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Thursday, September 8, 2011

THE VERY PRACTICAL AND HARD TO FIND "DICKIE"

Do you ever remember wearing old-fashioned, heavy winter clothes? If you’re at least 60 years old, you probably do. If you're less than 50 years old, what with central heat and one or more cars in every driveway, you may not have even needed it - unless, of course, you were headed for the ski slopes. But back-in-the-day, layering was a must for winter health and not a fashion statement. You started with underwear - both tops and bottoms - and from there several more layers of wool knits were layered in addition to a long jacket or overcoat. And I'm talking about all kinds of winter clothing items (knit caps, leg warmers, neck cozys, mittens, wool socks, gaitors, etc.). All that was a fact of life, at least in the first part of the 20th Century. So, now to our topic. When I was a little girl, in the winter cold, years before houses became energy-hog McMansions, many children and some precautious adults wore dickies (also spelled "dickeys") – false shirt fronts - under their shirts or blouses to give them added warmth. We don't see dickies as everyday clothing any more. But they're still useful and easy enough to knit.

As children, when we asked why we had to wear a dickie, we were told that that they kept us from getting chest colds. Knitted dickies keep your neck and upper chest protected from icy drafts without having the bother of wearing a full turtleneck sweater. Antibiotics weren’t available back then, and a bad winter cold could complicate and be fatal. So, the tradition was to put on a lot of clothes in winter, both day and night.

Now, dickies don't tuck in anywhere and just hang from the neck. They’re made to sit mostly flat, like bibs, so that they don’t bulge under outer clothing.There are many styles for dickies including mock turtlenecks, turtlenecks, and collared dickies. My sister and I each had several so that they could be washed. Mom knew that dickies were better than scarves for children because they weren't easy to take off and, therefore, not so likely to left some place and lost. Also Mom didn't have an automatic washer until my last years of grade school - so, having several of any necessary item was a good idea.


My inspiration
But, returning to the first statement above, it’s the truth that you can’t find a lot of those old, heavy winter clothes, at least without a major search and with amazingly high price-tags. And that’s the story with the dickies. Cold weather is just around the bend, and I know I’ll enjoy a dickie both in my often drafty house and outdoors. So, with just a bit of effort, I knitted up a first dickie. It took only one weekend. You can make one, too, and you don’t need a really detailed pattern, once you understand how to do it. But I'll share with you the simple pattern I used. It only takes about 4 ounces of yarn – a soft wool and polyester blend is the most comfortable and totally washable with the rest of your clothes. I think this is a nice pattern for beginners, and you can finish it in just a few hours if you know how to knit in stockinette and rib stitch. It's also a fast to make, last-minute gift.

Pattern for a dickie (one-size for adults)
The back and front of this pattern are the same. The collar begins just at the shoulder without any shaping.  The depth of the collar is about 3" deep. I prefer this short collar because it’s more comfortable. (You can make a longer collar that’s 4”-6” deep, if you want to fold it over as a turtle-neck.)

The front and back length is 9". Anything shorter than that will not cover the upper chest and may even tend to ride up some. The bib width is 11".

Use US 10.5 needles for bibs and US 9 needles for collar.

The dickie is knit in 2 pieces and sewn together. Use a heavy worsted weight yarn or 2 strands of a sport weight yarn in the same or coordinating colors. For comfort, choose a very soft-feeling yarn.

Bibs: Stockinette: K one row, P the next. Begin and end all K rows with P 3. This creates the outside “trim.”

Collar: Rib: K 2, P 2, all rows.

Back: Loosely, cast on 40 stitches with the size 10.5 needle. Take the size 9 needles. Rows one to six – purl. Then change to size 10.5 needles and continue knitting with stockinette stitch - starting with a knit row, remembering to purl the 3 outside "trim" stitches. When the piece measures 9”, bind off 5 stitches for the shoulder at the beginning of 2 rows (both sides). Start the collar with a knit row on the wrong side.  Continue with the collar in rib stitch (size 9 needles), and when the collar measures 3”, bind off all stitches loosely (as if to knit on the wrong side, using the size 10.5 needles). 

Front: Knit just like the back.

Place right sides together and sew shoulder and collar seams. Weave in all loose pieces of yarn on the wrong side.

Note: This pattern is really for women (approx. 22" head circumference). Some people will need a wider bib and collar. You can just add the extra stitches you think you'll need for a larger person. The pattern is so simple that it's hard to do it wrong.

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UNRAVEL OLD SWEATERS AND KNIT NEW THINGS.
BIB-APRONS, A MUST FOR THE DEDICATED HOMEMAKER - EASY TO MAKE, TOO.
BE REALLY “GREEN,” WEARING A BULKY SWEATER
GIVE AN OLD T-SHIRT A NEW LIFE AS A SHOPPING BAG.
A LOT CAN BE SAID ABOUT A GOOD SCARF.

1 comment:

Catherine Gautier said...

How much yarn (size 4) did you use to make 1 dickie? I'm about to go get the yarn but don't know the quantity.