Learn Brioche Basics and Get a Free Beginner Pattern

As a longtime fan of Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark's designs and brioche knitting classes, I was thrilled when I heard our Books department was publishing a book with her—on brioche knitting, one of the strangest and most magical knitting techniques I've ever tried. What is brioche knitting? Well, it uses familiar stitches like the knit and k2tog and yarnover, but combines them in some very unusual movements that creates a deep, plush ribbing that is far more dimensional, expansive, and airy than a traditional knit,purl rib. You can work it flat, in the round, and in multiple colors. I asked Mercedes which projects from the book she'd recommend for first timers, and she discusses these accessories below.

Read her brioche story and learn the basics below! And then download this cute, free cowl pattern, from Mercedes' book Brioche Chic.

Cheers,

The first time I saw brioche knitting, I fell in love. Nestled in an issue of Interweave Knits that had arrived that day was an article by Nancy Marchant detailing a two-color brioche rib technique. I was part-owner of a local yarn shop at the time, and it was a slow afternoon, so I grabbed two balls of contrasting yarn and dove in. After a few missteps, some unraveled yarn, and a few colorful words, I was well underway on a two-color brioche rib hat, ultimately destined to be given as a gift to a friend undergoing cancer treatment. I made a few more pieces that summer, experimenting with yarn colors and textures, and then moved on to other things as shop responsibilities led me in other directions.

A few years later, Nancy published an entire volume on brioche knitting. The techniques sparked my interest once again, and I dove headfirst into brioche knitting projects. After publishing a few sweater designs with Interweave Knits, I was asked to film a video on brioche techniques for Interweave. In spite of a bad case of nerves from being on camera, I was excited to share the technique. Since then, brioche has been on my mind as I experimented with the technique, trying new yarns, shifting colors, and texture options. It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that I have only tried a fraction of what is possible within the world of brioche knitting.

In my brioche knitting classes, I normally teach one-color brioche before we move on to two-color brioche, letting the students become comfortable with the basic brioche stitches on simple swatches. The structure of brioche is significantly different from familiar knit stitches–see how the unique combination of stitches creates a deep, three-dimensional rib below. Once you get the basics, you'll soon fall into the rhythm of brioche knitting. From there, a quick accessory is a great project to try out your new skills

 

  
Basic brioche rib, left, and k1, p1 rib, right

In my new book Brioche Chic, I've included two beginner-friendly accessories in one-color brioche, a simple garter-stitch bordered flat brioche scarf, and a circular-knit brioche cowl (see top of post). You can download the cowl pattern for free here. When knitting flat, you'll be using two basic brioche stitches, the sl1yo (slip one yarnover) and the brk (brioche knit). When knitting in the round, you'll be alternating rounds composed of sl1yo and brk stitches, and rounds of sl1yo and brp (brioche purl) stitches.

The Structure of Brioche

To create brioche's unique structure, we rely on an alternating pattern of slipped and knit (or purled) stitches. Each row or round is worked in two passes, which equal one completed row or round. As alternate stitches are worked, they're not merely slipped but slipped while a companion yarnover is simultaneously worked. This stitch, the sl1yo, is what creates brioche knitting's "enmeshed" structure. Once you have sl1yo stitches in place, these stitch/yarnover pairings are either knit or purled in the brioche method, as a brk (brioche knit) or brp (brioche purl).

    

SL1YO (Slip One, Yarnover)

 

This is a stitch combination that creates a stitch/yarnover pairing, which counts as a single stitch. Following a knit or brk (brioche knit) stitch, bring yarn to front between needle tips, slip next stitch purlwise and simultaneously bring yarn over needle to back of work. (Fig. 1). Following a purl or brp (brioche purl) stitch, with yarn in front, slip next stitch purlwise and simultaneously bring yarn over needle to back of work.

BRK (Brioche Knit)

This is the brioche version of a basic knit stitch, and it is as easily worked as a k2tog. With yarn at the back of the work (Fig. 2), insert right needle tip knitwise into both a stitch and its companion yarnover. Work together as one knit stitch (Fig. 3).

BRP (Brioche Purl)

This is the brioche version of a basic purl stitch, and it is as easily worked as a p2tog. With yarn at the front of work (Fig. 4), insert right needle tip purlwise into both a stitch and its companion yarnover. Work together as one purl stitch (Fig. 5)

 

These three basic stitches make up the majority of all brioche stitch structures. From this point, as in traditional knitting, the options to expand upon the basics are diverse and limited only by your imagination!

—Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark, from Brioche Chic: 22 Fresh Knits for Women & Men

Try your hand at brioche knitting, and a world of new texture and color possibilities opens up.  Explore cables, two-color reversible stitch patterns, and lofty fabrics with projects from Brioche Chic. You can also join me at Interweave Yarn Fest in April 2015 for brioche classes, and learn tips and tricks for perfecting your brioche knitting!

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