Brioche stitch is fascinating, there is no doubt about that. It is puffy and soft and cosy. It forms the kind of texture that we instantly want to squish and hug and otherwise feel. And thanks to all that texture and “squishy-ness”, anything knitted in brioche stitch is exceptionally warm.
The only drawback of brioche is its reputation for being a confusing and at times frustrating stitch to knit, especially when worked in the round.
In reality, this stitch is quite simple and straightforward. In this tutorial, I’ll show you the easiest way to make it.
Once you understand the flow of working brioche in the round, you’ll be able to make gorgeous hats cowls, legwarmers and numerous other projects without any confusion and frustration, even if you are a beginner knitter.
This easy way boils down to just a few simple steps, and if you like to learn by watching rather than reading, I made this quick video tutorial for you. Now you have no excuse to shy away from brioche worked in the round 🙂
Cast on an even number of stitches and arrange stitches for working in the round. Feel free to use any tools you normally use when you knit in the round – double-pointed needles (here’s how to use them), a short circular needle, two long circular needles, or one long circular needle and the magic loop technique.
As to the type of cast on, use the one that creates a firm edge (long-tail, knit on, cable cast on). Brioche stitch is puffy and gets unruly when the edge is too loose.
To make the swatch shown in the photos, I cast on 20 stitches using the long-tail cast on. I’ll work with one long circular needle using the magic loop technique.
It is better to join stitches for working in the round (this tutorial explains how to do it), but if you are making just a quick swatch to test this technique, you may skip this step.
Knit 1 stitch, then make a yarn over and slip 1 stitch purlwise (insert the right needle into the stitch from right to left and take the left needle out to leave the stitch on the right needle).
Repeat these steps to the end of the round.
If your stitches are divided into groups (usually, when you use double-pointed, two circular needles or one long circular needle), be careful not to lose the yarn over created at the end of each group of stitches as you move the work between needles.
If we count the number of strands on the needles, we’ll see that there are 30 of them now. That is half again as many as the number of stitches we cast on. Not all of those strands are considered to be stitches. The yarn overs we make are more like “enhancements to stitches”. We’ll always work them together with the stitches they are paired with.
Make a yarn over, slip 1 stitch purlwise, then purl the next stitch together with the yarn over created in the previous round. Repeat these steps to the end of the round.
The very first yarn over will be the same strand as the last yarn over of the previous round. It looks a bit funny, but don’t worry – everything will get back to normal as soon as we work the last stitches of this round.
Knit 1 stitch together with the yarn over created in the previous round, then make a yarn over and slip 1 stitch purlwise. Repeat to the end of the round.
Repeat rounds 1 and 2 to make your project as long as you want.
After a few rounds, you will see that brioche stitch is very similar to the 1×1 ribbing, but with a little twist – every stitch is accompanied by a yarn over.
When we look at the stitches sitting on the needles, we’ll notice that every other stitch is paired with a yarn over, while other stitches are “single”.
Once we establish the ribbing-like pattern of brioche, there is no need to look at the pattern instructions. Simply work the stitch + yarn over pairs together and make a yarn over + slip the single stitches in every round. By “work” I mean knit together the paired stitches that look like knits, and purl together the paired stitches that look like purls.
This little trick will help you enjoy the pleasant rhythm of brioche stitch without looking at the pattern instructions.
Another helpful trick is to add a lifeline to your project. This way, your work will be protected in case you make a mistake or accidentally drop a stitch.
When you are ready to bind off stitches, bind them off in pattern – knit the knits and purl the purls (treat paired stitches as one) and don’t make any yarn overs.
That’s how easy it is to work brioche stitch in the round.
If you want to use brioche to make a flat project like a scarf, follow the steps outlined in this tutorial.
If you enjoyed this tutorial,
here’s something else you might find helpful:
“Neat Side Edges” Book
Learn twelve ways to make side edges of a knitted project nice and tidy. Plus, ways to fix side edges, and a way to improve edges of finished projects.