Brioche is a general term used for a variety of stitch patterns that are worked in similar ways.
As Barbara G. Walker puts it in her Treasury of Knitting Patterns:
The elements of all such patterns are (1) a slipped stitch, and (2) a yarn-over; these are knitted together on the return row.
While this particular pattern is expressed as two rows, it's technically a one-row repeat, with the first row only being worked at the beginning of the pattern.
Brioche stitches go by lots of different names, such as Double Brioche, Waffle Brioche, and Syncopated Brioche. Fisherman's Rib is a similar stitch pattern that is sometimes called Brioche but isn't technically because it doesn't include slipped stitches and yarn overs (instead stitches are worked in the row below to give the distinctive, puffy look of Brioche).
It's a stitch pattern that intimidates some people, but it's pretty easy to work straight once you get the hang of it.
How to Knit Brioche Stitch
Probably the most basic form of Brioche Stitch is this one, also from Walker. It works on an even number of stitches. Stitches are slipped as if to purl with the yarn at the back of the work.
Row 1: *Yarn over, slip 1, knit 1. Repeat from * across.
Row 2: *Yarn over, slip 1, knit 2 together. Repeat from * across.
Repeat only row 2 for the pattern. Note that with the preparation row you'll be working on more stitches than you cast on, so plan for that when determining gauge.
When ending a project or area of ribbing that includes Brioche Stitch at the hem or cuff of a garment, work the row by eliminating the yarn overs and simply purling 1 and knitting 2 together across. After that row, you can bind off in a regular knit 1, purl 1 ribbing pattern. Make sure you bind off loosely, as this fabric is very stretchy.
Brioche Stitch Variations
As mentioned above, there are many different variations on Brioche Stitch.
We have tutorials for a couple of them, including one working on an even number of stitches but without the yarnover at the beginning of the row, to produce a selvage edge. The other uses a two-row repeat, though they're technically considered the same row, forward and back, much like two "rows" of double knitting translate into one row in the pattern.
If you want to try your hand at knitting Brioche Stitch, start with a swatch, then move on to a basic pattern like our Striped Brioche Stitch Hot Pad, which uses the first variation mentioned here, or step up your game with the Two-Color Brioche Scarf. It's not much more difficult once you get the hang of it and it looks striking.
More Brioche Stitch Knitting Patterns
For more basic knitting patterns using variations of Brioche Stitch, check out:
- Brioche Rib Band by Katharine Song, a simple headband that's cinched in the center for a bow-like look
- Rebecca Harmon's Brioche Rib Scarf in one or two colors
- the giant Brioche Infinity Scarf from Unnur Eva Arnarsdóttir
- the Waffle Brioche Dish Towel by Camille Courter brings another variation
- Margaret Luby's Stripey Brioche Baby Blanket uses horizontal stripes for big impact that's easy to knit, while Hollianna Bryan's Brioche Stripe Blanket uses a two-color method
- Diane B. Howard has a great chemo cap worked in Half Brioche stitch, while StitchLand has a Brioche Stitch baby jacket that is super cute (scroll down to find a link for the English translation)
- for a bit more of a challenge, though not much, try the Brioche Vest from Purl Soho, which has a little shaping in the armholes but is mostly adjusted through changing knitting needle sizes
Knitting Daily has a great little free ebook (must register for their emails to download) about how to knit Brioche that includes five free patterns. The basic cowl from Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark is a good first Brioche pattern