I know I should really be crocheting, after all I said this was it’s year. I did try. I took out my crochet hooks, found some suitable yarn, chained some stitches, then ripped it out, and got out my needles. Brioche first, then crochet, honest. Plus trying to do something that hates me (really, crochet is not my friend) made Brioche and all it’s associated yarn-overs, sliding & long abbreviations seem a lot easier! Unlike crochet, I knew I’d be able to tell where to put the needle (mostly!).
Just a wee note to say this post is not a tutorial, it’s how I’ve gone from ‘A brkyobrk? Are you kidding me?’ to being quite happy with Brioche. It will hopefully help anyone hesitating a little (or a lot) to know they can Brioche too!
What is this magical brioche?
I’ll be brief as brioche has been everywhere lately! For anyone not familiar with it, it is a particular way of combining knit, purl and yarn overs to create an effect that looks quite like 1*1 rib but results in a different feel. It creates a lush, plump, cuddly, stretchy fabric and is often done in duos of colour.
Two Colour Brioche in the round, after a number of false starts!
Learn as you go V. a bit of study!
Since starting the shop I have changed the way I learn new techniques. Before I would just plough on into the pattern, hope for the best and see what came out the other end. Now, I feel a responsibility to learn more than just the bits I need for a single pattern because when people ask me I want to be able to be helpful. That and Brioche comes with its own knitting language and I want to understand the different bits before rushing into a brRsl dec!
So here's what I did
I had a bit of a scout around the internet but then I just headed to the home of Brioche – www.briochestitch.com - which is Nancy Merchant’s website. Nancy is credited with standardising the terminology around Brioche so where better to start! I didn’t realise there was full tutorials on the site, but once I discovered that, I didn’t leave!
Nancy's awesome site, all images copyright Nancy Merchant & Alexandra Feo
I started with the One-Colour Brioche section and worked through each bit – yep, very serious about learning it correctly! The first thing I did was print off the abbreviations so that I could look at them while knitting the swatches. I am still using these now that I have moved on to patterns.
On to some knitting with the ‘One-Color Brioche Stitch knit version – even number sts’ page. I cast on and then invented my own stitch. 4 rows in I thought ‘this doesn’t look right’ … so I watched the video and well, perhaps I should have been doing another repeat of Knitting 101 ‘How to read the actual instructions rather than what you think it says’ rather than learning a new stitch! Ripped the lot out and started again…
The pink is my own special, definitely not brioche stitch!
Then onto the next page 'One-Color Brioche Stitch – uneven number sts with a selvedge' … I promptly made exactly the same mistake again … rip out, cast on again! While doing that I decided, as well as ‘Use eyes to read words’, that Brioche is best counted after two rows are worked or it looks a bit wonky. I knit a few more swatches until I was happy with it but I was anxious to get on to two colour brioche as the majority of patterns I have seen in it involve two colours.
And we have single colour brioche (after a few false starts!)
I started with Two colour brioche flat. I was glad I had spent time looking at the abbreviations and the general flow with just one colour when I started this section. The most jarring thing about this is the sliding back and forth to allow both colours to be used. It takes a bit of practise around where the yarns should be. Read ‘where the yarn is supposed to be’ really carefully, particularly where you are doing a YO at the end of a row, as this can cause issues later on if it's not correct.
Then onto Two Colours in the round. I found this much easier than two colours flat because, as long as you get the yarn position right at the start of each round, it’s much more straightforward as there is no slipped, you just change colours each row. I foresee a lot of Brioche in the round in my future!
Dovestone DK in Parking & Viking in Two Colour Brioche in the Round ... it was love x
The site has some great additional stitches and cast ons but those I am going to save for later and possibly as I do different projects. I find for my purposes a two needle thumb cast on worked well for the swatches and I'll learn the individual cast-ons as projects call for them because, based on what I have seen, these can vary quite a bit between projects. Even in non brioche projects, I think different cast-ons being specified is becoming more common.
Using it in the wild!
Of course a technique would be no good without using it while following a pattern.
I started Stephen West’s Building Blocks KAL before the last clue was released in October. But I only made it to the second clue, section 5 where I got Brioche Block. It has been lurking about waiting for me since then. To borrow a phrase from Terry Prachett, this project has been a Champion Lurker, always there, waiting for me. Mostly because it's a really great pattern and I really want it but also highlighting my lack of Brioche Skill ... so I was delighted to put a stop to the lurking yesterday!
(Of course when I went back to it I discovered I had done the start of the section in Yarn A rather than Yarn C … yes, I'll book into that pattern reading course … although that might have been a wine related knitting incident (WRKI)!
My Building Blocks Shawl brioche bit so far, Life In the Long Grass Harvest & a stash yarn : )
And I’m making good progress now – it makes so much more sense having made swatches and learnt how the fabric is constructed. My tension is quite irratic but I’m pleased with how it is coming out. There are increases and decreases but now that I understand the slipping and the yarnovers, I can now make sense of those. I also managed to correct some previous row errors!
Things to watch for
Just a few little notes about Brioche that may be worth keeping in mind (I think I'm including there here for me ; )
- Circular needles (or double pointed) are required for two colour brioche. Slipping back and forth feels odd at the start but gets very addictive
- Start with single colour as it’s way less intimidating than two colour – my very first attempt was with two colour on a pattern and I found it quite confusing
- Give the pattern time to develop, it doesn't become obvious at first. This is another reason to practise on a swatch rather than a project (particularly if it has a high stitch count!)
- Row and stitch counting is different but arguably easier because of the different colours and how they are alternated
- When moving between brioche knit and brioche purl rows, it's easy to keep repeating the knit / purl of the previous row so may take a little concentration at the start
- Changing between brioche and other pattern sections are where I had most errors. Yarnovers when you aren’t doing a brioche knit or purl in the next stitch needs a little concentration
- Make sure you are clear on where each yarn should be when starting a row. Patterns I have seen so far give very specific details for this
- For the abbrevations, I found it really useful to print these out with their descriptions and will now carry them around with my brioche projects so I can look at them while I'm knitting, at least until I get the hang of them
- I found my tension quite loose so, at the start, if you are knitting a pattern and want the size to be as specified, a swatch may be a good idea until you are more confident of your tension
That's a bit Rule-sy but perhaps they will help ; )
So where should I go next?
So if you are learning, then head straight to Nancy’s site! I highly recommend starting at One Colour Brioche and going through each page in each section, while knitting the matching swatches. I am hoping to add Nancy’s book to the shop asap but for now, you can find it on on Ravelry along with all of her other patterns.
In the shop we have WestKnits Bestknits which has the Brioche Chevron Shawl (Fingering weight yarn) and the Askews me Shawl (double knitting) which we also have as a single pattern. These are now on the 'Make a Shop Sample ASAP' list, of course!
Now, as it’s just over a week to Unravel and there are samples that aren’t even cast on yet, I better hush. Not sure there is enough time for a Brioche Chevron Shawl this time!
Happy knitting (brioche!)
It's Brioche Stitch, by Stephen West. Be warned, listening to this song may result in it continually playing in your head while you brioche. I know I can't get it out of mine!