Learn to Knit Brioche Stitch this Weekend!

Brioche Stitch Cardigan by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark

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 is the brioche stitch. This versatile stitch is both beautiful and useful. You can see a stunning example of a brioche 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

by Nancy Marchant

Brioche stitch 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 stitch 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.

The key to brioche stitch 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).

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 stitch. I can’t think of anything more fun to do this Weekend than trying a new knit stitch.


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Kathleen Cubley

About Kathleen Cubley

Hello daily knitters! I'm the editor of Knitting Daily. I've been obsessed with knitting for about ten years now and my favorite projects are sweaters. I like the occasional smaller project, but there's nothing like yards of stockinette with a well-placed cable or a subtle stitch pattern here and there. I crochet a bit now and then—especially when I need to produce a baby blanket in time for the baby shower. I've been in publishing for 20 years and I'm finally exactly where I want to be: at the crossroads of knitting and communication. I live in Spokane, Washington and when I'm not knitting I enjoy gardening, snuggling with my dogs, swimming, reading, and playing in the snow in the winter. But, really, I'm pretty much always knitting!

13 thoughts on “Learn to Knit Brioche Stitch this Weekend!

  1. I recently got the new bookKnitting Brioche By Nancy Marchant. I occationally came across a pattern using brioche but this book is great at learning this technique. I am an eperienced knitter, who is always looking for the new and interesting, and I found it great fun knitting some of these patterns. I started with the fingerless mitts, which was great to learn the terminaology with. Then I went to the waterlooplein cap, which is a fasinating stitch. Next I want to knit the Rembrandt neckpiece. I found it difficult at first, but if you take time to read from the beginning and understand how the stitch works it becomes a fasinating, fun new technique to learn.

  2. Question: do I have to make any stitch adjustments if I want to take a standard stockinette sweater to make it fit with the brioche stitch? I’m thinking it would come out smaller.

  3. Thanks for this article! I DID learn a new stitch this weekend and I’m going to start a scarf for a friend as soon as I get home from my LYS! It was really nice not to have to buy a book to give the stitch a try. I love this website!

  4. to dbsander@2
    Usually the brioche stitch will come out with a lot more stretch according to Nancy Marchant’s book on brioche knitting. I would try a smallert project to learn the stitches first, and then try a pattern which is writtten for a brioche stitch like the one interweave has in the last issue, ot I recommend the book by Nancy Marchant, it has a couple of very nice sweaters. Also the stitch results in a much heavier fabric than plain stockinging knit. I think it would be very difficult to try to use a standard pattern. Deceases and increases are diffeent too, to keep in pattern. You have to decrease two stitches always to keep pattern. With all the yarn overs this is difficult. Very difficult to count your stitches as well.
    Good luck.

  5. I’m making the sweater anyway. It seems to take a lot longer to knit this but I love what the Brioche stitch does. Fortunately it’s a baby sweater 🙂 I started with a few rows of k1p1 ribbing and all flow together nicely.

  6. To dbsander
    Good luck. It will be a learning experience for sure. I love working on the brioche stitches. Ifinished a couple of things from the book I mentioned before, and I’m working my way to the bigger projects. I would like to know how your baby sweater turns out. So let us know your progress. Thanks.

  7. I started the rembrandt neckpiece pattern from Nancy Marchants book, and came across error
    in decreasing part of pattern. I emailed Nancy and she was gracious in helping and over looking
    the pattern. I am not discouraged yet, even though I have decided to unknit much of my progress
    and get it right. It was good practice and I now can recognize stitches with their proper yo’s which I couldn’t do at start. She said she would probably post corrections on her web site and ravelry, for those of you who are working from her book. Hint for unknitting brioch: I took a yarn on needle and pulled it through all the knit stitches on right side, and all the knit stitches on the left side at
    approx. the row I wanted to go down to. This was very helpful in picking up the stitches again. Without I do not know how one would find all the proper yo’s.
    Dbsander, how is your baby sweater coming along?

  8. I would like to order a DVD on the Brioche Stitch showing how.

    What is a good one to order for directions on all the stitches??

    Mildred Biglen (mbiglen@comcast.net)

  9. I am trying to knit the boot cuffs from Nancy Marchant’s book Brioche. When I get to rounds 8, it just is not coming out correctly. Has anyone else tried this pattern and if so are there errors (other than mine)?
    Also, would sugarcreek6885 share the corrections for the Rembrandt neckpiece.
    Having Nany’s email address would also be helpful if she is willing to share it.

  10. What about knitting Brioche in the round? I am trying to puzzle out a pattern for a friend and things get a little odd at the endings and beginnings of rounds. Anyone familiar with the “Brioche Stitch Capelet” by Fiber Craft Studio? Casting on…ok…Set-up round…ok…Round 1…ok…End of Round 1/Start of Round 2…????Nothing seems to fit. Instructions say to alternate rounds 1 & 2 until piece is about 15″. I can’t get past the first round 1/round 2…HELP!??? Jody

  11. I have the pattern for the Basic Brioche Cowl. In the instructions it refers to “Slyo, brp1”, can you translate for me with instruction please?

  12. Regarding pattern for the basic Brioche Cowl, I found the following explanation is helpful.
    Set-up 1: “k1, yfsl1yo”
    Set-up 2:”sl1yfyo, Brp1″ (Brp1=Broiche Purl=Purl2tog)
    Rnd 1:’Brk1, yfsl1yo”
    Rnd 2:”sl1yfyo,Brp1″
    Repeat Rnd1 &2 for the rest of the Broiche pattern