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Is brioche knitting new to you? You’re in luck!

Just a few months ago, brioche was a deeply mysterious technique for both me and Ann. We knit a lot (understatement), so I think we had both brioched-in-passing on a pattern or two, without knowing that what we were doing was in fact a technique that is a realm of its own, and Nancy Marchant its benevolent monarch.

So when it came time to write a little bit about brioche to accompany Nancy’s designs for MDK Field Guide No. 21: Brioche, both of us had to start at the very beginning, and learn the basics of brioche. We both started with the same project: the Cushiest Cowl.

A Very Good Place to Start

The learning curve on this one is short and sweet, and the end result—so quickly achieved, especially if you knit the smaller of the two sizes—is a smart, classic accessory that people will want to take off your neck. Our advice: go ahead and knit multiples of the Cushiest Cowl, it’s the perfect zoom knitting AND the perfect gift for that holiday stack you’ve been meaning to start.

The yarn: MDK Atlas. This springy 100% Rambouillet wool was born to brioche.

Simply by following the Cushiest Cowl pattern, you will learn:

The two simple set-up rounds for working brioche in the round

A maneuver known as the slip-1 yarnover or Sl1yo

Brioche knit (abbreviation: BRK, which the cool brioche kids pronounce as “bark”)

Brioche purl (BRP, or “burp” in cool kids-ese)

How to count rows and stitches in brioche

A few handy tips and tricks, such as making sure to drop your yarn to the front of the work at the end of each round, before changing colors

Bonus Dottiness!

While you’re knitting the supremely simple Cushiest Cowl, you may start to wonder: what else can I do with these barks and burps, to mix things up? Nancy has you covered. Even on your first Cushiest Cowl, you’ll soon be brioching with confidence, and ready to throw in some simple texture patterns, just for fun.

That’s where the Dotty Wrist Warmers come in. Nancy designed these little cuffs as small vehicles for learning how to mix garter stitch into a fabric of brioche verticals.

And here’s the cool thing: these three stitch patterns are also ready to pop into the Cushiest Cowl—no math required. You can add just one pattern, or stack all three of them, sampler-style. Show off! Have fun! You’ve got this, and Nancy’s got you.

The dotty texture patterns are both written out and charted, so you can work according to your preference. But do check out the elegant chart symbols, which were invented by Nancy as a way of visually presenting brioche patterns to modern knitters. They are simply brilliant.

Is it just me who’s seeing these cute li’l wrist warmers doing double duty as classy koozies for cold beverages? I hope not!


  • I’ve been wanting to learn brioche for some time now. I also want to make some Legwarmers. These arm warmers look like the perfect place to start. Do we learn how to increase in brioche in Field Guide 21?

  • I failed brioche class at my LYS pre-pandemic but still want to learn it. Is there hope for me?

    • Can this knitter be saved? YES! This pattern really works and there is not too much to keep track of to get started.

      • I failed at brioche class once, but really wanted to learn. I bought Nancy’s book and was overwhelmed. Now I am learning with Patty Lyons class and it’s starting to click for me. I can bark a bit, and do increases, but those decreases get to me. I want the new field guide so I can have more basic patterns to work through. Thanks!

  • I’ve been plugging along with great fun on the Cushiest Cowl, and it looks great. Except. I can’t seem to get the transition from one round to the next (one color to the next) right. It goes along looking fine, then suddenly it looks like four rounds of knots, no matter how carefully I follow the pattern notes. Yet for a while I was obviously doing it right, so WTF? I shall persevere. Not to discourage anyone – brioche really is mostly easy, and it’s probably just me.

    • I’ve been plugging along too with the cowl with similar results. I have frogged my project several times and I think I have the hang of it now. I think. I have no idea what I was doing wrong. I must have knitted when I should have purled – or the opposite. I hope I have it now! Good luck to you!

    • I wonder if this has to do with Nancy’s instruction to always drop the color to the front of the work at the end of a round, and to draw the new color from under the old, without crossing the colors. Does that seem like it might be the trouble?

      • Not OP, but I too have been having that experience and I guess I don’t understand how to draw the new color from under the old correctly. Sigh, time to start over.

  • I have had hard time with brioche,tried hats first and it was a big no. I am wondering if the wrist warmer/beer/pop cozie could be knit without the designs? Just to get used to brioche first.

    • Hi Jann,

      The answer is yes, you could definitely knit the little wrist warmers without the texture designs. The reason we suggest starting with the cowl instead of the wrist warmers is that there are enough stitches on the needle (even with the short version) that the knitter doesn’t have to fuss with double-points or other small-circumference knitting methods while they are getting the hang of brioche. You can cast on any even number of stitches in the round and follow the instructions for the Coziest Cowl, and you’ll get a plain 2-color brioche tube.

  • I have always wanted to learn also. Dug in last night, but I think I need to restart when I’m wide awake! Thanks for the great patterns. Dreaming of making the sweater!

  • Is it possible to make the brioche scarf narrower?

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