Last Updated on January 21, 2020 by Gwen Bautista
Brioche Knitting is an excellent technique for knitters to have in their knitting skills tool kit. Fabrics knit in the brioche technique have a lot of stretch to them. This stitch is great for any garment that requires a forgiving negative ease. The drape in a brioche knit fabric likes to hug curves and is terrific when accommodating a variety of sizes, but can be tricky when measuring gauge which we will explain in part 2 and part 3 of this series.
Like most knitting, the exact origins are unknown, but it is believed that the technique came from the Middle East, as many early (1800’s) knitting books refer to this technique as Moorish knitting. What we now refer to as a brioche technique was popular when making cushions. The term brioche refers to a type of bun that stacked into pieces. The entomology of the word bris is “in pieces.” In brioche knitting, we stack the pieces of our rows or rounds on top of each other to form a ribbed look.
Take a look at this swatch of 2 color brioche fabric. This is designed with Mary Maxim Prism yarn for the August Blog Exclusive. It is a roving yarn so it may appear to be a bit fuzzy as it’s a characteristic of the yarn. In the swatch, it appears as if each row is knit with two colors of yarn. What looks to be one row is actually two rows. In the brioche set up row, only every other stitch is knit. The stitch that you want to appear to be a purl is worked as a (yo, sl P1) – yarn over then a slip stitch purlwise. The stitch you would like to appear as a knit in the setup row is knit. To understand why, it’s helpful to know that in subsequent rows, you will (k2tog) – knit the yo and sl P1 together. In the next row, you will (yo, sl P1) – yarn over and slip stitch purlwise the stitches that were knit in the previous row and knit together (k2tog) the stitches you yarnover and slip stitched purlwise in the last row.
To knit a one-color brioche flat swatch, we cast on 11 stitches. We are using a super bulky size 6 yarn that is wonderful for showing off stitches. We start by working a few rows in k1p1 rib so you can see clearly how the brioche set-up row is worked and the difference in the elasticity of the fabric. Remember, the k1p1 rib is the stretchiest of ribs. Make sure to an even number of rows. Considering that we cast on an odd number of stitches for this swatch, the first row of your k1p1 rib will begin with a k1 and end with a k1. Row two of your rib will begin with a p1 and end with a p1. In the example shown we knit 4 rows of rib before beginning our brioche set up row.
Brioche Knitting for Beginners – Set up Row
To set up your brioche
K1, *yo, Sl 1P, k1* repeat from * to the end
When working brioche remember that we count the (yo, sl 1P) as one stitch so you technically should have only 11 stitches on your needle. If you find keeping track of your stitches easier by counting the yarn over separately then you should have 16 stitches total on your needle when including yarn overs in your count.
When finished it should look like this
Basic Brioche Knitting
Throughout Brioche knitting Yarn Overs (yo) are not counted as a separate stitch. These yarnovers are what gives the brioche fabric its elasticity.
Sl 1P with yarn in front, yo, k2tog,*yo, sl 1P, k2tog; repeat from * to end
When finished it should look like this.
K2tog, *yo sl 1P, k2tog; repeat from *to end
Your swatch should look like this after working a few rows repeating Rows 1 and 2.
Check out our step by step guide to Easy Brioche Knitting.
Brioche Knitting according to Expert Nancy Marchant
There are a number of designers that can be credited with simplifying brioche and at the forefront of these designers is the wonderful Nancy Marchant. Marchant developed a comprehensive method stitch guide and charting system for the universal user enabling designers globally to effectively design patterns for multiple languages. Marchant identified 4 way to brioche:
1. K2tog, yo sl 1P
2. P2tog, yo sl 1P
3. K1, k1 below
4. P1, p1 below
There are only a couple of “Brioche Rules,” and there are always exceptions. When knitting Brioche, all slip stitches should be purlwise unless otherwise stated in the pattern. All yo, sl 1P are considered one stitch, remember the brioche bun is a stacked bun and the yarn overs are stacked on top of the slip stitch. Because these stitches are stacked, two worked rows is equal to one counted row. For more reading on the Brioche technique, we recommend referring to Nancy Marchant’s writings and following along our Brioche tutorials.
Stay Tuned for more Brioche Knitting
Next week we will be working the Striped Brioche Baby Blanket worked in one color Brioche on the flat. You can download the Baby Blanket Pattern or purchase the Brioche Baby Blanket kit on www.marymaxim.com or www.marymaxim.ca along with 36″ [90 cm] circular needles size 9 (5.5 mm).
Later this month, we will be publishing our August Blog Exclusive. This month’s exclusive and free project is a fun Two-Color Brioche Cowl worked in the round and knit with Mary Maxim Mellowspun in Dark Grey and Mary Maxim Prism in the color Rainbow. We are using 32″ [80 cm] circular needles size 4 (3.5 mm). It’s important to note that it is common to size down your needles when knitting brioche to accommodate the technique, so if you are familiar with these yarns you will notice our needle sizes are smaller than usual.
Check out these Brioche Knitting Patterns from Mary Maxim
We have more tutorials, yarn reviews, and guest posts in the works, so stay tuned.