Learn About Brioche Knitting this Weekend!
The world of knitting never ceases to amaze me with its wealth of options—the yarn choices, needle choices, stitch pattern choices, and design choices are endless! One of those options includes brioche knitting.
This versatile stitch is both beautiful and useful. You can see a stunning example of a brioche knitting project in the 2010 issue of Interweave Knits Weekend: the Brioche Rib Cardigan by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark.
Not sure how to do the brioche stitch? Here’s a tutorial by one of the knitting world’s brioche experts, Nancy Marchant. (I took a brioche series of classes from Nancy and they were amazing!)
Brioche Stitch Knitting
By Nancy Marchant
Brioche knitting produces a lofty, ridged fabric that resembles knit 1, purl 1 rib. Pronounced columns of elongated knit stitches appear to float on the surface above purl troughs. Because it is reversible, brioche stitch is a good choice for scarves, shawls, and blankets.
Brioche knitting belongs to a family of stitches that rely on slipped stitches worked in conjunction with yarnovers. On one row, a stitch is slipped, and at the same time, the yarn is carried over the needle to create a yarnover. On the next row, the slipped stitch and its adjacent yarnover are worked together.
Once you get accustomed to working with the paired slipped stitch and yarnover, you’ll find brioche stitch as simple to knit as ribbing.
Basic Brioche Stitch
The key to brioche stitch knitting is the slipped stitch-yarnover unit. On the first row, the yarn is brought forward to the front of the work and the first stitch on the left needle is slipped to the right needle. When the next stitch is knitted, the yarn crosses the needles forming a yarnover. The maneuver is written as (sl 1 yo). On the following row, the slipped stitch is worked together with the yarnover. Most brioche patterns refer to this as “k2tog” but I like to call it “brioche-knit 1” (abbreviated “brk1”) to distinguish it from a decrease. The two steps are alternated stitch by stitch and row by row to produce the characteristic rib pattern. Think of the “sl 1 yo” as the purl stitch and the “brk1” as the knit stitch in regular knit 1, purl 1 rib. The yarnover is always worked together with the slipped stitch-it is never counted as a stitch by itself.
Sl 1 yo: Bring working yarn to front under the needle, slip 1 stitch, bring working yarn over top of needle to the back (Figure 1). This produces a yarnover that crosses over the slipped stitch. This combined slipped stitch/yarnover is counted as a single stitch. (Some books will describe this as a two-step process: “yo, sl 1” or “sl 1, yo.”) Remember: When you are working (sl 1 yo), the yarn must begin in front of the work.
Brk1: Knit the stitch that was slipped in the previous row together with its yarnover (Figure 2). Because the yarnover wasn’t counted as a separate stitch on the previous row, no real decrease is made.
To begin, loosely cast on an uneven number of stitches. The instructions here include a selvedge stitch at each edge, which gives the piece a finished look and greatly facilitates seaming.
- Set-up row: Sl 1 knitwise with yarn in back (wyb; selvedge st), *sl 1 yo, k1; rep from * (last st is a selvedge st).
- Row 1: Sl 1 knitwise wyb, *brk1 (slipped st and yo of previous row), sl 1 yo; rep from * to last 2 sts, brk1, k1.
- Row 2: Sl 1 knitwise wyb, *sl 1 yo, brk1; rep from * to last 2 sts, sl 1 yo, k1.
- Repeat Rows 1 and 2 for pattern.
The key to brioche stitch is the slipped stitch-yarnover unit. On one row, the yarn is brought to the front of the work as a stitch is slipped to the right needle, called “sl 1 yo” (Figure 1). On the following row, the slipped stitch is worked together with the yarnover, called “brk1” (Figure 2).
Two-Color Brioche Knitting
The Brioche Stitch Cardigan is done in two-color brioche stitch, which as the name implies, is worked with two colors.
The main color (MC) forms knit columns on the right side (RS) of the work and purl columns on the wrong side (WS); the contrast color (CC) forms knit columns on the wrong side and purl columns on the right side. Unlike single-color brioche stitch, both knit and purl stitches are used in two-color brioche. However, the fundamentals are the same: the pattern alternates between creating a slipped stitch-yarnover pair (sl 1 yo) and working the pair formed in the previous row together as one stitch. On right-side rows, the slipped stitch/yarnover pair is worked knitwise as a brioche-knit stitch (brk1); on wrong-side rows it is worked purlwise as a brioche-purl stitch (purl the slipped stitch together with its yarnover; abbreviated “brp1”). Again, the yarnovers are always associated with a slipped stitch. To maintain the pattern and color integrity, the colors alternate every row and two wrong-side rows are followed by two right-side rows.
To do this, you’ll need to use circular or double-pointed needles so that the stitches can be slid to the opposite needle tip and worked again without turning the work. To begin, loosely cast on an uneven number of stitches with MC as for single-color brioche stitch, but use circular or double-pointed needles. Do not join into a round, but work back and forth in rows.
Here’s a pattern for a practice swatch.
Cast on an uneven number of stitches.
- Row 1: (WS; CC) With CC, sl 1 kwise (selvedge st), *k1, sl 1 yo; rep from * to last 2 sts, k2 (last st is selvedge st). Do not turn work.
- Row 2: (WS; MC) Slide work to other tip of needle where MC is hanging. With MC, sl 1 pwise (selvedge st), *sl 1 yo, brp1 (slipped st and yo of previous row); rep from * to last 2 sts, sl 1 yo, p1 (selvedge st). Turn work.
- Row 3: (RS; CC) With CC, sl 1 pwise (selvedge st), *brp1, sl 1 yo; rep from * to last 2 sts (slipped st with yo and selvedge st), brp1, p1 (selvedge st). Do not turn work.
- Row 4: (RS; MC) Slide work to other tip of needle where MC is hanging. With MC, sl 1 kwise (selvedge st), *sl 1 yo, brk1; rep from * to last 2 sts, sl 1 yo, k1 (selvedge st). Turn work.
- Row 5: (WS; CC) With CC, sl 1 kwise (selvedge st), *brk1, sl 1 yo; rep from * to last 2 sts, brk1, k1 (selvedge st). Do not turn work.
Repeat Rows 2-5 for pattern.
—Nancy Marchand, brioche knitter extraordinaire!
I encourage you to try brioche knitting. I can’t think of anything more fun to do this Weekend than trying a new knit stitch.