Brioche Chic : Fall in Love with Brioche Knitting
The first time I saw brioche knitting, I fell in love. Nestled in the Spring 2005 issue of Interweave Knits 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 raveled 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.
After trying many brioche techniques, loving many while discarding others, I decided to hone in on what makes brioche fun, visually striking, and worth the leap from the familiar. In Brioche Chic, my goal is to bring classic garments and accessories with a modern feel into the world of brioche knitting and vice versa. To that end, you’ll pair familiar pieces with brioche textures, add brioche colorwork to an otherwise simple sweater, and delve into a complex pattern on a smaller accessory. I hope these pieces encourage you to develop a new skill set and cultivate your own love of brioche knits.
Brioche knitting creates an unusual stitch structure, quite unlike anything you may run across in an average knitted fabric. Brioche is sort of a hybrid of k1, p1 ribbing and double knitting, in which you work each row or round in two passes and slip the unworked stitches to create one finished row. Unlike double knitting’s technique of simply slipping the unworked stitches on each pass, brioche relies on an unusual stitch called the sl1yo, or slip one, yarnover. This stitch combined with the subsequent brioche knit and brioche purl create what appears to be a single fabric layer, but it could almost be considered two enmeshed layers of knitted fabric.
The result is thick, luxurious, highly textural, and warm, especially when worked at a slightly smaller gauge to highlight the ribbed stitch columns. Brioche is, admittedly, a bit of extra effort. So why go to the trouble? The minute you feel the texture of a brioche-stitch piece in person, or see a bold piece of brioche colorwork, the answer will seem obvious. The depth of texture and stunning color effects made possible through brioche’s stitch manipulation make these pieces worth the time. In colorwork, handling two colors of yarn per row can be easier, since you are working each color one at a time before returning to the beginning to work the second color, much like mosaic knitting. With cables, colorwork, and other texture patterns, the work is often reversible, making turndown collars, double-sided scarves, and two-toned cowls a design option.
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).
There are three basic stitches in brioche knitting: 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 work (fig. 2), insert right needle tip into both a stitch and its companion yarnover knitwise. 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 into both a stitch and its companion yarnover purlwise. Work together as one purl stitch (fig. 5).
These three basic stitches make up the majority of all brioche stitch structures. In Brioche Chic, we’ll put these stitches together to create brioche stitch patterns. From this point, as in traditional knitting, the options to expand upon the basics are diverse and limited only by your imagination!
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