Someday vs. Right Away: Brioche tasting

Someday vs. Right Away: Brioche tasting

Brioche, fisherman’s rib, half-brioche, English rib … these are all names for what looks a lot like the same super-squishy ribbed fabric, except the method of getting there is slightly different. Or maybe they’re all different names for the same fabric and the methods of achieving it are interchangeable? I can’t figure it out — some people use the names interchangeably and others seem to have fixed ideas about underlying distinctions thereof. I don’t know! As far as I can tell, the latter three are all some version of a knit-1-below technique whereas brioche involves working paired yarnovers together with adjacent stitches. (Am I right about that much, anyone?) Whether that leads to a molecularly different fabric or is just an alternate path to the same fabric, I’ve never done it and would love to try it someday. (I have done the knit-1-below version, and love it.) I’m into this little Lang sweater pattern, 242-41, but if it is in fact brioche — as I’m defining it here —I’d want to try the technique on a smaller canvas before diving into a whole sweater. Kirsten Johnstone’s Shinko Hat is a gem, with shifting bands of brioche. And then there’s Purl Soho’s wildly appealing Fluffy Brioche Hat (free pattern), which is sort of a seed-stitch equivalent in brioche.


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36 thoughts on “Someday vs. Right Away: Brioche tasting

  1. when I was a child my father used to travel a lot to Mexico for job training and he got me a few knitted jackets (chamarras) that I loved to death. These chamarras where made with a thick knitting stitch (now that I knit I think they were made with brioche stitch or maybe tunisian crochet). I think I need one of those jackets again in my life!

  2. I just learnt to Brioche and it’s definitely something that requires practice, but mostly concentration! It’s different from the Fisherman’s Rib in that when working flat you knit both sides of the fabric twice. Brioche knit the first row, then instead of turning, slide the stitches back to the end of the needle then Brioche purl the same row. After that you turn and repeat the sequence. It’s a gorgeous squishy fabric and spectacular when done in two colors. :) It’s definitely a fun stitch to learn, particularly if you like to work your brain. :)

    • So you’re of the school of thought that brioche is that particular knitting method and not a blanket term for the resulting fabric, regardless of how it’s achieved. That’s my belief, as well.

    • I believe it is necessary to work 2 rows from the same side only when you do 2-color brioche – it has something to do with where the yarn is left hanging after working the rows. If you only work in 1 color that is not a problem and you can work back and forth like “normal” ;-) knitting.

      • You are right! I literally just learnt and the teacher taught us 2 color in the round. I read about 2 color flat as I want to make Bristol Ivys’ Nesting Wrap, however I did not realize that about 1 color flat. Thanks. :)

  3. Seems like a question for Nancy Marchant’s book, “Knitting Brioche: The Essential Guide to the Brioche Stitch.” You can preview the intro on Amazon, and she writes: “When I was taught brioche stitch by knitting friends in the Netherlands they explained that they had four different methods of producing the same stitch.” She goes on to briefly outline the four (both of which you mention here), and says “these techniques are different, but the result is the same.” I’ve also seen others describe brioche as a style of knitting, rather than a single technique. It’s definitely not my wheelhouse, though, so I’m kind of as confused as you are.

    • So that sounds like in her mind or experience brioche is a blanket term for the resulting fabric and not the one particular method of achieving it? I wish I had a copy of her book so I can see if she employs more than one method in her patterns.

  4. I think it’s very wise to work brioche on a small canvas first. I started a two-color hat which I might just need to frog and restart. For an experienced knitter, it sure took me by surprise (though not as bad as the stacked increases/decreases a la Fox Paws!).

    Kirsten Johnstone has a great aesthetic. I love all her patterns and this hat is no exception.

  5. My notes told me to retrieve Interweave Knits Fall ’14 for an article titled “Fisherman’s Rib Versus Brioche” by Ashley Rao. I did and found 2 copies of that issue. I’ll pop one in the mail to you. She shows Marchant’s brioche and 2 variations of fisherman’s – all 3 producing the same fabric and all 3 looking very different at the needle.

      • Yes. And she has an even longer list of “others call it . . . ” than you. The photos are really interesting to see how the different methods sit on the needle and knit schematics with differently colored rows really convince that the fabrics are the same. It seems to me that the the YO method is much more cumbersome – not sure how it survives with the knit-belows. So, yes, brioche is the same fabric as the 2 fisherman’s ribs she shows . . . wonder how many different ribs call themselves fisherman? Mwahaha! Did errands yesterday and hit the PO so article is on its way.

  6. Purl Soho has wonderful “101” explanations, tutorials, etc, so I can see myself diving into their hat pattern first.

  7. I tried to make a brioche sleeveless turtleneck from Purl Soho ( a few years ago. I don’t know how many times (literally probably over 30) I would get 3″ in and then drop a stitch, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to pick it up. Same spot every time. I think it was psychological at that point, so I gave up. :) I didn’t realize that there were different methods though – I may have to give it another shot!

    • I’ve been working on a fingering-gauge tank top in Fisherman’s Rib and have only figured out how to pick up a dropped stitch properly just now–after finishing the back. And I think I could only manage a pretty repair on one dropped row. Needless to say the back is full of odd holes because improperly picked up stitches result in yarn overs. I do love the fabric that Fisherman’s Rib makes, tho!

  8. i guess you didn’t do the brioche/english rib portions of your Channel sweater? i’m currently in the midst of knitting my own, and the endless english rib sections (shawl collar and belt) are just about done. i decided to finished them up first, so that i wouldn’t get bogged down by the boring stuff at the end. still, it goes pretty quickly, even if it sometimes feels endless. it does make for a thick fabric though. i am not sure i would be up for an entire sweater in it; missouri winters are not nearly cold enough.

    • I didn’t do the collar, but there’s English rib (or half-brioche or fisherman’s or whatever you want to call it) throughout the whole fabric of the sweater. So yeah, I have done that — that’s what I was saying about having done the knit-1-below variations. But I haven’t done the paired-yarnovers method (that I’ve always thought was the definition of brioche).

  9. Brioche is next on my list of techniques to learn. There’s a shawl by Bristol Ivy from Knitty a few years back that I really want to knit. I already have the yarn and the printed pattern and they’re patiently waiting for me to be ready. I better hurry though, since school’s starting in 3 weeks and my brain power will all be high jacked for planning and teaching at that point.

  10. It is funny that you talk about brioche today, because I’m planning to knit a Nordic Arrows for my sister’s birthday, but I’ve never knitted Brioche so far. So I spent most of my Sunday knitting swatches of one-color brioche, two-color brioche, increasing and decreasing. It was fun and instructive, once I understood all the vocabulary and barbaric abbreviations.
    Here in France, we are used two what we call “côtes anglaises” et “fausses côtes anglaises”, which are variations one the English rib and Fisherman rib. My grandmother doesn’t know anything about Brioche (well, except the pastries of course), and I have always imagined that brioche stitch was some kind of recent invention from America (like circular needles for instance).

    • Hé hé, I was thinking exactly the same (commenting from French-speaking Belgium) ;-)

  11. my goto stitch dictionary: a 1970’s edition from “Mon Tricot” defines brioche as the K1b stitch. So if you are looking for historical references from which to base your definition, this may help. In my knitting, I am interested in understanding how a fabric is produced, and the way in which for playing with the stitch used affects the final result. I find the k1b, not well suited to knitting in the round, but otherwise is my personal presence, as I learned it first, and because, when I look at a finished swatch, the stitch “reads” as k1b for me.
    So for me the terms are interchangeable-except, perhaps, if you are an instructor or knitting writer.

  12. I have been ‘fighting’ with the brioche stitch for the last month. It has so far been the hardest stitch I have attempted. But I keep going back and trying because it is a beautiful stitch that makes beautiful fabric. The main problem is making mistakes. It seems impossible to rectify them. And even putting a lifeline in is a challenge.

    • Knitting my Channel cardigan, I was initially really worried about the possibility of making a random mistake in the English rib portion and not knowing how to fix it. Of course, I did make mistakes and manage to reverse engineer what’s happening to figure out how to correct it, but it’s definitely daunting. And than much more so if doing the yarnover version!

  13. I have recently made Andrea Mowery’s hat, vanilla fog (three times). I’m wool_gatherings on instagram if you want to take a look. Having done fishermans rib on a part of a shawl, the two resulting fabrics are identical, though they are made different. I cannot recommend that hat highly enough though. It was finally the pattern that made brioche click for me. Also, when knitting brioche flat, I do not slide the row and then work the brp stitches, just turn it over and brioche knit (brk) back.

  14. Hi!
    I see it this way: “Brioche” is both sort of an umbrella term for the varying fabrics produced by brioche stitch, fishermans rib etc. AND a particular way to execute the brioche stitches (as in that particular version of a stitch + an accompanying yarnover).
    I sometimes teach brioche classes – mostly in Danish, where we have only one term for brioche and Fishermans rib. So I need to pull in the English terms, precisely because the methods are different – and they can actually make a difference.
    I usually make my students swatch both the brioche method (with yo) and the fishermans rib method (k1below) in the same yarn. If you analyze the stitches carefully in the resulting fabric, the “stitch anatomy” will be the same, i.e. the strands of yarn will be moving through the fabric in the same way. HOWEVER, some yarns will render different looking fabrics. In my experience, particularly “sticky” or “raw” wool yarns like e.g. shetland wool type yarns, will render a “shallower”, less squishy fabric when worked the fishermans rib way.
    I have had students produce swatches that looked exactly the same whether working the yo or the k1below method, and others for whom the difference was significant.

    When working in the brioche/yo fashion, what the yarnover does is this:
    1. It creates density, as it makes a sort of double stitch/a stitch in 2 strands of yarn).
    2. It creates elasticity in the fabric, because a yarnover is not fixated in the fabric the way a knit or purl stitch is. (This “fluidity” of the fabric must be taken into account – it can make sweaters grow into tents if you don’t match gauge and yarn wisely… Talking from experience ;-) )
    (One more characteristic is the ribbed structure in “regular” brioche/fishermans rib, but that ultimately has to do with working knits and purls – not with the yarnovers as such.)

    Using the fishermans rib method, you first create a regular (k or p) stitch, then dissolve that same stitch again by knitting into the stich below and letting the original stitch “slip”. The yarn from that dissolved stitch will then position itself atop/across/over the stitch below in the same way that a yarnover would.
    The way I see it, a dissolved stitch contains slightly more “yardage” than a yarnover. Depending on the yarn used, the k1below may therefore render a slightly looser structure/gauge than working the yo-method. However, if you work with a really springy, typically multiple ply yarn at a fairly tight gauge, it may sort of “spring back” to look exactly as if you had worked a yarnover to begin with.
    On the other hand, if you work with a “sticky” yarn, the stitch above the k1below may be reluctant to dissolve. The clingyness of the yarn will make it want to stay – almost – in place, and therefore the afore mentioned springyness may simply not occur. Using this method, I have had swatches looking almost as if they had been pressed flat – and that certainly is not the look I expect from a brioche fabric…

    The final point in this being, as always: SWATCH!
    Over the years I have become ever more humble to the fact that I cannot predict the outcome. Even as a very seasoned knitter and working in knitting professionally, I am often surprised by stitch patterns working out differently than I expected in a particular yarn.

    Anyway, I love brioche!

    P.S. When picking up dropped stitches, it is essential to be aware of the anatomy of stiches and yarn overs to figure out which strand of yarn goes where… (I can do it, but I can’t explain it!)

    P.P.S. Picking up dropped stitches is easier in 2-color brioche because in any column of stitches, 1 color will determine the stitches and the other will make up the yarnovers.

  15. Elise Duvekot (not sure if I spelled her name correctly) wrote a book called Knit One Below, with brioche patterns worked with that method. Nancy Marchant, already had her brioche stitch website, and was working on her first brioche book when Duvekot’s book came out. I bought both. I had been fascinated by the brioche stitch for years, having worked a swatch from the instructions in the first stitch treasury by Barbara Walker (using the yo/slipped stitch method).

    Marchant’s book is the best: thorough instructions for each method of working the fabric plus a stitch dictionary with amazing variations plus graphic charts with symbols for those of us who understand better visually than textually plus patterns. I’ve taken two brioche classes with Marchant, too, and loved them.

    • What Elise Duvekot explores whit her “Knit one below” is what Nancy Marchant calls “stockinette brioche”. This method produces a fabric that is usually not ribbed, because all stitches appear knit om one side and purled on the other – unlike standard brioche/fishermans rib.

  16. Hi Karen. As far as learning to knit brioche with the two strands I can highly recommend “The Knitting Expats” YouTube explanations. Not only is she very clear on how to do it, she also explains what to do if you make a mistake. This was how I learnt to brioche.
    For a first project the woolclub’s scawl pattern is an easy starting point. I do recommend thicker yarn for this knit as brioche can also feel like an endless project using thinner yarn and it is easier to see your mistakes and fix them.
    I hope this helps.

  17. I am late to this discussion, but I have proof (at proof that satisfies me) that the yarn-over method and the k1 below method produce two slightly different fabrics. Following the IK 2014 article, I swatched both methods in the same yarn, in the same swatch. The k1 below fabric was thicker. I posted a photo of the swatch along with an explanation in my Ravelry project notes.

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