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!

knitting bag

knitting bag

A few months ago my sister-in-law sent me a link to this adorable bag on Etsy.  I knew I could probably figure out how to make one, but I feel strongly about compensating people for awesome ideas, so I asked the seller if she’d considered making a pattern for it.  As luck would have it, she said she was working on a pattern and would let me know when it was done.  Sadly when I went to link up the pattern here I discovered that she’s not offering the pattern anymore, so that makes me feel even more lucky to have it–it was wonderfully written and a very satisfying project!

After finishing my Linden last night I was a little sad that some elements hadn’t come together the way I’d thought, but I whipped this up in about an hour and now want to make 1000 more with lots of different options–just think of the cute patchwork or embroidery it could feature!  Best part of all, the way it’s seamed at the top, the pattern fits onto two fat quarters!  I was really excited about this part because I thought “oh–finally I’ll bust into my fat quarter box!” but then I opened it and couldn’t bring myself to touch 90% of them because I still see quilts in them all.  But I decided on these two fabrics, a great Japanese print and leftover Heather Ross from a bag I made and never use.  I just adore this print with its babywearing mouse momma, so I’m really excited that it worked for this bag that will see a lot of use!

Supplies:  2 fat quarters and the pattern.

knitting bag



linden sweatshirt pattern

My self proclaimed Summer of Knits began this weekend with my very own Linden sweatshirt!  I did a lot of blog reading before starting this one, and chose my fabric based on an instagram post from Film in the Fridge

Supplies:  Linden sweatshirt pattern, 1.5 yards of Splendid sweatshirt fleece, 2 inches of a knit I got from on clearance for $2 a yard for the neckline band.

linden sweatshirt pattern review

Pattern notes:  I made a size 4 based on things I’d read online about it running large (I’m normally a 6) and it’s still very roomy.  I added about 4″ of length to the sleeves and this is now my favorite shirt EVER.  With my monkey arms I usually end up with sleeves about an inch too short after washing and thumb holes that look like wrist holes–I never get delightfully snuggly sleeves like this!  I added 2 1/2″ to the front bodice piece because I noticed that the pattern as written ran a little short for my liking.  For the back bodice pattern piece, I originally drafted a new curved hem (much longer than the original pattern) based on my favorite sweatshirt.  I absolutely loved it before I sewed the hem, but once I sewed it using a twin needle and just didn’t hang quite right and I decided the contrasting neckline was a little too sporty for that look anyway, so I chopped off the extra fabric to have the length match the front.  I kept it a split hem, though, which I ended up mostly winging.  I read a note that the sleeves were slim compared to the large amount of ease in the body, and I found this to be true–if you end up sizing down a large amount in the body I’d double check the sleeve finished measurements.  With the adjustments in length to the pattern pieces, my 1 1/2 yard fabric piece was just right.   The pattern is very well written and easy to follow–it made a great first knitwear project!

linden sweatshirt pattern

Project notes:  I can’t wait to make another, and badly want the navy version of this fabric to come back in stock!  I’m not sold on my choice of neckband–I think keeping it the same as the main fabric would have made it less casual.  I am not a fan of the fake coverstitch with a twin needle.  I used wonderunder but still had some waving to each hem.  It also seemed to stretch out the neckline and sleeve hems–I’m curious if that will bounce back after I wash it.   I’m jonesing for a coverstitch machine something awful now…the serged seams looked so perfect until I had to run them through my sewing machine!  Craigslist needs to come through for me this summer…come on people–clean out those craft closets!  😀

linden sweatshirt pattern

Spruce Mountain Trail Review


Spruce Mountain is another easy family favorite for those days when you want to go for a hike, but you don’t want to put any thought into it.  Fitting in with the other hikes I’ve posted about this week, it’s another hike I feel comfortable doing with the kids by myself on a weekday.  It’s a quick approximately 1 mile hike to the top of the Spruce Mountain mesa, followed by an approximately half mile to the loop portion of the trail.  The loop adds another 2.3 miles to your hike, so if your kids are spent this is an easy spot to turn around.  The additional 2 miles are flat, so this is a great hike for practicing adding mileage with your kids without adding any extra elevation.

Pros:  I really like this hike for preschoolers.  There’s lots of variety–bushes, trees, scrub brush, sun, shade, big rocks and sweeping 360 degree views, more closed in wooded sections…and did I mention the trains?  Spruce Mountain runs parallel to the busy rail line that runs through Palmer Lake.  A preschool boy can be very easily lifted in spirits by a big coal train sighting!  And any hike near Palmer Lake is never complete without ice cream from the adorable Rock House ice cream parlor on your way home, so if the trains don’t work to propel little legs on those last miles, the promise of ice cream will!


Cons:  This is a multi use trail so you’ll see plenty of bikers and horses (actually, move the horses to the pros column–another thing that helps distract toddlers on a 5 mile hike!).  The southern section of the loop (“The Upper Loop”) is exposed and can be a very hot walk on a summer day–this is one you want to hit earlier versus later.  For this reason I suggest going clockwise around the loop–get the longer, more exposed section over with first!  The signs on the trail network can be confusing, so I recommend taking along this map.

Distance/Difficulty:  About 5.5 miles if you include the loop around the top of the mesa, this is a great option for little hikers who have mastered Mt Cutler (my favorite recommendation for families beginning to hike), this stretches their distance abilities without adding any more difficulty in terms of elevation.  Shortening the hike by dropping the loop makes it very comparable with Mt Cutler, though a little longer at about 3 miles.

Directions:  If you are driving north on I-25 from Colorado Springs, take exit 163 for County Line Rd.  After the railroad tracks turn right onto Spruce Mountain Rd.  The well marked parking area is on the left in 3.5 miles.  If you are coming from the north, take I-25S to the Larkspur exit.  Travel south on Spruce Mountain Rd for 6 miles, the well marked parking lot will be on the right.  The large parking lot has porta potties and a map.  The trail is popular, but the only time we had trouble finding a parking spot was on a beautiful holiday afternoon.

Trail Teaching:

  • Trains and railroad history in Colorado and its influence on city size/importance.
  • Coal – odds are good that if you see a train, it will be loaded with coal.
  • Palmer Lake is an interesting little town whose lake is completely dried up but used to be mined for ice.  From the Tri Lakes Historic Society: “General William J. Palmer, a Medal of Honor recipient, came west after the Civil War to found the City of Colorado Springs & start the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, a 3-ft. narrow gauge line, in 1871. He purchased the land known as the Monument Farms & Lake Property which was to become the Town of Palmer Lake. Palmer Lake was critical to the railroad because the steam trains chugged up to the Palmer-Divide summit and had to take on water to head down. The lake was the only natural water supply available on a year-round basis. Passenger trains would stop for 10 minutes to take on water, or you could get off for a day of picnicking, fishing, and boating or wildflower hikes for a fee of $1.50 roundtrip from Denver.”
  • Mesas – Mesas get their name from Spanish explorers in the mid-1500s who thought the formations in the American southwest resembled tables (“mesa” in Spanish).  “Butte” and “mesa” describe similar shapes, but mesas are larger than buttes.  Mesas have a hard layer of rock at the top (“cap rock”)–often cooled lava–that resists the type erosion that is caused by the hard sudden rainstorms that occur in the American southwest.  The top layer of igneous rock resists erosion, but the softer sedimentary rock around the igneous rock  is eroded away.  This creates the steep sides of the mesa–anything not directly under that tough igneous rock gets washed away in rainstorms.  See if the kids can identify areas of igneous rock at the top of the mesa.



IMG_6159 copy

Looking for trains:


The loop (The sheltered “lower loop” on the left, and the more exposed “upper loop” on the right):


We use Windy Point as a snack break spot.  It’s at the just over halfway mark if you’re going on the loop, has great views, and is usually empty.   Most people turn back at the Greenland Overlook, so the loop is usually quiet compared to the popular out-and-back section of the trail. (“I swear I’m a good mom” disclaimer: Given my almost paralyzing fear of heights, I’m positive this shot must be a lot less ‘near the edge’ than it looks!)


Further Reading:  Given its proximity to Denver, there are several great posts about this hike from Denver area hikers.  Check out Fun Colorado Hikes for many trail pictures, the official Douglas County website page for Spruce Mountain trail, and this pdf map.

Teaching Kids to Knit

teaching kids to knit

Ellie’s been asking to sew and knit for…well…as long as she could speak.  She’s five now, and since child labor laws were put in place partly to prevent five year olds from professionally knitting for 12 hours a day, I figured it was time to pour myself a glass a wine, pretend I am patient, and get her started.

preschool knitting

My needle stash is almost entirely circulars, which I figured would add unnecessary difficulty to the process, so I asked my mom if she could bring a pair of my great-grandmother’s straight needles when she came to visit.  (My great-grandmother’s stash of garishly colored metal needles and polyester yarn was handled down after she died–a rich inheritance from the dark days of crafting.)  My mom tossed in a pair of her own Clover bamboo needles*, which, at 9″ seemed like a much better fit for preschool hands than the longer metal ones.   So she had to settle for knitting needles from her grandmother instead of her great-great-grandmother.  That kid’s got it rough.  Ellie picked out some super bulky yarn at Joanns:  Grande in the Wintergreen colorway* (*affiliate links) and we read my teaching text of choice:  Annie and the Swiss Cheese Scarf.  I’d purchased it for Ellie last year, but we revisited it before we started our lesson.


I love that it emphasizes that knitting is (a) hard and (b) a learning process.  Little Annie expects to be a great knitter right off the bat and actually gives up after her first try when she discovers that it’s much harder than she thought it would be. (I love that Ellie’s face matches Annie’s!)

annie and the swiss cheese scarf review

The illustration of her finished scarf shows her progress–holey and uneven at the start and slowly getting better as it goes along.  It emphasizes practice and going slowly, as well as the rhyme

In through the front door

Up around the back

Peek through the window

And off jumps Jack!

It includes an illustrated tutorial at the back, which I was shocked to find actually helped Ellie–she would look at it periodically, particularly while trying to master the ‘peek through the window’ stage.

annie and the swiss cheese scarf review

It was predictably difficult for her to learn, but I think the book helped soften the blow.  After her first two stitches she said “This is harder than I thought” and I reminded her that Annie felt the same way.  Far from being discouraged, she stuck with it, and at the end of our two-ish hour time on the porch (which was broken up with tea party chatter, snacks, and toenail polish painting for good measure) she was able to complete the stitches on her own while repeating the rhyme to remind herself.  She’s not by any means fluent (I could knit a row in the time it takes her to complete a single stitch) but she is doing it without my hands on help and best of all, she begged to do it again tomorrow!  I call that a success!

teaching kids to knit


Sarah Wiehe - I LOVE this. Love the book and the concept. If Abby asks this will definitely be the approach I take. Ellie is so darn cute.

Fran Cooper - Funny and helpful–this is great! Wish I’d had someone like you to guide me years ago!

Gretchen - I have always wanted to learn… I think a trip to CO, a glass of wine on the porch, and that book might just be the ticket! Love that you are teaching her and that she is enjoying it!

Oliver + S Tea Party Dress Pattern Review

tea party sundress

Confession:  I have several Oliver + S patterns that I’ve never used.  I had the best intentions, but after making the Birthday Party dress I kept shying away from them because I realized just how much work these patterns would be!  They are made for people without a serger, so you won’t find any time saving construction methods, and they always seem to have hand sewn hems.  I recently sorted through my patterns and noticed that Ellie has sized out of many, but the Tea Party dress still had a 5T option, so this is the summer to use it!

tea party sundress oliver + s

I want to love this dress, I really do.  I love the piping, I love the thoughtful matching bloomers, and I love this Milk, Sugar, Flower fabric. The construction was also easy enough that I’d be willing to make it again.  But I’m not crazy about it.  I don’t like that the straps come to a point (I think a rounded end would be nicer) and the silhouette is a little too dramatic.  I think I’d like this a lot more on a 2 year old.  (Curses on my pattern procrastination!)


Also, my biggest complaint is that the bloomer pattern is awful.  Like “there’s no way they pattern tested this in the larger sizes” awful.  It ends up with a ridiculous amount of fabric running vertically between her legs when the bulk should be width-wise.  When I cut the pattern I had my doubts, but kept the faith.  The faith was not well placed.  If you’re making this pattern in a larger size (and possibly at any size), don’t use the bloomer pattern pieces!  I’ve made Heather Ross’s bloomers from Weekend Sewing before, and will use that pattern in the future.


Pattern:  Oliver + S Tea Party Dress

Fabric:  Milk, Sugar, Flower (bird print), kona cotton solid brown, and a pink print I’ve had for a few years.

Sizing:  The dress is a little on the big side.  The bloomers are just a straight disaster.

Difficulty:  Easy

Indian Paint Mines Review


The Indian Paint Mines in Calhan is another great walk for beginning hikers.  It consists of a 4 mile network of trails that can be customized to your kiddo’s distance abilities.  It’s another walk I feel comfortable doing on a weekday with just a toddler along.  It’s different from most hikes (although this really shouldn’t be called a hike–it’s a walk) in that you arrive at the highest point–you’ll be walking down into the Indian Paint Mines canyons.

Pros:  Easy walk with interesting natural formations.  It’s amazingly uncrowded and little kids might delight at the alien landscape.  (In fact, it’s so alienesque that I had a family request it as a location for their B Movie themed Christmas card shoot.)


Cons:  It’s a long drive out to Calhan, and set your expectations low for the ‘colors’ you’ll see.  If you’ve seen amazing pictures online, it’s probably because the color saturation has been really cranked up on the computer.  (Confession:  I may have been a touch disappointed the first time I went.)  We saw the best colors near the 2 area of the park map, and the coolest formations near the 6.  This part of Colorado is usually windy, so be prepared for a windy walk!

Distance/Difficulty:  This is an easy one.  You can make it any length, but plan on about 2 miles for the basic loop.

Directions:  The park’s address is 29950 Paint Mines Road, Calhan CO.  Going east on Highway 24 to Calhan, take a right to turn south on Yoder Road/Calhan Highway, the turn left to go east on Paint Mines Road.  Park in the designated parking area.  There were porta potties at the trailhead the last time I was there.

Trail teaching:

  • The paint mines have shown evidence of human life as far back as 9000 years ago (7000BC)!  You can contrast that to the first Europeans landing in North America (about 500 years) and then the first explorers to Colorado of European descent (the 1776 exploration of southern Colorado and the Pike Expedition in 1806-07) and its inclusion in US territory (1803 with the Louisiana Purchase).  (Wikipedia page on Colorado territory history.)
  • The park gained its name from the colorful clays that were used by Native Americans for pottery.  You can talk about how pottery is made and its uses, as well as talking about how many of the storage methods we use today are such new inventions and all the ways that changes what we eat and how we live.
  • As usual, plenty to talk about in terms of erosion and rock formations! Talk about all the different types of erosion–it’s a windy spot, so don’t forget wind!



indian paint mines trail

The gentle hill you’ll walk down from the parking area.  (Or run down if you happen to be racing a six year old.)

indian paint mines trail

Further reading:  Away from the Grid has beautiful photos in their review here.  The official El Paso County website page for the park also includes a pdf map.