Have you thought about learning Brioche knitting but maybe don’t know where to start? Well you’re in luck — we recently put up a series of Brioche videos on our YouTube channel!
Brioche is not actually hard to do; in fact, if you can knit and purl, then you can Brioche! It makes an extremely squishy, stretchy fabric by adding yarn over loops into the ribbed knitting. It looks similar to 1×1 ribbing, but with more depth.
Watch the single color knit flat tutorial video to see how to do a basic 1-color brioche flat across rows.
Here’s that same swatch stretched way out; you can see how the columns of knit stitches look like normal ribbing, but the space between looks different from a 1×1 ribbed fabric.
And below is the other side, which looks identical … except for the live stitches on the needle! Above, the knit stitches are normal, and the purl stitches have yarn over loops passing over the top of them; below, it’s flipped: the purl stitches are normal, and the knit stitches have the yarn overs running over the tops.
In Brioche knitting, you’ll always work the stitches with the yarn overs on top together as one stitch (either knit or purl), and you’ll always make a yarn over over the top of the other stitches, which are slipped. On each row worked, which stitches are worked and which stitches are slipped (with yarn over) flip back and forth, so all stitches end up being worked over the course of two rows.
And then there’s 2-color Brioche! It’s worked the same way, with regards to half the stitches being worked and the other half being slipped, and switching back and forth on each row, but you’re also switching back and forth between which color is being used on each row.
Because only half the stitches are being worked on each row, and because of the way colors are changed, 2-color Brioche ends up being completely reversible, with the two sides having opposite dominant colors. Cool looking, right?!
Check out the tutorial video for exactly how to use 2 colors with Brioche knitting. It’s different from most knitting techniques because you’ll be working across each row in the same direction twice, once in each color; this means you must knit 2-color Brioche on circular needles, because you’ll slide your knitting across the needle between every other row.
For example, you’ll work across one side with color A, slide it across, then work across the same side with color B, then turn; then you’ll work across the other side in color A, slide across, and work across that same side in color B. See, it’s not hard to do!
And then we finished off this video series by showing you how to decrease in Brioche! Because Brioche is all 1×1, you cannot just decrease a single stitch, because that would put 2 knits or 2 purls next to each other and break the pattern. So Brioche is always decreased in double-decreases, either left-slanting or right-slanting. Below is what the two decreases look like on the side they are worked on:
And then here is what the other side looks like after the decreases are worked:
Check out the video to learn how the decreases are made. If you’ve done normal knit decreases, you can do these too!
Oh hey, isn’t the shawl in the video image above beautiful? It’s called Both Sides Now and it’s part of our new Brioche book, Yarn Over: Brioche Knits! This book, full of all kinds of Brioche patterns, from beginner to advanced, accessories and garments, was our inspiration behind this tutorial series!
Now that you have all the resources you need to knit Brioche flat, both in one color and two, and also to make decreases … wait a second, what about the very first step: casting on? Well you don’t have to use a special cast on method for Brioche, but it will help your piece to have a nice, stretchy edge and also to look great, especially when it comes to 2-color Brioche.
We’ll show you how to do this cast on method that is perfect for Brioche; it is very similar to the Long Tail Tubular Cast On, so if you’ve done one of them, it’ll be easy to learn the other one.
2-Color Italian Cast On
Start by tying the two yarns together, and then placing them over your knitting needle, with the lighter color in the front. Throughout the tutorial, we’ll refer to “light” and “dark” yarns, which is the only reason you need to have the lighter color in front for now, as you learn.
Note: You can work this method for 1-color Brioche as well; just make a slip knot in your working yarn with a tail approximately three times as long as the cast on row, place the knot on the needle, and hold the yarn with the tail in place of the dark yarn here, then work it exactly the same!
Now hold the two yarns similarly to how you would for a Long Tail Cast On, with the light yarn going over your left-hand index finger and around the back, and the dark yarn going in front of and under your left-hand thumb, and then both yarns held in place in your remaining left-hand fingers.
Move your hand/needle so the needle is between the two yarns, and the yarns are now making a loop around the needle; from the knot on top, the light yarn is going in front of the needle then up around to the back over your finger, and the dark yarn is going around the back of the needle, then to the front around your thumb. This loop made now, with the knot, will not be an actual cast on stitch — it will be removed later — so do not count it when counting how many stitches you’ve made.
Make a knit stitch:
Now we’ll cast on the first knit stitch, following the animation above: bring the needle forwards, over the top of the dark yarn, then around it, underneath it, then back up over the light yarn, and around it, grabbing it and pulling it forward, then come back around the front of the dark yarn and back up to the top position.
So you’ve pulled a loop of light yarn onto the needle, and it now looks like this, above. Here is the movement shown in a still diagram:
That move, to cast on one knit stitch (in the light color yarn) is like making a figure 8, or an infinity symbol, with your needle, the way you bring the needle up then under the dark yarn, then up then under the light yarn. That’s how we like to think of it anyway! Think about it however it makes the most sense to you.
Make a purl stitch:
Now we’ll make the next stitch: a purl stitch, in the dark yarn. Following the animation above: bring the needle over and behind the light yarn, then down around underneath it towards the front, then under the dark yarn, around to the front, grabbing the dark yarn from below, then bring it up and back, under the light yarn, and back into position.
You’ve grabbed a loop of dark yarn into the needle now, and it looks like this, with the light yarn looped in front of it.
That movement is more like a teardrop shape, with the needle moving under the top yarn, then straight down into a loop under and around the bottom yarn, then back up and under the top yarn; it is not that same figure 8 that the knit stitch makes.
Now continue casting on 1 knit stitch, 1 purl stitch, until you’ve made as many stitches as you need. For a flat row of knitting, you’ll usually cast on an odd number of stitches, so the first and last stitch are both light yarn knit stitches. So it’ll look something like this:
To finish, drop the dark yarn, grab that final loop of light yarn from the needle, and twist it once, then place it back onto the needle:
Now pull to snug it up, and turn to work your first row. Here’s the cast on, ready to work:
For the first row, work across in Brioche with the light yarn; since the light color cast on stitches were knit stitches, and you now turned to work in the other direction, that means the light color stitches are purl stitches across this row. So work the first row: (P1, SL1YO) to last stitch, purl the last stitch, and remove that knot loop at the end (always purling the light yarn stitches, and slipping with yarn over the dark yarn stitches).
And now you’ve begun in the standard 2-color Brioche pattern. Next you’ll slide the knitting across to the other side and work another row across the same direction in the dark yarn, knitting the knit stitches together with the yarn overs, and slipping (with yarn over) all the light yarn purl stitches.
The cast on method creates a wonky edge for the first several rows, so don’t worry if it looks messy at first! Here is the swatch after just the first 4 rows (twice across the first side, then twice across the other side):
And the other side at the same point:
But then here it is after more has been knit. It makes a very nice edge! And stretchy!
We hope this gives you what you need to go ahead and cast on for your first Brioche project. The technique is fun to do, once you get into the rhythm of it, and it looks so neat — check out all the patterns in the new book to see the variety of different looks you can get with this versatile technique!