland, Oregon. It is a beautiful city.  It has a population of over 2 million residents. The city covers 130 miles and is listed as the cleanest city in the U.S. Companies such as Nike, Adidas and Intel fuel the local economy.  Portland is located an hour from the Pacific Ocean and is close to Mount Hood. (Check out the link for the Mount Hood web cam!)

There is always lots to do, to prepare for Market. I’ll be doing two Schoolhouse Sessions: Secrets of the Selvage and Creating Quilts of Illusion.

I will debut new colors in my Gilded Greenery collection.


And my new collection called Nami will also debut.


Often I am asked, “How do you design fabric?” Sometimes I am inspired by a concept, sometimes a texture, sometimes by a need I see as a quilter. Many different things inspire my fabric and quilt designs.

For Nami, I was inspired by antique and traditional Asian textures. To give the collection a clean, yet traditional feel, I used the combinations of indigo/white, black/white, red/white and red/black.

In order to have designs that worked well together, I selected curvilinear designs and geometric designs. These play well off each other and can be used together in a quilt.

The three curvilinear designs are:


The floral designs are inspired from traditional Asian textures. The wave design is inspired from an antique kimono texture.

The three linear designs are:


Each of these designs were directly inspired by traditional Sashiko quilting patterns. In the third design, the stitching lines show.

What is Sashiko?
Early 18th Century, the wives of Japanese farmers, fishermen and lumberjacks made warm garments by stitching     two pieces of heavy fabric together. They used fine running stitches throughout the entire garment. At first, the    stitching was used for reinforcing and repairing damaged fabrics but later became more decorative. The cotton fabric was dyed very dark blue with the root of a native plant. We know this color as indigo.

By the end of the century, this particular style of stitchery was known as “SASHIKO”. Around the late 19th Century, sashiko appeared in cities. The style was adopted for warmth but the stitching designs became more elaborate.

I created this kimono quilt as a free project giveaway for this collection. Be sure to ask for your shops to order Nami and ask for the free project sheet.


 I also played with Nami and Gilded Greenery in this quilt, Celtic Vision from my book, Celtic Pieced Illusions.

 I used the Cinnamon and Saffron colorways from Gilded Greenery and three textures Nami in this quilt. I think it is an amazing combination!

I’ve just gotten my sample cuts from my new fabric collection, Nami.  For Spring Market, I’ve also added new colors to my Gilded Greenery collection. These sample cuts have also just arrived.

I’m so pleased with both collections! In the past few days, I’ve been working on quilts and samples for Spring Market and my Schoolhouse presentations.

studio Here’s a look into my sewing studio. You can see the infamous “fabric closet” on the back wall of the studio. This is the one I cleaned out this weekend.

I usually spread out when I work. I have two different cutting stations. This one is on my Koala sewing cabinet. I have the Koala Quilt Mate III. I’ve had it for about four years, don’t know what I did before I had it!

studio I’m working on the blocks for one of the Market quilts. If you look closely, you will see my constant companion, Cocoa in his bed, under the table.

Cocoa- snow

Several weeks ago, he enjoyed playing in the snow!

 I have some of my favorite notions out while I’m working.

Clover .07mm mechanical pencil I LOVE the new .07mm mechanical pencil by Clover. It is a fine tailor’s chalk and is perfect for marking.

Ewesful pin cushion I also love my wool Ewesful  pincushion. The lanolin in the wool keeps my pins sharp and I never have to worry about the pins rusting.

studioHere’s a look at my other cutting station and my Block Butler design wall. The quilt on the wall is in progress and uses two textures from the new Nami collection and two new colors from Gilded Greenery.

Nami and Gilded GreeneryAnother sneak peek at two textures in my new Nami line as well as two new colors in my Gilded Greenery collection.  Gilded Greenery Saffron and Cinnamon – I LOVE the rich colors of these new colorways. (There are more colors, but I’ll show those later.)

Gilded Greenery - Danube A close-up of the Gilded Greenery texture.

If you look in the corner of the photo above, you will see a basket with work in progress. Here another sneak peak at a 3-D cube in a 4th dimension. I’m playing around with this and hope to have more time to dedicate to this concept later.


All the warm weather has put me in the mood for some spring cleaning! My fabric closet in my sewing studio was a mess! I could not find anything and I was getting pretty cranky about it.

This weekend, I decided to tackel my sewing studio. After about 15 hours of cleaning, sorting and weeding out, I finally finished! What a beautiful sight!

fabric closetHere is the closet, all sorted and beautiful!

shelf of Gilded GreeneryThis shelf holds my Gilded Greenery and Essence collections. Now, I can find the colors I need, as I design quilts for these collection.

Gilded Greenery - Danube Gilded Greenery – color Danube

Essence - Arctic Essence – Arctic

Sewing StudioThe next shelf holds my blue, green, black and white fabrics.  (Hmm, looks like I need a few more blacks and whites!)

sewing studioThe third shelf holds my teal, yellow and orange fabrics.

sewing studioOn the top shelf, I have my hand painted, sun screen and hand dyed fabrics. I decided to store these fabrics in these see through bins. It makes the fabrics easy to find and keeps them neat.

sewing studioOn the side of the closet, I’ve stored my previous fabric collections. I try to keep some of each fabric, so I always have a reference. I also have batting at the top of the closet.

sewing fairy, guarding the fabricNotice the “sewing fairy”, she is guarding the fabric. Don’t mess with her!

I also sorted my Koala notions cabinet. I can finally find all my stuff!

sewing studioThe thread drawer.

sewing studioNotions drawer – all organized!

sewing studioThe rest of my closet has also been cleaned out. I love to use baskets to keep things sorted. The stuffed animals are for fun!

sewing fairyAnother sewing fairy guards this side of the closet!

 I’ve also been working on quilts for my new fabric collection, NAMI.

Here is a sneak peak. We will be debuting this collection at Spring Market. As we get closer to the release, I’ll show more of the textures and colors.

Be sure to ask your local quilt shop for Nami, designed by Karen Combs.

Nami - indigoNami is a oriental inspired collection. This is the wave design, inspired by an antique Japanese texture. This is the indigo and white colorway.

Nami - white Nami in the black and white colorway.

Nami - black and red colorwayNami in the red and black colorway.

Karen Combs is a internationally known quilt teacher, author and fabric designer. Visit her web site at

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