Needles and a Pen » Knitting, Sewing, and Nursing School

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  • Welcome to my blog!

    Hi! I'm Traci. I'm a nursing student and CNA who loves quilting, knitting, cross stitch, Project Life scrapbooking, and the great outdoors. In my pre-scrubs life, I owned Real Photography, and you can still see my old wedding and portrait photography site here .

    I great big puffy heart *love* comments, so please let me know you visited! I try to always reply!

A little bit of sewing

The biggest thing I did this year was this:

IMG_8475I finished all of my nursing school prerequisites with a 4.0 and got a job as a CNA at the birth center of our local hospital.   And also I kept up to date with Project Life, which anyone can tell you is a miracle.

(This is my way of saying there wasn’t a whole lot of sewing going on.)

But, I did do a little bit of sewing.  Here’s a roundup of some of the projects that crossed my machine this last year.

A baby quilt for my bestest childhood friend’s baby:


A bunch of bags for knitting projects:


I finished my bow tie quilt top, but stalled out on making the backing.  On the list for this year!


My love of the sandpiper top pattern is pretty well established, but I took that love to new heights this year when I made half a dozen of them.  I can’t find photos of some of them, so we’ll have to break them out this summer for pics!


Louisa - I just love that quilt! I would love to hear a bit about how you made it.

Speattle - Nursing school! How exciting and congratulations on making that leap. it’s a tough curriculum for sure, but you are up for the challenge.

I graduated with a BSN from the UW in 1978.

Oh, and referring to the photo with the 3 project bags, I had a fat quarter of the same fabric used in the 2 outside edge bags and made a cute triple zip bag from it. Such a sweet print. for the tutorial in case you are ever interested.

Good to see you back at your blog. ☺

The Halloween Sewing: Homemade Frozen Costumes

While there wasn’t a ton of sewing going on last year, things did get serious for Halloween.  Like everyone else in the world, we are big Frozen fans, and so for Halloween we wanted to be a Frozen family.  Ellie already had her Elsa dress from her birthday, and Nic and I found our costumes on the interwebs.  That left Will’s Kristoff costume to make.  I couldn’t find any tutorials so I had to wing it.  I was incredibly proud of how it came out, though–I think I found the absolute perfect trim, silk sash, and the suede fabric I used for his vest along with the fur trim (which I had to order from England) really made that vest as Kristoff-like as you could get!  I also made a quilt cloak for my Anna costume, knowing that it would probably blizzard (a Halloween tradition we gratefully skipped this year).  It was down to the absolute wire, so the details weren’t quite as on point as I wanted, and I couldn’t find the right woven fabric to mimic her wool so I went with flannel, but it kept me warm and was close enough.


(Will’s boots weren’t ready for our Boo at the Zoo costume debut, but we had them ready for Halloween.  🙂  I couldn’t convince Ellie to carry a snowflake bag–she ADORES the classic pumpkin trick or treat bag, but Will was happy to carry the bag I attached to Olaf.  Added bonus–the mittens perfectly covered the cast he’d just been put in two days earlier when he broke his arm!)


knitting, a review

A little review of the knitting projects I finished since my post last year.  The biggie of the year was a sweater for Ellie:


(Plucky primo aran yarn in plie–took three skeins)

I also made two Jul pattern hats this year–I absolutely love the pattern:


(Fiber Company Acadia yarn in blueberry and Manos del Uruguay silk blend in magenta)

A cowl for Ellie


A earwarmer/headband for me


(Plucky traveller aran in fondant)

And several other works-in-progress that hopefully will see their time on the blog soon!

lucky find quilt

Hey look at that!  Exactly one day shy of a year since my last post and here I am again!  It’s been so long I couldn’t even remember the url to log in to write this post.

Anyway, the last year has been devoid of blog posts but not of crafting.  Let’s start with this quilt.  I found the top while cleaning out the studio closet a few weeks ago.  I’d completely forgotten about it.  Completely.  But I was inspired to quilt and bind it and here it is, all pretty and crinkley!


Made from a few Strawberry Fields charm packs from Moda, it’s a nice lap quilt size.  I used a light taupe for the back and a taupe and white striped binding I already had made (leftovers from another quilt binding).  My first choice would have been a binding that popped, but you can’t beat bias binding already made!

Emotionally Surviving Anatomy & Physiology

(warning: cadaver image in this post is likely not work or child friendly)

About 30 minutes into Anatomy & Physiology 1 I texted my doctor sister-in-law, “Does this ever get less gross?” and instead of the reassuring “of course!” response I was expecting, she asked “What do you think is gross?”

This.  This was what was threatening my lunch.


She was a little concerned about my ability to make it through the ‘grosser’ things ahead.

For the record, I still find this pretty stinking gross.  But the good news is that yes, yes it does get better.

And I think that’s important to say.  I think there’s this quiet idea that if you think this stuff is gross, you don’t belong in medicine.  But I don’t believe that.  I think if you’re going into nursing because you love PEOPLE, you might not love standing over a person that has been cut into pieces. And that’s okay.

So anyway, yes, I was grossed out by EVERYTHING in the beginning.  Including this diagram of skin.  But it gets better.  And it’s not so much that I think it’s completely the opposite of gross (because if I really look at that diagram and think about how that is IN ME it still makes me want to die a little bit) but I learned to put up barriers.  Instead of seeing these types of diagrams and thinking “oh my gosh–that’s going on ALL OVER ME RIGHT NOW” it’s purely an academic exercise.  “That is skin.  Must learn those layers and their functions.  Don’t need to think beyond that.”

I took A&P 1 online, and one of the biggest differences between taking A&P online and A&P in person is the lack of a cadaver.  While the zillion dollar lab kit includes a mini model skeleton (most expensive Halloween decoration I’ll ever own), sheep brain, and cow eyeball, you don’t gain experience with human body parts. Here’s an example of a lab from the online A&P 1 that involved dissecting a sheep’s brain:


So while I had learned how to cope with A&P 1, when I took A&P 2, I had to learn to figure out how to function in the presence of a cadaver.

It was a shocking experience for me.  They bring in the cadaver on a stretcher in a body bag and you’re sitting there thinking “there is currently a dead person in the corner” and then they open the bag and begin taking off panels.  It is like those lift-the-flap books from your childhood, only the horror movie version.  It gets better once they cover the face with a sheet, but odds are that if you are going into medicine because you like people and not because you’re a psychopath, your brain is going to be doing this: “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!  THERE IS A DEAD CHOPPED UP PERSON HERE!  I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY SCREAMING IS THE SOCIALLY UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE RIGHT NOW!”

In my case, this basic response lasted for five weeks.   It is very very difficult to learn anything when your inner dialogue is doing this on loop:  “Don’t scream.  Are you screaming?  No?  Okay.  Wait–what is your face doing? Do you look horrified right now?  STOP THAT.  You are a professional.  Lock this up.  Make a normal face.  Wait.  What is a normal face?  Oh my God I can’t remember what my face normally feels like when it’s not being horrified.  Think.  Look thoughtful.  Like you’re learning.  Wait–what would Joey do when he was trying to listen to medical dialogue?  Smell the fart acting.  Yes, do that.  Wait–no.  Don’t BREATHE.  Now it is IN YOU.  Oh my God tiny parts of a dead person are now inside you.  Oh no.  Looking horrified again.  Is anyone looking?  WHATEVER YOU DO MAKE A NORMAL FACE.”

I think this is normal.  (or within the normal spectrum.)  I think it’s the response of compassionate people who haven’t yet disassociated Bodies from People.

If you’re early on in your journey and trying to prepare for what a pin test/practical exam looks like, here is a photo from a mock practical (this was for practice, so it had more pins than you might normally see–normally at my school they try to pin it so that you don’t have to move any structures to see other pins):


And then suddenly all it got better.  I look at this picture and I see structures and functions and I don’t even have to worry about what my face is doing.  For me, things got better with the actual first practical exam on the cadaver.  Because finally there was no hanging back, there was no ‘I’ll look that up on my anatomy app from the safety of my own desk later.’  It was “I must figure out what that structure is and I must do it now even if it means I have to touch the inside of that body.”  And like magic, the spell was broken.  The only fear left was the fear of a bad grade.  And like the diagram, this was no longer a “dead person” to me but a “cadaver” that I simply needed to get an A on.

I think it’s an interesting part of the training that goes far beyond simply learning what human structures look like–I think there’s an intentional disassociating bodies from people that goes on here, and I almost mourn the loss of my old innocence.  But for all of you starting your nursing pre-requisite journey and wondering if A&P is survivable if you hate the idea of working with cadavers when everyone else around you is proudly announcing how not impacted they are by all of this, the answer is yes.  If I got past it, I know anyone can!

ACCUPLACER Biology Placement Test Tips

As I looked at the daunting list of nursing school prereqs four years ago, I discovered that while a basic college biology course was needed to get into Anatomy & Physiology and Microbiology, it wasn’t actually required by the nursing program itself.  Eager to cut out a course and its related expenses, I looked into testing out of it through the ACCUPLACER biology placement test my community college uses.  (I believe that CLEP tests are also an option at many colleges, but the ACCUPLACER has the advantage of being being very inexpensive–I believe it only cost me $10.)

My biology background to reassure you that you can do this too:  I went to high school in England, where they think it’s perfectly reasonable to let 15 year olds stop taking science classes, so my experience with biology was limited to me=human because I can talk, tree=plant because of photosynthesis?

So, when I tell you that it’s very doable to test out of Biology 111 if you put in some study time I mean it.  Now, there are times when the A&P or Microbiology prof will reference 111 (as in “as you’ll remember from 111”) and you’ll have that deer-in-the-headlights look for a moment, but overall I am very very glad I saved myself the tuition and time and used the ACCUPLACER test instead of taking the course.

How I prepared:

1) I went to my school and asked for their ‘study guide.’  I received a four page rough outline of what the test would cover and immediately began to wonder exactly to what extend I needed to learn these topics.  For the most part I over-prepared and knew them to a much deeper level than was tested.

2) I rented a general college biology textbook from Book Renter (whom I use for all of my textbooks and save tons of money with!).

3) I watched the Crash Course biology videos on the relevant topics many many times.  I cannot recommend these videos enough–they are hilarious.

4) A large part of Biology 111 handles basic chemistry.  I was taking General College Chemistry when I took the ACCUPLACER test (I was only a month from the final) and there were a lot of basic chemistry questions on the test.  I would highly recommend taking the ACCUPLACER biology test once you have taken your chemistry course (unless you already have a great background in chemistry).

I went through the study guide and using the textbook and crash course videos made my own set of notes for the test.  I got serious and actually started doing this about a month before the test.  I went in, took the test, and got a 94.  You only needed an 80 to test out of general college biology.  The adviser couldn’t believe I hadn’t taken a general college biology course before with that score.

What I’d do differently:

A lot of the test focused on microscopes and their parts.  This is something I didn’t pay much attention to on the study guide (I didn’t imagine they’d test on it) and so my photography experience came in handy here and I was able to answer the questions based on that understanding on light and magnification and focus. However, without photography I might have gotten those questions wrong, so don’t neglect to study the parts of the microscope, what they do, what they’re called and how the overall magnification is calculated.

I didn’t learn the visual structure of various organic molecules and this was something that hurt me on the test.  I’d be familiar with the structure of common molecules.

Disclaimer: I took the test in the spring of 2013.  I’m sure it changes from time to time but before taking the test I did many google searches to try and find out more about it and there just wasn’t any information.  I hope this is helpful to someone as they try to prepare for it!