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I am absolutely and utterly besotted with brioche knitting. It creates a fabric unlike any other: squishy and drapey, warm and wonderful. Here I offer one variation and a few tips to turn up the brioche love and draw in any resisters out there.

Working with one color.

Nancy Marchant’s designs for MDK Field Guide No. 21: Brioche call for two colors, but did you know you can also work them with one? I think single-color brioche is wildly underappreciated; it produces the same deliciously warm and squishy fabric, but more subtle in appearance.

At first glance, it just looks like a slightly relaxed ribbing. I like how it shifts the focus of what you see, letting the texture shine.

Dotty Wrist Warmer in MDK Atlas Seaglass.

Just follow the pattern for the Dotty Wrist Warmers as written, but ignore the instructions about changing color. That is, work all rounds with color A. (This variation works for the Cushiest Cowl too!)

You can see in the sample above that I knit straight columns of brioche ribbing, but you can add the garter stitch patterns on pages 28–30 of the Field Guide for extra textural interest if you like. Just knit all the rounds with one color instead of alternating. No joining a second ball of yarn! (Yes, that makes the Dotty Wrist Warmers a one-skein wonder for anyone wanting to try out Atlas for the first time.)

The tricksy bit at the end of a needle.

The pattern materials list specifies DPNs, but you can work Dotty Wrist Warmers on other types of needles for small circumferences in the round: magic loop, 2 circulars, the newer flexible DPNs, or even sock-length shortie circulars.

If you chose DPNs, there’s something that happens at the end of each needle: you’ll hit a point when there’s a sl1yo either at the end of one needle, or at the start of the next, and there is a bit of a risk that you could inadvertently lose the yarnover loop, or end up with an extra loop from getting the yarnover wrapped up around one of the needle tips.

When dividing the stitches across your DPNs, always make sure you have an even number of stitches on each needle, so you end the needle with the brp column.

Therefore, working a “brk” round, the last stitch of a needle is the sl1yo. Before you work the brk at the start of the next needle, check to make sure that the yarnover is draped over that last stitch. On DPNs, it will be draped over the needle:

And when working a “brp” round, the first stitch of a needle is the sl1yo. When starting a needle, hold the working/empty needle in front of your work, pointing to the left. Bring the yarn under that needle and up to the front, and then you’re ready to slip the stitch and complete the sl1yo as normal.

And here is how the maneuvers above look on magic loop:

Left: the last stitch of the brk round is draped over the cord; Right:the start of a brp round.

The tricksy bit at the end of a round.

The transition between the end of A and B rounds can be a bit tricky: you end the A round with a sl1yo, and then start the B round with another sl1yo. To make sure you don’t lose one of the yarnovers, a little caution is needed.

When you finish the A round, check to make sure that the yarn is draped over the last stitch of the round. Let it hang down in front. Then hold the empty working needle in front of the yarn, pointing to the left. Bring the working yarn up, in front of the needle. Then you’re ready to slip the first stitch, as normal.

On Magic Loop

When transitioning between B and A rounds, there are no slips to contend with! Phew! But you do still need to be a little bit careful about the working yarn, so it’s less fussy.

As with any design worked in the round, before you work the first stitch of the round, check to make sure your working yarn is coming straight off the base of the last stitch of the round. You want to be sure it’s not wrapped around a needle tip or cord. Reposition it if you need to. And if you do find on the following round that there’s an extra loop of yarn caught on the needle, just drop it.

It’s all about making sure the yarn is where you need it to be for the next stitch. It’s a check we often do when knitting, but the more experienced you are, the less aware you are that you’re doing it!

Oddly enough, when I teach brioche knitting classes, I often find that it’s the newest knitters who do best at first, because they’re still at the stage where they are moving slowly and deliberately and checking their yarn and stitches frequently.

So here is my best bit of brioche advice: slow down! Move deliberately and mindfully, and you’ll soon get the hang of it. And the love.

Editor’s Note: Kate’s classic Friday Morning Brioche Shawl is a great pattern for those of you curious about knitting brioche flat—and it would be stunningly cushy in Atlas. 

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About The Author

Kate Atherley is a teacher, designer, author and technical editor. She’s also the publisher of Digits & Threads, a magazine all about Canadian fibre and textile arts.


  • Thanks for another detailed article. It opens up so many possibilities and reminded me your shawl pattern is in my Ravelry library just waiting…

  • Kate, I wonder if you have ever done a close comparison of single-color brioche and fisherman’s rib? To me the result seems identical and I find the Fisherman’s rib much less fiddly.
    I would be so interested in your take!

    • Yep. They are the same. Funny, no one ever thought fisherman’s rib was hard.

      • You raise a good point, Marilyn! Brioche is perceived to be more difficult than fisherman’s rib, and more challenging to learn. There’s actually a a couple of really good reasons: it’s to do with the number of different “movements” involved in the brioche version, and the terminology. With the fisherman rib variant, there’s only one new “movement”, working into the stitch below, and it’s pretty easy to explain. (To be fair, sometimes there’s two, with a purl into stitch below, too.) With the brioche variant there’s four new stitches/movements, the sl1yo between knits, the sl1yo between purls and then brk and brp. And the challenge with these stitches and movements is that they use names of things we already know – slip and yo – to mean different things. And then we use new names to mean things we basically already know how to do – brk isn’t really all that different than a k2tog. To see all the new terms can be pretty off-putting! I’ll also defend that working a sl1yo is *weirder* than working a knit-into-stitch-below, and easier to mess up. I’ve taught both many times, and I’m confident in saying that the learning curve is steeper for brioche than fisherman’s rib. There’s more movements to learn, and the instructions are pretty off-putting. Once you’ve got the hang of them, they don’t feel difficult anymore, of course! But it’s all about the learning. Does that make sense?

    • I have! The end result is actually the same, it’s just the process that’s different. The Fisherman’s rib method doesn’t work (quite as well) with two colours, or if you’re doing increases or decreases.

  • I am fascinated with all this, as I have been knitting plain one color brioche for years and love it. Kay and Ann are wrong in their intro to the field guide: one color brioche flat is the easiest stitch ever. It’s a one row repeat! As for fisherman’s rib, I have found some people who confuse that with brioche. Following Barbara G. Walker’s instructions, brioche is less fiddly than fisherman’s rib. Anyway, I have found it so.

    • I agree, single-colour brioche worked flat is super-easy!

  • Great tips, so helpful thanks Kate! I’m definitely going to try the one color brioche.

  • Try it folks! My initial foray into brioche knitting was a freebie online pattern for a scarf, which I knit flat. The gal in the photo accompanying the pattern had used a gradient yarn & it looked bit off to me, so I opted for a single color: black baby alpaca with a few subtle silver sparkles. (This proved my only regret, since finding & fixing errors in black yarn was Really Hard & I do not recommend it for a first time single color brioche projeck). It wasn’t too hard to learn brioche stitches, but I do agree with Kate that it’s all about how we learn. I was ill at the time & this scarf took me several years to complete. Slowing down was the only level I had available!
    I knew most brioche was knit in two colors, but the pattern I had was evidence that Other Ways Exist, so I went for it. The cushiness of the fabric was kinda mind-blowing. Those mitts above in Seaglass may get me to ditch my pandemic penury & buy a skein of Atlas!

  • Thank you for your insight, as this brioche challenge has been both a head scratcher and frogging extravaganza. Once more into the fray!

  • Slowing down is good advice for many activities in life. I constantly have to remind myself that haste makes waste. This is especially true in learning brioche knitting!

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