Basic Brioche Stitches

Basic Brioche Stitches
In many ways, learning brioche is like learning to knit all over again. Because the technique relies so heavily on slipped stitches and yarn-overs, it requires new stitch patterns that in turn require different chart symbols. The knitter must then learn both before becoming completely comfortable with this style of knitting.

As with any new technique, starting small produces the best results. Begin with the basic stitches on a gauge swatch. When that becomes comfortable, find a simple pattern that will help you to practice the stitches. Then decide if it is time to move on to something more complex.

Basic brioche knit back and forth (also referred to as ‘knit flat’) starts with a set-up row on an even number of stitches. Begin by bringing the yarn around the needle to create a yarn-over. Slip the next stitch together with the yarn over and knit the following stitch. Repeat this until you have finished the row. Written instructions will look like this:

Set up row:(s1yo, k1) to end

On the next row, create a yarn over and slip the next stitch. Follow this by knitting the next stitch together with its yarnover. This is the basic brioche knit pattern, abbreviated as brk. Written instructions will look like this:

Row 1: (s1yo, brk) to end.

This one row creates a ribbed fabric. Think about it: you are brioche knitting the knit stitches while setting up the purl stitches. When you turn the fabric, you are brioche knitting what were the purl stitches, and setting up what were the knit stitches. Because you always slip the purl stitches, you create a rib without any purling. That’s kind of amazing, isn’t it?

When you knit in the round, however, you never turn your work. Thus, while you will still create the rib over two rows, you will need to alternate brioche knitting with brioche purling, which is abbreviated as brp. You will use the same set up, but on the next pass you will purl the shawled stitch and then set up the knit stitches. Then you will knit the stitches you have set up while doing the same for the purled ones. You are working half the stitches in one pass and finishing one row with two times around the circle. The directions will look like this:

Set up row: (s1yo, k1) to end
Row 1: (brp, s1yo) to end
Row 2: (s1yo, brk)

Note that two-color brioche in the round uses this same pattern. The difference is that the purl stitches are knit in one color, which is dropped at the end of the round. For the second pass, the first color is dropped, and the second color is picked up to use for the knit stitches. It’s that easy!

When knitting two-color brioche flat, you will need long double-pointed or circular needles. This is because you will need to use the slide technique to finish a row. In other words, you will create the set-up row in one color. You will then turn the work and execute Row 1 in a different color. At this point, you have knit half of the stitches, slipped the other half, and have one ball of yarn at each end. Do not turn the row! Instead, slide the stitches back to the beginning so that you can execute pass 2 with the second color. When both balls of yarn are at the same side, you can then turn the work and start the next row. To make this easier to see, directions that are written out will often list each pass separately, looking something like this:

Set up row: (s1yo, k1) to end
DK Row 1: (brp, s1yo) to end. Do not turn. Slide the stitches back to the beginning.
LC Row 1: (s1yo, brk)

It helps to practice these maneuvers, so look for scarf or cowl patterns without any shaping. Take the time to make a few gauge swatches; while gauge isn’t as important in a scarf or cowl, you want to take the time to get comfortable with the maneuvers. Then notice how pleasant it is to knit brioche, and enjoy your finished garment!

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This content was written by Korie Beth Brown, Ph.D.. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Korie Beth Brown, Ph.D. for details.