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Brioche knitting is having a moment (again!) and if you don’t know how to knit brioche stitch, this is an introduction to the very basics along with a little free headband knitting pattern to help get you started.
What is Brioche Stitch?
Brioche knitting is a technique that makes a dense, squishy, stretchy fabric that looks sort of like ribbing with really pronounced knit stitches.
It’s formed with a combination of slipped and wrapped stitches that can take a little practice to master. Brioche knitting has a language all its own and while it’s not that difficult, it can be a little mind boggling if you don’t understand the terms and basic techniques.
Brioche can be worked on any number of stitches, with one or two colors, flat or in the round, with shaping or straight. But we’re going to keep it all the way basic for this tutorial with one color, straight and flat knitting brioche stitch.
YF Sl1 YO
The first thing you need to know how to do when knitting brioche stitch is a little maneuver called yf sl1 yo.
See what I mean about it being a secret language?
But if you break it down it’s really pretty simple.
YF: aka yarn forward, this just means the yarn is brought to the front of the work as if you were making a purl stitch.
Sl1: this means slip one stitch, which you also do as if to purl, from the back of the stitch to the front, from the left needle to the right without manipulating in any way. In the above photo the yarn is at the front and the stitch is being slipped.
YO: While this typically means yarn over, in brioche knitting it means to take the yarn over the needle from front to back so that it is again at the back of the work. In the above photo the yarn is over the needle and at the back ready to work the next stitch.
This whole process done together gives you a slipped stitch with an extra loop of yarn around it. This funky looking stitch is the basis of brioche knitting.
Setting up to Knit Brioche Stitch
Brioche stitch can be worked on an even or an odd number of stitches. For this project we are working on an even number of stitches.
To begin you need to cast on however many stitches the pattern requires (getting ahead of myself a little, but this project uses 14). Brioche requires a stretchy cast on and bind off because of the stretch in the fabric itself.
My long-tail cast on was stretchy enough for this project, but you can use a stretchier cast on if you tend to cast on tightly (Jeny’s Stretchy Slip Knot Cast On is a fun one to try, especially if you are familiar with her stretchy bind off method).
The basic knit brioche stitch used in this pattern is a one-row repeat, but it requires a setup row that includes that yw sl1 yo we were just talking about. Do that, then knit a stitch. Repeat these two moves across.
Adding in the brk Stitch
The other weird abbreviation in basic brioche knitting is the brk, pronounced bark, which is just a short way of saying “brioche knit.”
All it means is that you knit the slipped stitch together with the wrap.
So the repeat for brioche becomes: *yf sl1 yo, brk. Repeat from * across.
Repeat on every row until your piece is the length you want. The first few rows look a little weird but after a short time you will begin to see those prominent knit stitches pop out.
Again you will want a stretchy bind off for the end (I knit 2 together through the back loop, then slip the stitch I just made back onto the left-hand needle and repeat across).
If you want to see that all in action, check out this video I made.
Easy Brioche Stitch Headband Knitting Pattern
Ready to try brioche stitch in a project? Grab some heavy worsted or bulky weight yarn and size 9 US knitting needles (or whatever yarn and corresponding needles you have handy, just know that you might want more or fewer stitches if you are using a different yarn weight).
Cast on 14 stitches.
Work the setup row: *yf sl1 yo, K1. Repeat from * across.
Work the pattern row: *yf sl1 yo, brk. Repeat from * across.
Continue to work the pattern row until the piece is an inch or two (2.5-5cm) shorter than the head you’d like to wrap it around. About 22 inches/59 cm is good for an adult head.
Bind off loosely and leave a long tail for sewing.
Stitch the cast on and bind of edges together.
Weave in ends.
Learn More about Brioche Knitting
A couple of my favorite resources for brioche knitting beyond the basics include Knitting Brioche by Nancy Marchant (she has several books about brioche knitting but this one is best for beginners) and Brioche Chic by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark.
Both of these books will give you a good grounding in the basics and provide fun patterns that will inspire you to learn more.