Brioche Knitting Tutorial: Advance your skills

So you've already mastered the basics of brioche and can brk and brp with the best of them! In this Brioche Knitting Masterclass Jen Arnall-Culliford shows you how to add more interest and variety to your brioche knitting, by explaining simple increases and decreases.

Briche Knitting Tutorial Masterclass

In this masterclass we’re building on our Introduction to Brioche Stitch articles (see our Masterclasses in issues 104 and 105 of The Knitter magazine), in which we explored the basics of two-colour brioche knitting. Now it’s time to really have some fun and explore the different effects you can create with brioche!

To recap, you create the thickness of brioche by knitting each row of the fabric twice -– once with each yarn. As the fabric is reversible, the two sides aren’t strictly RS and WS, but it helps to designate one side as the RS of the fabric – the RS is the side where you can see the MC knit stitch columns. You will therefore work a RS MC row, followed by a RS CC row, then a WS MC row followed by a WS CC row. These four rows worked are counted as 2 rows of knitting and if you count the knit stitches up a column on the RS, there will be 2 knit stitches visible for each 4 rows worked.

Stephen West Brioche Knitting Chevron Cowl Pattern
Stephen West has created spectacular brioche designs like this chevron cowl

As each row needs to be worked twice, you will need to work on either circular or double-pointed needles at all times. Throughout this masterclass the cream yarn is used as MC and the red yarn as CC.

Important note

A few small errors slipped into our Introduction to Brioche Stitch article in Issue 104 of The Knitter, so please note these if you intend to build on these basics to work the increases/decreases explained here.

  • At the end of Row 1 WS CC should say “Repeat from * to the last 2 stitches, then work Brk1 once more”
  • At the end of Row 2 RS MC should say “Repeat from * to the last 2 stitches, then work Slyo once more” 
  • At the end of Row 2 RS CC should say “Repeat from * to the last 2 stitches, then work Brp1 once more”
  • At the end of Row 3 WS MC should say “Repeat from * to the last 2 stitches, then work Slyo once more”

Increases

Since brioche works with pairs of stitches – a double stranded stitch and a single stranded stitch – all changes in the number of stitches have to be multiples of 2 to maintain the brioche method. The abbreviations look a little daunting, but are really helpful once you understand them, as they tell you exactly what to do. A 2-stitch increase is made by working three times into the same stitch. The method you use depends on which row you wish to make the increase.

RS MC or WS CC increase (brkyobrk)

Step 1

Brk1 as you would usually, but leave the stitch on the left needle.

Brioche Knitting Tutorial brkyobrk increase Fig 1
brkyobrk increase Fig 1

Step 2

Work a yo, bringing the yarn between the needles to the front, then over the right needle.

brkyobrk increase Fig 2
brkyobrk increase Fig 2

Step 3Brk 1 into the same stitch as before, then slip the stitch off the left needle as normal.

Brioche Knitting Tutorial brkyobrk increase Fig 3
brkyobrk increase Fig 3

Step 4On the next row, when you reach the increase (easy to see as you will have 3 single sts together on the needle), Sl1yo, P1, Sl1yo and you will be back to the familiar brioche set-up, but with 2 extra sts than before.

Brioche Knitting Tutorial brkyobrk increase Fig 4
brkyobrk increase Fig 4

RS CC or WS MC increase (brpyobrp)

Step 1

Brp1 as you would usually, but leave the stitch on the left needle.

Brioche Knitting Tutorial brpyobrp increase Figure 1
brpyobrp increase Figure 1

Step 2

Work a yo, taking the yarn over the right needle and then between the needles to the front.

Brioche Knitting Tutorial brpyobrp increase Fig 2
brpyobrp increase Fig 2

Step 3

Work a yo, taking the yarn over the right needle and then between the needles to the front.

Brp1 into the same stitch as before.

Brioche Knitting Tutorial brpyobrp-increase-Figure-3
brpyobrp increase Fig 3

Step 4

On the next row, when you reach the increase, (easy to see as you will have 3 single sts together on the needle), Sl1yo, K1, Sl1yo and you will be back to brioche

Brioche Knitting Tutorial brpyobrp increase Fig 3
brpyobrp increase Fig 3

Step 5

The increase viewed from the other side

Brioche Knitting Tutorial brpyobrp increase Fig 5
brpyobrp increase Fig 5

For increases of more than 2 stitches

Both of these increases may be used to increase by 4, 6, or more even numbers of stitches. Simply repeat steps 2 and 3 more times, and then alter step 4 accordingly. For example, to increase 6 sts on a RS MC row, when you reach the increase point, brk1, [yo, brk1] 3 times all into the same stitch. On the next row, when you reach the increase, Sl1yo, [P1, Sl1yo] 3 times.

Decreases

As with increases, decreases are multiples of 2 stitches. The method you use to decrease depends on the row you are working and on the direction the decrease leans. In each case, the decrease uses 2 stitches with yarn overs (double stitches) and one knit stitch.

Brk Decreases

RS MC or WS CC Left leaning decrease (brLsl dec)

Step 1

When you reach the point to decrease, slip 1 knitwise (this is a double stitch).

Brioche-Knitting-Tutorial-brlsl-decrease-Fig-1
brl.sl decrease Fig 1

Step 2

Brk the next 2 stitches together (a double stitch and a single stitch).

Brioche-Knitting-Tutorial-brlsl-decrease-Fig-2
brl.sl decrease Fig 2

Step 3

Pass the slipped stitch from step 1 over.

This is effectively the same as working a Sl1, K2tog, psso double decrease in ordinary knitting.

Brioche Knitting Tutorial brlsl decrease Fig 3
brl.sl decrease Fig 3

RS MC or WS CC Right leaning decrease (brRsl dec)

Step 1

When you reach the point to decrease, slip 1 knitwise (this is a double stitch).

Brioche Knitting Masterclass brrsl dec Fig 1
brrsl dec Fig 1

Step 2

Knit the next stitch.

Brioche Knitting Masterclass brrsl dec Fig 2
brrsl dec Fig 2

Step 3

Pass the slipped stitch from step 1 over.

Brioche Knitting Masterclass brrsl dec Fig 3
brrsl dec Fig 3

Step 4

Move the stitch from the right to left needle (this will be the knit stitch from step 2).

Brioche Knitting Masterclass brrsl dec Fig 4
brrsl dec Fig 4

Step 5

Pass the second stitch (should be a double stitch) on the left needle over the first.

Brioche Knitting Masterclass brrsl dec Fig 5
brrsl dec Fig 5

Step 6

Slip stitch on left needle back to right needle.

Brioche Knitting Masterclass brrsl dec Fig 6

Brp decreases

These are slightly trickier, as both require that you alter the position of stitches on the needle. When you carry out these decreases, the decrease leans correctly (according to the abbreviation) on the opposite side of the fabric. So the four pictures on the far right demonstrate brpLsl dec and brpRsl dec, and both decreases have been carried out on the RS row with the CC (red) yarn. If you look at the RS (MC) of the fabric, both decreases appear to lean in the same direction; however, when you look at the WS (MC)
of the fabric, you can see that the CC stitch columns have been decreased and they lean left and right as intended.

RS CC or WS MC Left leaning decrease (brpLsl dec)

Step 1

When you reach the point to decrease, slip 1 purlwise (this is a double stitch).

Brioche Knitting Masterclass brplsldec Fig 1
brpl.sl dec Fig 1

Step 2

Slip the next stitch off the left needle (single stitch) and hold in front of the work as though you were working a cable. You may find it helpful to hold the stitch on a cable needle, particularly if you are working with a smooth yarn.

Brioche Knitting Masterclass brpl.sl dec Fig 2
brpl.sl dec Fig 2

Step 3

Slip the next stitch purlwise (this is a double stitch).

Brioche Knitting Masterclass brpl.sl dec Fig 3
brpl.sl dec Fig 3

Step 4

Either purl the stitch from the cable needle, or return the held stitch to the left needle and purl it.

Brioche Knitting Masterclass brpl.sl dec Fig 4
brpl.sl dec Fig 4

Step 5

One at a time, and in order, pass the second and third stitches on the right needle over the first.

Brioche Knitting Masterclass brpl.sl dec Fig 5
brpl.sl dec Fig 5

Step 6

The decrease viewed from the other side.

Brioche Knitting Masterclass brpl.sl dec Fig 6
brpl.sl dec Fig 6

RS CC or WS MC Right leaning decrease (brpRsl dec)

Step 1

When you reach the point to decrease, brp the next 2 stitches together (a double stitch and a single stitch).

Brioche Knitting Tips brprsldec Fig 1
brprsldec Fig 1

Step 2

Twist the next stitch (a double stitch) by slipping it to the right needle knitwise and then returning it to the left needle in the usual way. The left legs of the stitch should now be at the front.

Brioche Knitting Tips brprsldec Fig 2
brprsldec Fig 2

Step 3

Return the brp2tog stitch to the left needle

Brioche Knitting Tips brprsldec Fig 3
brprsldec Fig 3

Step 4

Pass the twisted stitch over it.

Brioche Knitting Tips brprsldec Fig 4
brprsldec Fig 4

Step 5

Slip the resulting stitch purlwise back to the right needle.

Brioche Knitting Tips brprsldec Fig 5
brprsldec Fig 5

Step 6

The decrease viewed from the other side.

Brioche Knitting Tips brprsldec Fig 6
brprsldec Fig 6

How to decrease in Brioche Knitting

Chart symbols for increases and decreases

Brioche patterns will often have charts to help you to see the big picture, as well as to give the instructions as to what to do. The symbols reflect what will appear on the RS of the work, so make sure you have read the key carefully before setting off and finding you have to rip back hours of un hard work. The charts will have two consecutive RS rows followed by two WS rows since you will slide the stitches, rather than turn, every other row.

Brioche Knitting Chart

The swatch shown opposite is worked over 31 stitches, and shows one complete repeat of the charted pattern. It is now ready to work Row 3, MC for the second time. You can compare how the brkyobrk and decrease symbols relate to the resulting movement of the knit columns on the finished fabric.

Brioche Knitting Tips swatch showing right side MC (cream yarn)
Swatch showing right side MC (cream yarn)
Brioche Knitting Tips Swatch showing wrong side MC (cream yarn)
Swatch showing wrong side MC (cream yarn)

Adventuring in brioche

Why not cast on for a swatch, and try out some of these increases and decreases? Brioche stitch makes a perfect cosy fabric for accessories such as scarves, so you could start by casting on 31-41 stitches in an aran-weight yarn (it needs to be an odd number of stitches for the brioche to work out). Follow our instructions for creating basic fabric from issues 104 and 105, then experiment with adding one increase (brkyobrk or brpyobrp) and one decrease (brLsl dec, brRsl dec, brpLsl dec or brpRsl dec) per row. As long as they are matched, you will keep the same number of stitches overall, and you can experiment with placement of the increases and decreases. There is a whole world of stunning brioche fabric out there to explore!

Stephen West Askews Me Shawl
‘Askews Me’ by Stephen West uses brioche increases and decreases to create slanting stripes

Useful links

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