Now you have mastered all the basic crochet stitches, you want to make something more than squares and circles? Time to start learning how to read a crochet pattern! As soon as you learn how to read a crochet pattern, you will open so many new doors to different and interesting projects, and learn more about new stitches and techniques. When you are reading a crochet pattern, you are simply following instructions, one step at a time.
How to Read a Crochet Pattern
Before you learn how to read a crochet pattern it can be useful to read my article on how to crochet for beginners to get you started with the right tools and some basic stitches.
Pattern Skill Levels
Printed somewhere on your printed pattern, or somewhere on the web page you are following the pattern from, will be the level of expertise (easy, intermediate, or advanced) needed to follow that pattern.
By the way, I always print out any pattern I have found online. It is, for me anyway, easier to have a hard copy in my crochet bag to refer to and make notes on and cross out the completed bits! Obviously, if you are a beginner pattern reader, you should choose a pattern marked ‘Beginner’ or ‘Easy’. Save the intermediate and advanced patterns for when you have had more practice.
How to Read a Crochet Pattern Abbreviations
To be able to work from a pattern, you need to be able to understand all of the abbreviations for pattern stitches. Some of the most used abbreviations are listed here:
|hdc||Half Double Crochet|
|sc2tog||Single crochet two together. The 2tog can apply to any stitch.|
|yoh||Yarn over hook|
You can see that these are all fairly self-explanatory and easy to remember. There are many more abbreviations to master, but these should cover any basic beginner’s pattern.
Understanding Country of Origin
Uk and Us crochet patterns use different terminology for the same stitches. This means it is important to know the origin of your crochet pattern so you can do the correct stitch.
|United States (US)||United Kingdom (UK)|
|single crochet (sc)||double crochet (dc)|
|double crochet (dc)||treble crochet (tc)|
|treble crochet (tc)||double treble crochet (dtr)|
How to Read a Crochet Pattern – Details
Everything you need to know about the specific pattern will be listed at the beginning of the pattern. This includes things such as the recommended yarn, hook size, measurements of your finished item, and gauge.
How to Measure Guage
Your gauge is the tension at which you crochet. It may be tempting to skip making a tension swatch, but it is important when crocheting any garment, or the size will not be correct. To measure the gauge you will need to crochet a ‘swatch’. This is a small square of crochet fabric, made using the stitch you will be using for your garment or accessory.
Using the hook size and yarn thickness suggested in the pattern, Chain a number of stitches that will give you a width longer than 4” (10cm). Work up your swatch, using the stitches needed for your pattern until you have made a nice square of crochet, which must also be longer than the 4” (10cm).
Now measure the stitches and rows of your swatch. Place your ruler or tape measure horizontally along the stitches, preferably in a central position. Count how many stitches are within your 4” (10cm). Then place the tape measure vertically along your swatch and count how many rows fit into the 4” (10cm) measurement.
If you have managed to crochet to gauge, you can now continue to your main project. If your gauge is incorrect, you will need to try again with a different size crochet hook. If you have more stitches than needed per 4”(10cm), your finished item will be too small. You should try using a larger crochet hook. If you have fewer stitches than needed, your crochet is too loose and your item will be too large. You must change to a smaller crochet hook.
How to Read a Crochet Pattern – Sizing
Most patterns are written in multiple sizes. For example S(M, L) or 34 (36, 38) inches. They will also give the finished size of the garment- for example, ‘Finished Bust 36 (38, 44) inches’.
This finished size will always be larger than your actual measurement. Before you start your project it is a good idea to choose which size you want to make, and then draw a circle around or highlight each number referring to that size. So, following my example above, if your bust measurement is 36” you would highlight the second number in each sequence of numbers.
How to Read a Crochet Pattern – Extra Terms
There are some other bits that you need to understand in order to be able to read and interpret the pattern.
* An asterisk indicates which part of the pattern needs to be repeated. For example: *tr in next st, 2 tr in next st, repeat from * to end of row. This means that you will be repeating that sequence, 1 treble in the next stitch, then 2 trebles in the following stitch all the way across that row.
( ) Brackets show a group of stitches to be worked into the same space. For example (dc, 1ch, dc) in next sp means work a double crochet, then a chain, then another double crochet all into the same space. The number following the brackets tells you how many times you need to repeat that sequence. So for example (dc 1 ch, dc)6 means you must repeat that sequence 6 times.
‘Continue in pattern as established’ means you must repeat the stitches which form your pattern as has been described.
‘Work Even’ means to work your stitch pattern straight, without any increasing or decreasing.
‘Fasten Off’ means you must end your work by cutting your yarn, leaving a long tail of about 6”(15cm), then pull that tail through your last stitch to stop it from unraveling.
Parts of a Garment
When making a garment, the pattern is usually written in sections, for example; back, front, sleeves, etc. When they refer to ‘right front’ it means they are talking about the right-hand side of the garment when you would be wearing it. The same applies to ’left front’.
Rounds vs Rows
Rounds or rows? Some patterns are written in rounds, where you work in a circle, ending each round with a slip stitch. Others are worked in rows, where you work in a straight line, turning your work at the end of a row.
How to Read a Crochet Pattern – Before you Start
Before starting to crochet, read through the whole pattern to make sure you understand all the abbreviations and terminology.
Once you know what you will be doing in the big picture, read all the instructions for each row before starting to work it. Look for any repeats shown by * or groups of stitches shown by ( ) .
Now you can get your hook and yarn ready and start the actual crocheting! Follow each instruction, step by step. Don’t get intimidated by the whole pattern, just work each step as it comes along.
Keep checking your stitches at the end of each row or round to be sure you haven’t accidentally increased or decreased a stitch along the way.
When one row or round is complete, and your number of stitches is correct, move on to the next section of the pattern.
How to Read a Crochet Pattern – Tips
- NOTES – Make notes on the pattern as you go. Even if you are using a printed pattern, make a photocopy which you can write on or highlight.
- MARKING – Mark off rows as you complete them. This way, if you are interrupted you will remember where you were up to, and can pick up and continue easily.
- ROUNDS – If working in rounds, use stitch markers to mark the end of each round. Keep checking your number of stitches each row or round.
- REPEATS – Be sure you know exactly what you have to do for each repeat, and what to do at the beginning and end of rows, as this is sometimes slightly different from the pattern repeat.
- CHECKING – Check and double-check that you know exactly what to do before you actually start crocheting. It is so easy to be super enthusiastic about your project and just dive into it without being certain what you are in for!
Dealing with Mistakes
If your work looks off, or doesn’t resemble the picture on your pattern, re-read the pattern. Look at your previous rows to see the sequence of stitches to see if you can get some clues about where you have gone wrong. It is easy to follow the visual patterns of your work, once you have established the repeats.
If you still can’t solve a mistake, ask a friend who crochets, or the yarn shop where you bought your supplies, or join one of the many Facebook crochet groups and ask for help there.
How to Read a Crochet Pattern – In Conclusion
As I crochet, I talk to myself! I get the stitch repeat into my head and say it, or sing it to myself as I work along the row. (Quietly, of course!) I make up my own words as I go along to fit into the rhythm of my crocheting. For example *2dc,1ch, 2dc 1 ch may sound something like doubledy, doubledy, chain, doubledy doubledy chain, whatever fits nicely into the rhythm. This probably sounds a little crazy, but those repeats stick in your head, and you don’t need to keep referring back to the pattern.
Take each pattern slowly, and just conquer the pattern step by step. You will be so glad that you can make any project you desire, now that you how to read a crochet pattern!