The Learning Curve

Well, I really do think I’m now understanding how to read the stitches properly, how to know both when I am right and when I’m wrong - a huge leap forward! It’s almost enjoyable and I’m beginning to understand why people describe brioche as addictive. I’m never very good at patting myself on the back but am managing to feel pretty proud of myself for getting to grips with this whilst in the grips of Covid!!! Please don’t give up (on either front - I’m feeling a lot better!), anyone out there who is feeling temporarily defeated by brioche. The penny seems to drop suddenly, things begin to fall into place, and the sense of achievement is exhilarating. Ditto the end results! Not that I’m anywhere near the end of the SoundWaves scarf, but I AM at the end of the truly tricky part of the learning curve. Onwards!

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Persistence! You get an A+ on both the covid and brioche fronts. I’m glad that you can appreciate brioche and push through with covid.

Thank you v much, kind salmonmac! I value an A+ from you more than I can say! Pushing through with one has helped me push through the other, though I don’t know which has been the trickiest!


I’d really like to hear more from the community as well based on their experience.That’s a great way for me to learn something new.

I think it’s really helpful when people can tell you about their mistakes, lizayong; when you look at books or Craftsy, or youtube videos, you see it after the instructor has got it right, and they don’t often tell you about when it was difficult for them, too.

So here’s what I’ve learned over the last few repeat sections of the Stephen West Soundwaves scarf/shawl: firstly, I think it is actually an excellent pattern for a first brioche attempt - it’s repetitive but relatively simple; you learn both the right and the left sloping decreases, and the easy brioche knit/yarn over/brioche knit increase. And you do those over and over again so they do eventually become second nature. The end result (not that I’m anywhere near the end, but hey, you see results after a couple of complete sections, as it swerves left and right in the pattern) is simple but stunning; and you can do it in a DK or light worsted, so you are not struggling with slippery little fingering stitches. One major mistake I made yesterday (duh!) was to move on from one twenty-row repeat (ten eventual rows, since you knit each row twice) to the next and forget to change from a right to a left sloping decrease. But I’d put in lifelines and could rip back with confidence the eight rows I’d botched. Boring but do-able. The other thing I’ve learned is that narrow ribbon (1/8th inch) really is definitely the best for a lifeline; therefore you have to put it in with a tapestry needle rather than using the little hole in the knitting needle itself, but that isn’t too hard, and is seriously worth it; the stitches sit clearly on the ribbon in a way they absolutely do not if you use waste yarn. Also, you can put a new marker on the ribbon lifeline itself as you reach markers, and leave the original marker on the circular needle cable, that way, if you do have to rip back, you have a marker already in place and you don’t have to panic.
Another thing I’ve learned is that there is a potential pitfall for me when I get to any marker and have to slip it - danger zone for losing my place. The trick for me is not to say in my head ‘slip marker’, or I get lost in my slip-one-yarn-over count and easily trip myself up. So I just say ‘marker’ in my head, and wonder of wonders, then I don’t lose my place. There really is something incredibly counterintuitive about turning a single stitch into a double (with the yarn over) and turning a double stitch into a single (with the brk or brp stitch). At least, that’s what I personally have found. I know I seem to be making awfully heavy weather out of it all!!
The other thing that I personally have found, and I dare say I am being hopelessly dumb about this, but I still, even though I’ve now got a bit more fluent at brioche, cannot understand the obviously brilliant Nancy Marchant’s explanations; so if there is anyone out there struggling with her books or classes, please know you are not alone, and honestly, it is worth looking up free videos on youtube, or investing (for the price of one or two really expensive skeins of yarn!!) in Stephen West’s brioche workshop, which you can find on I’m sure we all find teachers who can reach us and others who can’t, and there must be plenty of you who have learned easily from Nancy Marchant - but for those of you who might have found her explanations very difficult, please don’t give up - it’s really just a question, I guess, of how individuals connect with a teacher who speaks their language? I really look forward to investigating some of NM’s lovely designs when I’m not floundering with the explanations.

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