A Beginner’s Guide to Brioche Knitting
Have you heard of brioche knitting? Maybe you’ve seen elements of brioche knitting in other patterns and have wondered how this thick and lofty fabric is knitted? In this article we’ll go through how brioche is knitted. At the end of the article there are also a variety of video tutorials.
What is brioche knitting?
Brioche knitting, at first, seem to be too advanced to master without having years of knitting experience. The good news is that you don’t need years of experience! If you know how to knit, purl, slip stitches and do yarn overs, you can try your hand at learning brioche.
While there are different ways to knit stitches to get much the same result, this article will focus on the manner described by Nancy Marchant in her 2009 book, Knitting Brioche.
Nancy also notes that brioche knitting can be worked in the same way as “normal” knitting – that is to say, using knit and purl stitches, increases, decreases, cables, crossed stitches, and more.
Where does the name “brioche” come from?
According to Nancy Marchant in Knitting Brioche (2009) and My Knitting (1843), the name for brioche knitting comes from the French: “so called from its resemblance, in shape, to the well-known French cake of that name”.
The first written English brioche pattern that has been found, is from the 1840-book The Ladies’ Knitting and Netting Book and was called a “Moorish Brioche or Cushion”. Brioche knitting has come a long way!
What is brioche knitting used for?
Because the fabric that brioche knitting creates is so lofty and thick, it’s best used for loose-fitting garments that need to have some ease. It’s not suitable for garments or items that should be light and cool, but rather for comfy cowls, hats, and scarves.
Brioche knitting basics
The tools you need for brioche knitting is not much different that what you’d use for normal knitting.
Which yarn should you use for brioche knitting?
While you can use just about any yarn for brioche knitting, it’s best not to use yarn that has a big halo. Novelty yarn will also not show off the brioche knitting patterns as well.
KnitPal’s merino yarn – like most other natural fibers – are perfect for brioche patterns. Synthetic yarns – like acrylic yarn – can feel too “sticky” while you’re knitting, so it’s best to keep to natural fibers (the environment will also thank you!).
Brioche knitting uses a lot more yarn than normal stockinette or garter stitch – it can even use twice as much. Keep this in mind when you choose yarn for your brioche projects.
Which knitting needles should you use for brioche knitting?
The best knitting needles to use for brioche knitting are straight needles or circular needles. Double pointed needles (DPNs) are for the most part too short for all the stitches needed to make a brioche pattern.
When knitting brioche, go down a needle size or two as this will control the give of the final fabric.
Brioche terms you should know before starting
- Brioche knit stitch (brk) – Often referred to as “bark” or “barking” a stitch”, especially in tutorial videos.
- Brioche purl stitch (brp) – Often referred to as “burp” or “burping a stitch”, especially in tutorial videos.
- k1tbl – knit 1 through the back loop
- sl1yo – slip 1, yarn over
- k2tog – knit 2 together
- sl1 – slip 1 stitch onto your other needle
The symbols used on brioche knitting charts are different than the ones normally used in knitting charts. Click here for a guide to the knitting chart symbols.
Knitting the brioche stitch
The Spruce Crafts gives the brioche stitch pattern’s foundation/set up row and following rows as:
“Row 1: *Yarn over, slip 1, knit 1. Repeat from * across.
Row 2: *Yarn over, slip 1, knit 2 together. Repeat from * across.
Repeat only row 2 for the pattern. Note that with the preparation row you'll be working on more stitches than you cast on.”
In this case row 1 is the setup and the pattern is knitting from row 2.
Below you’ll also find some video tutorials to show you how to knit brioche stitches, purl the stitches, and more!
Casting on and setting up
The first row
Brioche purl stitch
Brioche increases and decreases
Two-color brioche stitch
Using two colors for brioche knitting are very striking and many of the brioche patterns make use of two colors to best highlight the flowing patterns of this technique.
Here’s the Knitting Expat’s tutorial to show you how to knit two-color brioche: