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!

Colorwork warmup: bismark hat pattern

I’m going to be embarking on a massing colorwork project soon, so I figured a little warm-up was needed.  I chose the Bismark pattern and some Road to China Light yarn from The Fiber Company from my stash that my parents had bought me last year and was off!  I was undecided about the pompom because the top of the hat came together in a lovely way, but in the end went for the pompom.  Why not?  Additional project details on my ravelry page.

bismark plaid knit hat

I haven’t blocked this yet, but I did notice that I need to work on when I wrap my carried yarn into the working yarn on sections where it won’t be used–you can see a pucker in the middle of almost every solid block of color from where I twisted the two yarns around each other.  I’m okay with it on this hat but I know I’ll want the sweater this is a warm-up for to be perfect!

plaid knit hat

A peek at the lovely top both before and after the pompom.

bismark hat


Hello! If you made it here from the old blog, please leave me a comment!  Still a lot of construction going on here, and already missing the old banner and bio pics with baby Will and Ellie:


However, I’m excited about writing a lot more over here and I hope you’ll stick around!

Dr Seuss in work

Sharing a peek at my morning’s endeavors: starting an improvisationally pieced baby quilt for my soon-to-be-nieces.

When this line came out four or five years ago I bought a fat quarter pack and some yardage because my sister-in-law is a huge Dr Seuss fan.  It never occurred to me that the line would have so much staying power and that various spin-offs of it would be around when they were ready to have kids!  (Although I am partial to several of these original prints that I don’t see around anymore.)  🙂

dr seuss fabric baby quilt

And a peek at how I work with these improve quilts.  I have a specific backing I’m working with so I laid out the cut picture panels and then just start piecing.  One of the things you have to keep in mind is where you will place your final seams to join it all together.  I hate Y seams so I avoid them.  I usually also try to avoid having the main seams of the quilt run along the halfway mark.  I’ve added little lines so you can see what I’m working toward right now.  That panel with the quote is being very troublesome–it keeps wanting to sit right in the middle of that seam.  That one is going to be trouble!

dr seuss fabric baby quilt

TEAS Test Thoughts

The last ‘to do’ list item for my nursing school application was the TEAS Test.  At my school your score is not a factor as long as you ‘pass’ the test with a score above the national average (which hovers around 65%).  Given that a score of 67% and 97% would have the same impact on my application, I figured my time was not best spent studying any more than absolutely necessary.  And so I began studying for the test the evening prior to taking it.  I used this TEAS book (which I recommend buying used and then selling on amazon used so it will cost you about $10-15  when all is said and done).

As I began reading it I had one very big thought: “oh darn–I should have taken this in the fall–I used to know this stuff.”  I would highly recommend taking it right after taking your chemistry/biology pre-reqs.  The science content will then be freshly in your mind.

I let the online comments psych me out a little bit, but I took the test with my three hours of prep and came out with a score of 94% in the 99th percentile.  Ironically my lowest score was in the English section (this is ironic because I have an English degree).  Stupid writing classes teaching you to break all the style “rules.”  (note that prior sentence is not an actual sentence.)

So, moral of the story: the TEAS test is actually kind of easy, especially if you have good multiple choice test techniques.  Luckily for me, this is the kind of thing they teach you if you attend high school in England.  That and how to drink your weight in alcohol and then pour a cup of tea without spilling.  Here is my fool proof method for not sucking at multiple choice question tests:

a)  Read the question and then imagine the answer.

b) Look through the answers and see if your answer is among them.

c)  It is? Awesome!  Make a little – next to it.

d)  You are not done yet.

e)  Read all of the answers one by one.  If they are completely impossible make an x next to them.  If they are kinda maybe possible under some interpretation of the question put a – next to it.

f)  If you have one – and three xs circle the answer with the -.  (But you’re not done yet.  See step h.)

g) If you have several – answers, read through the question again and the answers again and pick the best one.  You’re still not done though.

h) Finish the test.  Now go back and reread all of the questions and answers and see if you still agree with your original answer.

i) If you are using a scantron, NOW is the time you fill it out.  And then you go back through your scantron and look at them all again and make sure you didn’t make a mistake and fill in the wrong bubble.

Yes, this method will mean you are usually one of the last people to leave the test.  But I’ve never run out of time on a test using this method.  AND then you get to be all smug about how you did everything possible within your being to do the best you could at that test.  So feel free to go all British afterward, keep a stiff upper lip, and wear nude pumps like Princess Kate.

The Plucky Obsession

If you knit and haven’t tried plucky yarn, well…actually…keep that up.  It’s like crack.  It’s brilliantly marketed and limited and hoarding becomes inevitable.  Avoid it.  But if you are a knitter and HAVE tried plucky, then you’ll appreciate these lovelies that came in the mail today (camomile, top hat, punchy, and thank you note on primo fingering):


Jessica - It’s really good I have mostly given up knitting for sewing because I need another thing to hoard like I need a hole in my head. But those are so pretty!!

Easter bunny dress: Simplicity 1208 by Ruby Jeans Closet

We had a little Easter miracle occur around here: I finished Ellie’s Easter dress in time for Easter morning Mass!  It came down to the 11th hour (or more accurately, the third hour), and I ended up quickly sewed the hem between showering and breakfast, but it’s done and I was super happy with it.

I wanted to buy her a dress, but I just couldn’t find anything I liked this year.  So I resigned myself to making something in colors to coordinate with the shirt I got for Will for $6 on clearance at Gymboree several years ago (sadly I never did find a sweater vest to go with it).  When I went to buy the fabric for it Monday, though, the Joanns lady gave me all sorts of attitude about how I wouldn’t have enough time to make it before Easter.  Now, that was actually a little true given my test, assignment, and work schedule this week, but she didn’t know that!  All she knew was that I was at Joanns at 10:30am on a Monday!

In the end I started sewing this dress in earnest after the Easter Vigil Mass and AFTER doing all of our Easter bunny prep…which was 12:45am Easter morning.  I’d spent about an hour the day before cutting the pattern pieces and some of the fabric, and I spent about 30 minutes Easter morning finishing up details and the hem.  All told you could definitely finish the dress within 5 hours taking your time, or 4 hours if you were all business.  The embroidery is the real bottleneck in the process.

I love the buttons–little pink bunnies that perfectly match the pink accent fabric.  What’s funny is that Ellie picked them out.  We were in the button aisle and she kept showing me things that weren’t at all right so I wasn’t really paying attention to her when she held out these and said “Look!  These are good!” I told her “beautiful, but not right for this project” on autopilot before I really looked and saw that they were perfect!

simplicity 1208 pattern review dress easter

Project details:

Pattern: Simplicty 1208 (purchased used in new condition from Etsy for $5, the dress is also available from Ruby Jeans Closet as Bunny Hop Dress as a pdf)

Fabric: Kona cotton (grey and white), cheap Joanns pink polka dot print

Buttons: La Mode (Joanns)

Cost: under $25

Time (including tracing/cutting the pattern pieces onto swedish tracing paper first but not including prewashing fabric): 4-5 hours

Pattern alterations: I used a smaller insert of color for the bunny’s ears instead of having the pink be full sized as in the pattern.  I did not do the understitching recommended in the pattern both (a) for time reasons and (b) because I don’t really understand what that is.  😛  I’m a fan of top stitching, but for time reasons I did not do it on this dress.  Maybe later this week.  I also brought up the hem.  I think in a solid fabric this can look a little Mole Woman, so I brought up the hem to make it a little more retro and a little less I’m-one-of-five-wives.

Pattern recommendations:  The kona wrinkled terribly.  When you’re looking at a definite car ride in a 5 point harness to church, some crunching is inevitable and the kona did not handle that well.  The ease included is also massive.  The pattern says multiple times that 3″ of ease is included and puts the chest measurement more prominently than the ‘size,’ but as a novice pattern garment sewer I just couldn’t bring myself to trust her measurements more than her age, so I made the 5.  It’s giant in the chest–I would have loved to try the 4 or even 3.

simplicity 1208 bunny hop dress

simplicty 1208 pattern review

Jayne - Hi Traci,

I just purchased this pattern. It never occurred to me to make it for Church this Easter. I have 3 weeks, so I will definitely make 2 for my girls. Thanks for the tip on the chest measurement and the hem. You did a great job 🙂 ps. I don’t know how to under stitch either hehe

Sara Martinez - I found your pin on Pinterest because I am about to make this dress for my daughter. I was planning on using a contrast fabric for the lining of the sleeve and love how it looks on your dress. I think I know the answer but would you suggest going a size down? Your dress looks so cute, I can’t wait to get mine started!