Everything you need to know about Brioche Stitch knitting. How to get started, all the important variations, and how to bind it off.
The Brioche Stitch is one of my all-time favorite stitches. It’s fun and easy to knit, it creates a very voluminous and cuddly fabric perfect for scarfs and other things to keep you warm in winter.
Before you start with this stitch, you should be familiar with casting on and casting off, the knit stitch, the purl stitch, knit two together, yarn over, and slipping a stitch. This sounds complicated, but trust me, it really isn’t!
What you need:
- This stitch works best with soft, woolly yarns
- Circular needles of your choice. Read my needle guide for beginners if you are still struggling.
There are many amazing variations of the Brioche Stitch (I’m going to show you the three most important ones in this tutorial). They all have one thing in common: They are all a combination of a slipped stitch and a yarn over which are knitted together on the return row.
I am not sure why exactly it is called “brioche stitch”. But probably because the fluffiness reminded the creator of the equally fluffy french brioche dinner rolls.
Brioche Stitch knitting – the basic Stitch
The standard brioche stitch creates a lovely, smushy fabric. The best part: After one preparational row, it’s a one-row repeat pattern, so you really don’t need big charts or a good memory.
Preparation: Cast on an even number of stitches using BOTH needles to create a very loose and elastic cast-on edge.
Row 1: K1, *yarn over, slip 1 purlwise, K1. Repeat from * to the end of the row, K1
Row 2: K1, *yo, sl1p, knit 2 together*, K1
From now on, only repeat row 2 until the end. In this case, you’ll get a standard garter stitch edge. See below for a much nicer alternative.
Pro tip: If you want to knit this extra fast, you can work the yarn over and the slip stitch at the same time. Simply bring the yarn to the front of the work and then slip the stitch. Now bring the yarn to the back again and you’ll have two loops on your right needle.
A couple of things to consider
- You will need about 30-40% more wool than for a regular work of the same size.
- You are basically working increases in the first row through the yarn overs. Your work will be significantly bigger than a similar piece in stockinette stitch with the same number of cast on stitches.
Another thing you should be aware of. It takes a couple of rows (8-10) for the pattern to really show. So, don’t worry if your work looks somewhat weird after the third row. That’s normal
Brioche Stitch with an uneven number of stitches
You can also knit this pattern with an uneven number of stitches, in this case, you have a 2 row repeat like this.
- Row 1: K1, *yo, sl1p, k2tog*, yarn over, slip1, K1
- Row 2: K1, *K2tog, yo, sl1p *, k2tog, K1
Repeat those two rows until the end of your work. In reality, you just have to k2tog all double stitches and yo&sl1p all single stitches. So, it’s not a big difference really.
How to knit Brioche Stitch into the row below
Instead of the yarn overs, you can also knit the brioche stitches into the row below. This method is less yarn thirsty than the regular brioche stitch but only really works with smooth yarns (hard to find the stitches one row below with a mohair yarn).
Here’s how you knit:
- Cast on an uneven number of stitches
- Row 1: Knit
- Row 2: Slip1, *K1 into the row below (K1b), P1*
- Row 3: Knit as the stitches appear but knit every knit stitch into the row below
Repeat row 2+3 until the end.
The resulting pattern will be a bit tighter and structured than the regular brioche stitch. It tends to look less neat, though, as the stitches from below fall less precise when lifted than the yarn overs.
For knitters who find it too difficult to combine the slip and yarn over into one stitch, this method will probably be a bit faster.
Brioche Stitch edge
Let’s talk about the brioche stitch edge.
The regular garter stitch edge does not harmonize all that well with the brioche stitch. That’s why I recommend adding a proper 3 stitch selvedge for projects like scarfs where you don’t sew the edges together. Here’s how you knit a brioche stitch edge:
- Even-numbered rows: K1, sl1p, K1 (on both sides)
- Odd-numbered rows: Sl1p, K1, Sl1p (on both sides)
After the second row, you can basically knit them as they appear where you knit every knit stitch and you slip every purl stitch with the yarn in front. This gives a very neat & round edge.
How to increase and decrease Brioche stitch
It’s fairly easy to work an increase with a brioche stitch pattern. All you have to remember is that you can only increase the knit stitches.
- So, knit until you reach one of the double stitches you would normally k2tog.
- Knit through the double stitch like you normally would but DON’T slip it off your needle yet.
- Instead, yarn over once and then knit 1 again into the same stitch. Done.
- Now you have another brioche stitch combination for the next row.
Note: If you are knitting into the row below, you work it the same way (so knitting the row below twice with a yarn over in between). The only difference is that on the return row, you have to knit the yarn over as a regular knit stitch (there is no row below, obviously).
Decreases work the other way round: Just k3tog starting with a single purl stitch.
Half Brioche Stitch
A very interesting variation is the half brioche stitch. It’s less bulky than the “full” brioche stitch. Basically, it boils down to only knitting one row in the brioche stitch and in the return row you knit all stitches as they appear:
- Row 1: K1, *yo, sl1p, K1*, K1
- Row 2: P1, *P1,K2tog*, P1
There’s an easy way to memorize the return stitch; Purl all single stitches and knit all double stitches. In the next row, yarn over all purl stitches and knit all knit stitches.
The half brioche stitch has two different sides. I personally think they are both pretty, so I wouldn’t call it a wrong and a right side. But you might have to decide which side will be the front of your work. A standard stockinette selvedge works fine with this stitch (so k1 in the first row and p1 on the return row).
2 Color Brioche Stitch
Another variation you really should try once is the 2 color brioche. I know, 2 colors might sound scary for a beginner, but there’s no need to be afraid!
Why? Your work will show a different (dominant) color from each side and you actually don’t have to work two colors at once. Instead, you work each row twice (but each time in a different color). It’s really easy.
Note: You will need double-pointed needles for the 2 color brioche stitch. Circular needles work as well, but it’s bit more complicated as you will have to slide the work back and forth between the two ends all the time.
Here’s how to do the 2 colored brioche stitch:
Cast on an uneven number of stitches in yarn A.
Now, slide the work back to the other end of your needles and start with yarn B on the first stitch.
- Row 1 (yarn B): P1, *yo, sl1p, P1*, P1
- Row 2 (yarn A): K1, *p2tog, yo, sl1p*, K1
(slide the work to the other end)
- Row 3 (yarn B): P1, *yo, sl1p, p2tog*, P1
- Row 4: (yarn A): K1, *k2tog, yo, sl1p*, K1
(slide the work to the other end)
- Row 5: (yarn B): P1,*yo, sl1p, k2tog*,P1
- … and so on
Basically you work all the stitches as they appear. Only the first two rows are a bit tricky as it’s still a bit hard to see the difference between a purl and a knit double stitch. But once the ribs are fully formed, it’s incredibly easy.
Brioche Stitch bind off
You can bind off the brioche stitch with the regular bind off. Just remember two things:
- cast off the stitches as they appear, meaning purl cast off every purl stitch and knit cast off every knit stitch
- try to cast off as loosely as possible (so stretch out those loops before you slip them off).
If you are struggling with this, simply take a needle 1 or 2 sizes bigger for the bind off.