If you’ve been active in the online knitting community over the last couple of years, you can’t have failed to notice that brioche stitch, and particularly two-colour brioche, has been taking knitters by storm! So what is all the fuss about, and how can you get going with this technique?
Brioche stitch creates a fabric that is particularly soft, squishy and bouncy. When worked in two colours, the projects you create will be reversible, and when combined with clever shaping, patterns can be geometric and highly eye-catching. Interestingly, brioche stitch doesn’t appear to have its origins in a specific country or region, but appears to have been known in many northern European countries without ever becoming particularly well-established.
The first section of this two-part masterclass will cover the basics of two-colour brioche stitch, including casting on and the basic brioche abbreviations.
To create the thickness of brioche fabric, each row of knitting is worked twice – once with each yarn. As the fabric is reversible, the two sides aren’t strictly RS and WS, but it helps to designate one side as the RS of the fabric – the RS is the side where you can see the main colour (MC) knit stitch columns.
You will therefore work a RS MC row, followed by a RS contrast colour (CC) row, then a WS MC row followed by a WS CC row. These 4 rows worked are counted as 2 rows of knitting and if you count the knit stitches up a column on the RS, there will be 2 knit stitches visible for each 4 rows worked. As each row needs to be worked twice, you will need to work on either circular or double-pointed needles at all times.
Brioche stitch requires a cast-on edge that will enable the fabric to retain its inherent stretchiness, or in some cases will help to stabilise that elasticity (in this situation an i-cord cast-on can be used). The two-colour Italian cast-on method creates an almost invisible edge and is worked as follows.
Tie together the ends of your two colours of yarn. Hold the knot on top of the needle, using your right hand, with your two yarns separated by the thumb (CC) and index finger (MC) of your left hand (1).
Take the tip of the needle over the yarn on your thumb, then underneath it, coming up again between the two yarns (2). Take the needle tip over the yarn on your index finger, and down behind it (3).
This will catch the index finger yarn on the needle (4). Bring the needle tip under the thumb yarn and then over it, so that it returns to its original start position (5). Steps 2-5 create one knit stitch using the MC yarn.
Take the needle tip over the index finger yarn, round and underneath it, and continue round so that the tip goes beneath the thumb yarn too (6). As you go up in front of the thumb yarn, you will pick up the thumb yarn (7). Tug down on both yarns to complete the purl stitch (8). Steps 6-8 create a purl stitch in the CC yarn. Repeat steps 2-8 until you have 1 fewer stitches than you need (don’t count the knotted ‘stitch’ since this will be dropped off your needle when you work the first row). Work steps 2-5 once more (9).
Holding the yarns in place, drop the final stitch off the needle and use the MC yarn to make a half hitch on the needle instead. This will keep the cast-on from unravelling on your needles (10-12).
And in part two of this how to knit guide we'll continue our exploration of brioche by showing you how to work the set up row. In part three next week we'll cover casting off in two colours.