Knitting Brioche

Brioche stitch and I go way back. One of my very first knitting projects was the simplest brioche stitch scarf for my best friend. I again turned to brioche when I designed Roza’s Socks.

My latest brioche adventure involves a follow-up vest for my mom. She loved the first, and immediately asked if I would knit a second, a little bit shorter. I took a few weeks’ break (it was a lot of stockinette), and started scheming. My mom kept repeating that she wanted slimming vertical lines. Knitting a large vest in tight ribbing, like 2×2, would land me in a mental hospital. Seriously. Besides, I don’t find tight ribbing over a curvy body particularly flattering, vertical-ness aside.

So, I kept thinking of other ways to add a strong vertical dimension to the vest, and ended up mixing wide ribbing with some brioche, which doesn’t draw in as much as true ribbing would. I blocked my gauge swatch under tension to reveal all the peaks and valleys of the stitch pattern (just like blocking lace!), and intend to do the same with the actual vest pieces. I drafted the pattern using the post-blocking gauge, of course.

I’m using Cascade Yarns Eco+, in Spruce (8462). The yarn is very soft and fluffy, comes in giant 250 gram skeins, and knits up quickly at 3.5 stitches per inch. No complaints except that I find it very unforgiving to any stitch or tension imperfections: they all show.

My idea to use a variation of brioche stitch for my mom’s vest was also influenced by a book I recently purchased: Knitting Brioche by Nancy Marchant.

I found this book interesting in the same way I found Reversible Knitting interesting (my review here, the blog tour stop here): it’s a complete tome devoted to one particular knitting theme. Both books develop their own language for explaining the techniques, both provide detailed instructions and step-by-step photos for knitting the elements, both contain superb stitch dictionaries, and finally provide some intriguing patterns at the end. What sets Knitting Brioche apart, for me, is the author’s integration of brioche-based stitch patterns into the real world: pages upon pages of special cast-ons, bind-offs, selvedges, increases and decreases… everything you’d need to take a stitch pattern, and plug it into your favorite garment or design idea.

This book opened my eyes to the brioche family of stitch patterns. Brioche is not a one-trick pony – there are dozens of variations, sixty documented in this book alone! In addition, Knitting Brioche is a fantastic reference for reversible and multi-color knitting: the stitch patterns are photographed front and back, and, if relevant, in multiple color variations. I’m really impressed, and Knitting Brioche proudly joins the rest of my knitting reference books. In the extended entry I share some tidbits from the book – techniques, stitch patterns, clothing patterns – to give you a sense of what you can expect inside.

The author develops terminology, abbreviations, and chart symbols specific to brioche stitch:

Step-by-step instructions and photos, demonstrating cast-ons, bind-offs, increases and decreases. Special attention is paid to the reversibility of many brioche-based patterns, knitting flat versus knitting in the round, and multi-color knitting:


Minnie Stockinette Brioche Stitch illustrated on the right and wrong sides, in one, two, and three color variations:

This picture sold the book for me (you mean, I could learn to make all these different decrease patterns?!?):

Here are some of the garment patterns:






29 thoughts on “Knitting Brioche

  1. Josiane

    Oh, thanks for sharing your appreciation of that book! I hadn’t yet heard of it, and it really sounds like something I’d enjoy.

    It’s great that it provided some inspiration for your mom’s vest too: judging from your swatch, it will be gorgeous!

  2. Christie

    WOW! I haven’t had any experience with Brioche…I will definitely have to check it out. Seems 2010 is the year or new techniques…I might have to tackle this one too!

  3. Angie

    Thank you for the review of this book. It really looks like an invaluable reference to have in a knitter’s library. It’s hard to know which books will actually add something more than the basics revisited. This is a new technique I’m looking forward to trying!

  4. emily

    I happened upon that book at Barnes the other day and was tempted to buy it. Can’t wait to see what fun things you think up!

  5. Virginia

    Ooh, cool! I’d been looking at that book the other day in Borders, but didn’t have too much of a chance to really dig into it.

    Thank you for your review! Very thoughtful and well written.

  6. Sarah

    Just saw the Haarlem Jacket on Ravelry today and was totally intrigued! I need to get my hands on a copy of this. Thanks for posting the decrease por*n.

  7. Heather

    Now you’ve sold me on the book–for some reason, I’d always assumed that brioche stitch was beyond my skill set, but now I’m willing to give it a go:)

  8. Marion

    I have this book but haven’t attempted anything yet. I can’t wait to see your mother’s vest and anything else you make from the book.

  9. kate

    Oh wow. All those two-color pictures have sold me as well.

    I’ve made a few half-hearted attempts at brioche and have never managed it–I’ll just have to get this book and learn!

  10. mille

    Thanks for your discussion on the book – I’m sold 🙂

    Love the books on texture and stitches and such…! I recently found a brioche stitch variation on a factory-made blanket that my mom had that I figured out how to do, but would like to see if it has a name…

  11. Mimi

    Thank you for a great review. As always — very informative, well-written and entertaining. Good luck with the vest — you’re mom is lucky to have you.

  12. Karen B.

    A friend of mine in Amsterdam was just singing the praises of this book. Ms. Marchant, who relocated to the Netherlands years ago, stopped by the Monday SnB meetings with samples. Jealous? You bet!

  13. JudiP

    Thanks for the book review! I’m thrilled to discover that my local library has this on the shelf! I’ve done brioche stitch (made a bunch of manly hats last Christmas) and I’m swatching for a “Knit One Below” project, but somehow I still feel a bit like I’m “flying blind.” You know, able to follow the directions and get the desired result, but not really sure how it happened. This books looks like it will be truly educational.

  14. kay

    Those pictures are persuasive. Does this book define brioche the way Elizabeth Zimmerman does (using yarnovers) or is it what she refers to as fisherman’s rib (knitting into the row below)? The yarnover type I find easy, but knitting into the row below hasn’t ever really worked for me.

    Curious to know. Thanks a ton!

  15. Astoria

    I had just purchased this book this week also, and I really love it. It’s going to take some time to digest.

    Kay, she mentions fisherman’s rib, but agrees with you that the yarnover-type brioche stitch is much easier and faster. (She gives, I believe, 4 ways to make the same basic brioche stitch, all with yarnovers.)

  16. CarlaM

    Some knitting books you can best buy right away as it is clear that sooner or later you want to have the book anyway. Knitting Brioche is definitely one of them. A thorough explanation of the technique combined with a lot of stitch patterns and patterns that each teach you another aspect of the technique. Nancy Marchant did a great job writing this book!

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