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, 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've created a map that shows links to our camping/hiking/general family fun review posts that you can find here. It's pretty much the coolest thing on this site. Thanks, Google!

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

Great Sand Dunes Visit 2016

(For my full review of the Great Sand Dunes National Monument, see this link.)

On our annual trip to the Sand Dunes we saw worse weather than we have before (Saturday’s winds kept us from getting to the top of the High Dune), but Nic and I both noticed that the campground just gets more popular each year.  It’s still possible to get a spot late Friday afternoon, and many people still treat the campground as a one night destination (meaning spots can be found Saturday morning as people leave), but their numbers are smaller.  In 2016 the campsites are $20, and the facilities include water, heated bathrooms (no showers), but unfortunately they have permanently closed all of the dishwashing stations.  They ask you not to wash dishes in the bathroom, not at the water spigots, and have boarded up the dishwashing stations.  This is a campground to bring paper plates to!

The weather was on the cooler side Friday, but still enjoyable for the kids to play in the water.  With the weekday and the temps, we once again had the dunes to ourselves.   With the forecast for strong wind, we stayed in the interior of the campground loop for the first time.  The kids loved the great trees for climbing on our site, and we loved being able to hang up our two hammocks.  Hopefully next year will bring better weather, but if not it’s still a beautiful location for a low key camping weekend!


Sarah Jane Out to Sea Pirate Baby Quilt

One of my closest friends is having a baby boy next month, so this baby makes the cut–I dug into my precious Sarah Jane stash for his quilt!


I love the Out to Sea line, and used it for the majority of this patchwork quilt, adding in another favorite, the yellow paper hats fabric from Sarah Jane’s Children at Play line, a tan solid, and a navy herringbone to help round out the textures.  I used 3 1/2″ squares for 3″ finished blocks.


After washing, it crinkled up beautifully–I love the quilts when they’re washed and crinkly.  I can’t wait to see that little baby boy on it!


A fleece sweatshirt for Ellie: Simplicity 0298

Ellie fell in love with my fleece Linden and wanted one of her own.  Since I had plenty of leftover fleece from my Linden, we now have matching Mommy and Me fleece sweatshirts!

fleece raglan sweatshirts kids and adults

The Linden pattern doesn’t come in kid sizes, but I figured any raglan would do.  I found the Simplicity 0298 for $2 at Joanns and so that was the winner!  It wasn’t set up for a neckline band, but I read online that a band’s measurement should be 85% of whatever you are attaching it to, so I did a little match and was able to add bands to the neck, cuffs, and waist.

raglan kids sweatshirt fleece

I hadn’t intended to use a band for the waist but the pattern is really short.  I made a size 7 for 6 year old Ellie, and while she swims in the girth of it (typical of Big Four pattern sizing), it was surprisingly short.  I made her sleeves long so it can fit through next winter.

fleece raglan kids sweatshirt

a fleece linden (with a coverstitch machine)

We’re turning the corner on winter now, which is good because I spend most of the winter being miserably cold.  When I saw the “luxe fleece collection” at JoAnn’s one January day I fell in love and began trying to figure out ways I could wrap myself in it.  I’ve been wanting a second Linden (I mean a hundred more Lindens) since I made my gloriously-lengthy-in-the-arms Linden sweatshirt last spring, so I decided to give it a go in fleece.  It is awesome.  It is so soft and comfy that Ellie immediately demanded her own version.  (Because I always like to know EVERYTHING about materials I see used, the grey I used for the bands is also from Joanns–just their basic grey rib knit.  They only have three or four colors of their rib knit, so grey it was!)


This project is a little bit special because it marked my first successful use of my coverstitch machine!  I was so excited to use it over Christmas break, but then my first attempt at a quick hem was a disaster and the more research I did the more intimidated I became.  I decided to set aside a few hours to really learn this machine…and so of course it acquiesced completely to everything I wanted it to do and acted like “what?!  I’m super easy and a delight to use. ”  For anyone using a cover stitch machine, my tension settings were 4, 4, 3.  These out-of-the-box settings seemed perfect for the thick fleece.  After this project, I went back to my first attempted coverstitch project and discovered that the tshirt fabric of my original attempt benefited from tensions of 3, 3, 2.  (This is the extent of my tension knowledge: if you are getting tunneling with your coverstitch machine you should lower your tension.  I happened to randomly drop them all by one and that ended up being perfect.  Phew.  Because that could get really complicated really quickly.)


A couple of pattern/fabric notes:

  1.  Go up a size!  I made this one in the same size as the last one, and if I had it to do over I’d go up a size, particularly for arm roominess and the snuggle factor.  This is a big thick fatty fabric without stretch, so go up a size.
  2.  Don’t wear it in the car without a coat on top.  Mine is ruined from a day of driving around.  I noticed that the seat belt was pulling up a lot of fuzz, but I hoped the diagonal crease lines across the bust would go away once I washed the shirt.  They didn’t.  It’s noticeable enough that I won’t wear this one outside the house anymore.
  3.  If you extend the sleeve length like I do, you’ll need to regrade the tapering down of the sleeve.  I just carried the lines down a few inches and they ended up being too tight and I needed to cut off the extra inches and stick a ribbed knit cuff on them so they’d be the extra long sleeves of my dreams.
  4. I went with my same longer length and self drafted curve on the hem and I’m really happy with those choices.  Honestly, it’s a boxy pattern and not particularly flattering especially when made up in such a thick fabric, but it’s a sweatshirt.  It’s meant for cozy days!


Tshirt Dress

I’ve been wanting to make Ellie dresses from Target shirts I picked up on clearance.  After poking around a few pinterest tutorials and completely destroying one shirt I made this for her today with some corduroy from Joanns.


I would like to add some sort of belt/sash but am not sure out of what fabric.  I may just leave it as is.  In my first attempt I used some interfacing on the bottom of the shirt because I’d read a piece of advice to do that “to prevent the shirt from stretching.”  It ended up looking awful–the shirt really pulled out and away from her body with the interfacing and I decided that the advice was for people not sewing with a serger.  I tried to rectify the situation by adding some elastic to the seam but ended up catching some of the bodice in the seam and it was a disaster.


For my next try I think I’d like to gather the skirt by sewing it to a piece of elastic first and then cutting that to just slightly less than the circumference of the shirt so that the shirt is brought in at the waist instead of left to hang with the weight of the skirt.  Luckily I have a few more shirts in the studio for experimentation!


Thoughts on Finishing Med Surg 1


I was supposed to hate it.  It was the “bad” bimester this semester, and I was glad I was getting it over with first before the fun of Peds/OB.  Except as we stood around our post-conference room last week officially All Done with Med Surg 1 clinicals, where I should have felt joy, my heart hurt!

(This is not to say that there weren’t some bad times.  The seven hours I spent cleaning a constant flow of diarrhea out of a rectal wound will be with me to my dying day.)

Our lead instructor showed us this video on our first day of class.  It sums up so beautifully how we all felt 95% of the time.  The way he looks up hopefully with his finger over the various buttons?  SO TRUE.  (If you are a nursing student you have to watch it.)  And yet…

We learned so. much.  Every day you would go into clinicals and inevitably something would happen and you would think “Oh my gosh!  I know this!  I remember that lecture slide/textbook page/test question!”  We got to put in IVs and give a lot of shots (lovenox, anyone?) and place catheters and hang IVs.  My first IV start was a success, so I considered retiring to keep my record clean.  Sadly the instructors did not agree with my perfectly reasonable retirement plan and I went on to ruin my beautiful 100% batting average.  I also managed to poke myself with a (clean) insulin needle, and dropped pills on the floor not once but twice.  I answered questions correctly, and I answered questions with the blank look of someone who doesn’t even understand the language.  I worked with amazing floor nurses who inspired me, awesome floor nurses who were fantastic at challenging and teaching me, and the occasional floor nurse who was most interested in putting me in my place and making me feel like an idiot.  My advice for dealing with those types of nurses is to pretend you are Po from Kung Fu Panda.  Their hatred and condescension go right over your head.  You are just a fat happy panda who loves everyone.  (And you may also be the Dragon Warrior.  That helps things slide right off.)

We changed so. much. We gained confidence, and I know my own comfort level with grossness expanded at the rate of the Grinch’s heart on Christmas morning.  Remember my first day with a cadaver in A&P when I was silently screaming the whole time?  Fast forward to my OR day toward the end of our clinical experience.  I saw brain surgery and when they put up the magnified image on the giant computer screen my first thought was “huh–looks exactly like trying to pick out crab meat.”  (We spent a lot of time with preserved brains in A&P, but it was really different seeing living tissue.  Did you know that your brain visibly pulsates?  You don’t even need to look at the monitors to know what the person’s heart rate is–you can count it just by looking at their brain!)  My next surgery was a total laryngectomy.  When I walked in they were just removing a 3″ segment from the patient’s neck.  The surgeons were covered in blood splatters and the patient was split from ear to ear.  My first thought was “This is a scene from a horror movie.”  My next thought was “Something important inside me is clearly dead now, because I am having no emotional response to this business.”  Whatever nursing school is supposed to do to a person, it’s clearly done its job.  I knew something had shifted when a fellow student was telling our clinical instructor that she hadn’t completed something because her patient had gone down to surgery to have his toes amputated.  “Did you get to go?!” I asked, all excited.  (“GET” to go?!!!!  Excited?!?!?!)  “No,” she said.  “Awwwww,” I said.  MY RESPONSE TO NOT SEEING TOES CUT OFF WAS A DISAPPOINTED NOISE.  I don’t even recognize the things coming out of my mouth anymore.

This was my bimester of logistical insanity.  I showed up to Monday morning’s four hours of testing and lecture having just got off a full 12 hour overnight shift.  My week went Wednesday, Thursday, Friday clinicals from 2-10:30pm, Saturday and Sunday work 7:00pm-7:30am, Monday and Tuesday lecture 8:30am-12:30pm.  The closest thing I had to a weekend was my Tuesday afternoon/Wednesday morning break.  If my bimester was made into a montage (set to Eye of the Tiger of course)  it would be various of clips of me changing in my car/bathrooms from clothes to scrubs or from one color of scrubs to the other, looking at pocket flash cards in elevators and stop lights, and falling asleep in public places.  After one Monday test, I realized I had 15 minutes to spare before lecture started.  I considered going into the lobby like everyone else, but realized the testing room was gloriously quiet.  I fell asleep so deeply I drooled on my hand.  In 15 minutes.  Monday mornings were brutal.  But I got through them and the kids got through them, and Nic got through them, and I got my A.  Which is to say, don’t let people tell you you can’t do crazy things if you’re pretty sure that you can.

In short:  Med Surg.  Don’t dread it.  It’s a huge learning opportunity and you will inevitably find it far more interesting than you ever imagined.  I came out of our cardiac week LOVING the material and hanging on the instructor’s every word.  Who knew I’d be such a cardiac junkie?  If you end up loving something that’s a little weird, be sure to let everyone know.  During our out-rotations we do not provide total patient care, we just shadow a nurse (out-rotations being single days in the OR, ER, and Cardiovascular Unit).  My nurse in the Cardiovascular Unit ditched me in telemetry for an hour so she could get some stuff done and I LOVED IT.  It was the fastest hour of clinicals.  I raved about it so much that my instructor got me an additional three hours in telemetry on a different day.  (We had the best clinical instructors.  Seriously.  I feel so lucky to have learned from them.  Leaving them feels a lot like being left in a box on an orphanage stoop.  It’s really lonely and cold and scary out here.)  Take on extra challenges if you can.  I was starting to get bored on my week on the rehab floor, and so I took on a third patient.  It made the day go much faster and helped me to work on my organizational flow.  It really is the place to push yourself and learn as much as you can in relative safety.

Next up, Peds/OB!  I’m going to confess to being a little nervous about this one.  We had been really excited about it until we noticed that the Peds/OB group always looks like they wouldn’t mind if a meteor ended the world at this very minute.  I think it might be low on patient care and high on busywork paperwork.  Oh well, it will be over before I know it!

Alli - This was fascinating to read about! That’s awesome that you enjoyed this rotation so much. I’m looking forward to reading about your experiences in Peds… I wonder why the Peds group looks so down?

I think you’re amazing for doing this, and with a family, too!

Speattle - I’d love to see the video that you were shown, but it shows up as needing permission to view. Do you have any suggestions?

I got my BSN at the UW in 1978. I love reading about your journey in nursing school.

Traci - Sorry about that! I’m guessing copyright issues. This one doesn’t have the original soundtrack but you get the idea–it’s all in their faces anyway!