In the May 1919 Needlecraft Magazine the following “Answered by the Editor” letter caught my eye (typed as in magazine).
“Will you kindly give directions for the “brayo” stitch – am not sure about the spelling—in knitting? Have looked through all my papers but cannot find it. –M.M.P., Massachusetts.
(Is it the “brioche” stitch that is wanted? This is knitted as follows: Cast on some multiple of three; first row—wool over, slip one, inserting needle as though to purl, narrow, and repeat; second row—slip one, as though to purl—that is, insert the needle through front of stitch on left needle, from right to left—knit together the next stitch and the “over,” and repeat. For the raised brioche stitch cast on a number divisible by four; then over, slip one, knit one, narrow, and repeat. Every row is the same. Our yarn-advertisers will gladly give you any required information regarding very new stitches, or articles to be made of yarn.”
This caught my eye since we posted a blog about our Brioche Scarf project and the problems we had “deciphering” the instructions. The “yarn forward” is what newer knitting terms calls “yarn over”. The “information regarding very new stitches” made me wonder if this was a new stitch at the time the magazine was published in 1919. I turned to my much loved books.google.com and typed in brioche stitch. There were hundreds of results. If you haven’t used this wonderful tool to look-up information in non-copyrighted books run now and use it. That is, after you’ve read this post. 😎 There are others, this is just the first one I used back in the day. 😎 You can download most of the following books mentioned in the post for free.
Here are some of the results:
2001 – Hook & the Book: The Emergence of Crochet & Knitting in American Popular Culture, 1840 to 1876 By Nicole H. Scalessa, published 2001.
“The brioche named for the French pastry, is a decorative pillow intended for a parlor. Needlework books periods between 1840 and 1875 frequently featured patterns for brioches.” (Not free)
1840– The Ladies’ Knitting and Netting Book, First Series, by Miss Watts. I could not find the term Brioche in this book, but I did find instructions listed for a stitch under “Stitches for Purses” which in her Second Series book was used to knit a Moorish Brioche or Cushion.
1840— Knitting and Netting Book, Second Series, by Miss Watts. On page 103 is a pattern for Moorish Brioche or Cushion. At this point the stitch was not called “brioche” it was just a stitch used to knit items including brioches or cushions. I found that this information is mentioned by Nancy Marchant the “A Brief History of Brioche Knitting” section of her Knitting Brioche book. I’d already found the information at Google Books and downloaded. Ms. Marchant said she tried to knit the pattern, but the instructions were incorrect.
1842— The Hand-book of Needlework by Miss Lambert (F.) page 200. “The brioche stitch is simply as follows; bring the wool forward; slip one, knit two together.” Miss Lambert says about the cushion: ” So called from it’s resemblance, in shape, to the well known French cake of that name.” The book can be downloaded for free to try the pattern. Maybe these instructions will work! 😎
1843— My knitting book by Frances Lambert (embroideress.) p. 77. A Russian Shawl in Brioche stitch. Again, download the book for free.
1869 — The Young Housekeeper – In a glossary of terms (found in quite a few other sources) Brioche stitch – the number cast on for brioche stitch must always be divisible by three, without a remainder. Bring the thread in front, slip one, knit two together. It is worked the same way backwards and forwards.
1869 — Enquire Within Upon Everything: To which is Added Enquire Within Upon Fancy. By Robert Kemp Philp
“This stitch is extremely elastic and is very suitable for comforters, polka jackets, as well as for the Turkish Cushion properly called a Brioche. Cast on any number of stitches that can be divided by three knit backwards and forwards. Thread forward, slip 1, knit 2 together, repeat.” Polka Jacket? What is that? Went back and did another Google Books search and found:
1855 — Treasures in Needlework, by Mrs. Warren and Ms. Pullan. Download book for instructions for Spanish Polka for a child 2 to 3 years old done in brioche stitch. This exact pattern was in 1855 Peterson’s Magazine, Volumes 27-28 by a Mlle. Defour. I did find that there seemed to be the exact same patterns in books by different people. When did copyright laws begin?
1871 — The Bazaar, Exchange and Mart, and Journal of the Household, Volume 5, Issue 174
“Queries: Patent Knitting: Will the contributor of the recipe for baby’s shoe in Exchange and Mart for Aug 23 explain the term patent knitting as I am totally unacquainted with it –Elinore (The Germans call the brioche stitch patent knitting probably because it is so much imitated in woven things The detailed directions given for the first eight rows show this –The Contributor)” Note: the wasn’t a pattern for the first eight rows to see what “The Contributor” was talking about.
1907– Boston Seaman’s Friend Society
Cast on 36 to 40 stitches and knit plain or any fancy patterns for two yards in length. Brioche stitch: make 1, slip 1, knit 2 together, is a good pattern, with two plain stitches at each side. Woolen Wristers. Gray Scotch yarn. Notice the difference in this stitch instructions; make1.
December 23, 1876 — All the year round: a weekly journal, Volume 37 by Charles Dickens
“I should recommend Robin Dale to knit a little dress and petticoat for her baby; I think Dot and Polijane had better knit in Brioche stitch throughout….” Don’t you love it? Even Charles Dickens was into the Brioche stitch! 😎
1972 — Mary Thomas’s Book of Knitting Patterns by Mary Thomas “Also known as SHAWL STITCH, REVERSE LACE STITCH, ORIENTAL RIB STITCH, and in France as POINT D’ANGLETERRE !”
The last excerpt I saw was about Miss Lambert in Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby. I just happen to have that book. Starting on page 40, she has a section on Miss Lambert. Mentioned is Miss Lambert’s Russian Shawl in Brioche Stitch which I have shown above.
Now the Brioche Stitch history is wrapped up. It wasn’t a new stitch in 1919. The books and articles I’ve included are just the tip of the tip of the iceberg!
Interesting side note: a lot of the early lace books mentioned in Victorian Lace Today are available for free download. 😎 I’ve downloaded a TON looking for info on this blog post. 😎 Go get them. If you try any of the patterns, please post. We’d LOVE to see them. 😎