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Let's talk about two color brioche- it's beautiful and can look insanely complicated, but as with all knitting, if you take it one stitch at a time, it actually becomes quite do-able.
Earlier, we showed you how to do a simple 1 color brioche in just a straight design, using a simple repeating pattern of brk1, yo. In the two color version, we'll take it up a notch, though some people find this easier to learn as, once you get the piece started the knitting becomes color coded.
Before we begin, there is some general understanding we should familiarize ourselves with, and once you begin to brioche knit this will make much more sense.
Firstly, you will need circular needles to brioche knit, as you will be sliding your work from one end of the needles to the other in order to make 2 passes on each row. Often I will go down 1-2 sizes from the recommended needle size for that yarn so that my brioche pattern is a bit tighter and creates more visual distinction.
Secondly, with 2 color brioche there will always be a light side, and a dark side. What that essentially means, is that on the Light Side (LS) the light colored yarn will be knit (while the dark color yarn will be purled), and on the Dark Side (DS) the dark colored yarn will be knit (while the light color yarn will be purled).
Thirdly, with each row you will need to make 2 passes. The first pass is ALWAYS with the Light colored yarn, and the second pass is with the Dark colored yarn- ALWAYS, regardless of whether your are working the light side, or dark side. And it is good to think of it in terms of two passes on each row because when you begin reading patterns or following charts this is how they will be referred to.
Brioche Knit Row
Brioche is actually a pairing of 2 stitches- a Slip 1 Yarn Over, and Brioche Knit (sl1yo, brk).
Slip 1 Yarn Over (sl1yo)
Simply bring the working yarn to the front by going under the RH needle, slip the next stitch as if to purl (then when you go to Knit or Brioche Knit the following stitch you will lift the working yarn up and over the needle creating a 'shawl' on that stitch you just slipped). The stitch and the shawl that lays over the top of it should be two different colors.
Brioche Knit (brk)
Once you've slipped your stitch (above) the following stitch should be a knit stitch with a yarn over, or 'shawl' laid over the top. To brk, simply knit the stitch together with its yarn over shawl.
Brioche Purl Row
Likewise Brioche Purl is a pairing of Slip 1 Yarn Over, and Brioche Purl (sl1yo, brp).
Slip 1 Yarn Over (sl1yo)
Because this is a purl row, the yarn should already be at the front of the work, simply slip the next stitch as if to purl, then wrap your working yarn up, over the top of your RH needle, and back underneath so it is coming out the front again. The slipped stitch and the shawl that lays over the top of it should be two different colors.
Brioche Purl (brp)
Once you've slipped your stitch (above) the following stitch should be a purl stitch with a yarn over, or 'shawl' laid over the top. To brp, simply purl the stitch together with its yarn over shawl.
Clear as mud? Great, let's begin!
Setting Up for 2 Color Brioche
I recommend the 2 color Italian Cast on Method when working in 2 color brioche. This method starts you off in 2 colors right from the start, and the edge looks congruent with the rest of your knitting.
Any time you cast on for brioche you want to have an odd number of stitches, where the first and last stitch is the Light Color. This creates a tidy selvedge edge.
Set Up Row
The set up row will always be a Dark Side (DS) row which means....(as we learned above).... the Dark Colored (DC) yarn will be knit.....and by process of elimination that means the Light Color (LC) yarn will be purled. That said, of course the third rule stipulates that we make two passes and we ALWAYS start with the light colored yarn regardless of which side we are working on.
The set up row is slightly different in order to establish all the yarn overs required for brioche patterning.
Set Up Row (DS) with the Light Color (LC) yarn: P1, *Sl1YO, P1, repeat from * to the end. Do not turn the work, simply slide it to the other end of your circular needles to begin knitting with the Dark Color (DC) yarn.
Set Up Row (DS) with the Dark Color (DC) yarn: Sl1, *Brk1, Sl1YO, repeat from * to last 2 stitches, Brk1, drop the DC to the back, Sl1, turn.
We have turned our work so now we are working on the Light Side (LS), which means.....the Light Color yarn will be knit.... Dark Color yarn will be purled. And as always we begin with the..... Light Color yarn.
Row 1 LS LC: k1, *sl1yo, brk1; repeat from * to last 2 stitches, sl1yo, k1.
(Slide your knitting to the other end of your circular needle so you can make your second pass on Row 1.)
Row 1 LS DC: sl1, *brp1, sl1yo; repeat from * to last 2 stitches, brp1, drop the DC yarn to the front, sl1. Turn
We have turned our work so now we are working on the Dark Side (DS), which means.....the Dark Color yarn will be knit.... Light Color yarn will be purled. And as always we begin with the..... Light Color yarn.
Row 2 DS LC: p1, *sl1yo, brp1; repeat from * to last 2 stitches, sl1yo, p1.
(Slide your knitting to the other end of your circular needle so you can make your second pass on Row 2.)
Row 2 DS DC: sl1, *brk1, sl1yo; repeat from * to last two stitches, bkr1, drop the DC yarn to the back, sl1. Turn
Repeat Rows 1 & 2 to knit a basic 2 color brioche fabric.
A Few Details
As if this wasn't complicated enough, I just want to point out a couple things.
1) At the edges- you are not doing a brp, or brk, it is a normal knit or purl stitch because those edge stitches don't have 'shawls'. Your edge stitches are the light color so when your are using the light color you will work those stitches (knit or purl depends on what side of the project you're working).
2) When using the dark color yarn you want to drop your working yarn off on the correct side of the work (so it's ready for your next row) and then simply slip the light colored stitches at the edge (no need to yarn over them).
3) When putting your project down and picking it back up, it can be difficult to remember where you left off. When I pick up a piece of work, if I see both light and dark color yarns on the same side of the work, I know I'm starting the next row and I need to begin working with the light color. Then I can check whether I'm working on the Light Side or Dark side which will tell me whether I need to knit, or purl the light color yarn.
If I pick up my work and the light and dark color yarns are on opposite ends of the work, that is a sign that I have worked the light colored yarn, and am now ready to work the dark colored yarn, and again based on which side I'm working (light or dark) I can deduce whether I need to knit or purl with the dark colored yarn.
Now, go practice and review the points at the beginning of this article, hopefully they should make much more sense now.