Master Class: Seaming Brioche
Brioche is a favorite type of slip stitch knitting for so many knitters! It's a hybrid of 1x1 ribbing and double knitting. It is not one stitch pattern, but a way of knitting in which you work a stitch, carry the yarn over the needle, and slip a stitch. There are over ninety (90)! different types of brioche stitches which create ribbing, honeycomb, cabled, or highly textured effects. All are double thick, squishy and share the same stretchy properties. Seaming brioche can be tricky so let's look at how to get the best results!
Type of Seam
Mattress stitch is the preferred method for seaming all types of brioche. For infinity scarves or for joining the shoulders of reversible garments, you’ll want to graft the open edges together.
Types of Brioche
The basic brioche, worked in one or two colors, has the look of a fat, squishy, deeply textured 1x1 ribbing. It is also treated like single ribbing when seamed. Even though you may be working a knit stitch, or brk, then creating a yarn over and slipping the next stitch, you’re creating “knit” looking columns and “purl” looking columns even though you may never purl. For seaming, if it looks like a purl ditch, treat it as a purl ditch, and don’t think about the fact that you used a yarn over and slipped stitch. Other types of brioche like honeycomb stitch create a thick all over fabric and are best used with selvedge stitches to prevent a distortion of the pattern.
Before you Seam
First, determine if your pattern used selvedge stitches. If it did, you will insert the needle under the bar between the selvedge stitch and the stitch next to it. Lie both pieces of fabric to be seamed, side by side with RS facing you. Look at both pieces of sides of the fabric and make sure the pattern will be continued across the seam. If you’re working in a ribbed brioche, you’ll want the knit/purl columns to be maintained.
Working the Seam
In the first example, each swatch was worked in two-color brioche stitch with selvedges over an odd number of stitches. Since we want the knit/purl columns to run continuously across the seam, you will mark the selvedge stitch from the right swatch and selvedge stitch from the left swatch as your seam. The bars in the sequence below indicated where you will place the seam. Selvedge stitches are in blue. (To save space I have not listed all of the knit and purl stitches. The swatches are wider than the sequence listed below.)
Left swatch: Right swatch:
Selvedge st P K P K P | Selvedge St Selvedge st | P K P K P Selvedge st
If you pull the fabric horizontally and examine a purl ditch in the middle of the swatch, you’ll see that each has three bars that look like ( \ - / ) .
The middle blue bar (-) runs behind the contrasting-colored knit stitch which is seen if you flip over the swatch. Each side grey slanting bar ( \ ) and ( / ) belong to the yarn overs and form the appearance of the purl ditch.
When you use selvedge stitches, you only have one of the slanting bars visible, then the middle horizontal stitch. The other slanting bar closest to the selvedge stitch has not been fully formed since you have ended the work, turned, and slipped the selvedge stitch at the beginning of the next row.
When you seam, you are joining one side of the purl ditch on one piece of fabric to the other side of the purl ditch on the other piece. This will place your seam in the middle of the purl ditch and allow the seam to continue unbroken.
On the right swatch, insert your needle under the blue bar to the left of the slanting grey bar
( / ) and pick up the blue horizontal bar. [Photo 2]
On the left swatch, insert your needle under the blue bar to the right of the slanting grey bar
( \ ) and pick up the blue horizontal bar. [Photo 3]
Return to the right swatch and insert your needle into the same exact place that it came out of and pick up the next blue bar. At every other bar, it will appear like the bar is floating on top and very easy to pick up, then one above it will seem like it is wedged under another loop of grey. This is due to the end of the fabric. Ignore the edge blips of grey, and always take your needle under the blue bar, even if it means stretching out the fabric to fish for it. Only the blue bar should be taken up by the needle, not the grey stitches. Continue picking up one blue bar from each swatch until the end, then finish your seam by going under the bind off edge on each piece. After you’ve finished, you should see one side of slanting grey bars ( / ) on the right of the seam and one side of slanting grey bars ( \ ) on the left of the seam. [Photo 4]
PHOTO 1 PHOTO 2 PHOTO 3
The knit/purl pattern will be maintained across the seam.
If you did not use selvedge stitches, you will take one knit column and one purl column from each side. For the next example, each swatch was worked in Plain Brioche Stitch, over an even number of stitches, without selvedges as follows:
Set up Row: *Yf, sl1, yo, k1; rep from * to end.
Row 1: *Yf, sl1, yo, brk; rep from * to end.
Rep Row 1.
For both the right and left swatches, each column at the beginning of the row looks like a purl column and each column at the end of the rows, looks like a knit column. Since we want the knit/purl columns to run continuously across the seam, you will mark the last knit column from the right swatch and first purl column from the left swatch as your seam. The bars in the sequence below indicated where you will place the seam.
Left swatch: Right swatch:
K P K P K P K | P K | P K P K P K P
On the right swatch, insert your tapestry needle just to the right of the last knit stitch and pick up the sideways V that is pointing towards the bottom of one V and top of the next V of the knit stitch. It looks like <. This is because of the yarn over that runs behind the knit stitch. [Photo 5]
On the left swatch, insert your tapestry needle in the same place, right up next to the knit stitch so this time the slanting bar and all 3 parts of the purl column are taken up into the seam. [Photo 6] When you pull the seaming yarn taut the pattern will run unbroken across the seam.
If you pull the fabric horizontally, and examine the purl ditch, you’ll see that each purl column has three bars that look like ( \ - / ) . [Photo 7]
PHOTO 5 PHOTO 6 PHOTO 7
The middle bar (-) runs behinds the knit stitch as seen if you flip over the swatch. Each side slanting bar ( \ ) and ( / ) forms the yarn overs and forms the look of the purl ditch. You’ll want to keep these three intact when you seam. When you insert your needle under the ( < ) next to the knit stitch, you’re leaving that slanting stitch alone so it’s visible as part of the purl column.
A finished seam with or without selvedges looks great from the outside.
The only difference is the amount of fabric taken up inside the seam. Since brioche is fluffy and cushiony, the shape of the fabric will hide a seam. It’s rare to see body hugging garments done in brioche, in which case you may notice a bulkier seam.
When seaming shoulders, you can either bind off the stitches then seam together, bind off using three-needle bind off, or leave stitches on needles and graft the shoulders together. Grafting together is used mainly for reversible garments since one of the lovely advantages to brioche is that it produces a reversible fabric. Grafting is also used for cowls or infinity scarves.
When using Mattress stitch with Brioche, resist the urge to pull the seaming thread tight like you normally would. The tension of the seam should match the tension of the brioche fabric. In the end, your goal is to have the seam blend in with the rest of the fabric.
Buss, Katharina. Big Book of Knitting. New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Co., 2001.
Editors of Vogue. Vogue Knitting. New York, NY: Sixth & Spring Books, 2018.
Forte, Mary. “Stitch Anatomy – Brioche Lesson.” Cast On Feb-Apr 2011: 9-14.
Marchant, Nancy. Knitting Brioche. Cincinnati, OH: North Light Books, 2009.
Tarasovich-Clark, Mercedes. Brioche Chic. Fort Collins, CO: Interweave. 2014.
Temple, Trudianne. “Brioche.” Cast On Nov 2014-Jan 2015: 9-18.