How to Read Crochet Patterns - Part 1

How to Read Crochet Patterns - Part 1

Learning to read crochet patterns can be a bit confusing at first, but taking a few hours to familiarize yourself with the language will pay itself off in the long run. It will save you a lot of time and frustration as it takes all the guess work out once you get going on a project. Not only that, it will also help you to learn new stitches and stitch combinations a lot quicker.

The thing that makes crochet patterns so difficult to read is that they are commonly abbreviated in order to save on words. One possible reason behind this is that it reduces the amount of ink and paper used. But believe it or not, it also makes it a million times easier on the person who is crocheting because there is so much less to read. Instead of having to read a whole sentence, the crocheter is able to see the set of instructions within a few abbreviations.

Another tricky part of reading crochet patterns is deciphering the meaning of the symbols and brackets. These are generally used to indicate a repeat of the pattern. And although they can be confusing at first, they are actually quite easy to understand.

Once you begin to crochet on a regular basis and are familiar with a few patterns, all this will become second nature to you; and reading a crochet pattern will be no more of a challenge than reading your favorite novel. The easiest way to learn how to read a crochet pattern is to start off with a beginner pattern. Click here for more on what to look for in a beginner crochet pattern.

Since there is so much to cover, I decided to break it down into two parts. In this part I will be covering how to read and understand the instructional part of the pattern. Once you are familiar with that, then you can move on to Part 2, which covers the abbreviations, parenthesis, brackets and other symbols.

Small Beginner Crochet Bag
Small Beginner Crochet Bag | Source

Understanding the First Section of the Pattern

The first section of the crochet pattern provides you with important information regarding the type of yarn to use, the hook size, gauge and finished sizes.

Yarn and Hook Size. In many cases, the type of yarn and hook size are not really that important as long as you are able to match the gauge with a similar yarn and hook.

Gauge. The gauge is the amount of stitches and rows that fall within a certain measurement. It basically helps you to determine what the finished size of the crochet project will be. In cases of afghans and dishcloths, the gauge is not important, however, when it comes to clothing, it becomes very important.

Multiple Sizes. If the pattern is for different sizes, it will be covered in the first section as well. It will generally list the smallest size, and then put the larger sizes in parenthesis like this: small (medium, large, extra large). The instructions for the different sizes will then follow the same rule within the pattern. The instructions for the smallest size will be given outside and before the parenthesis, and the larger sizes inside the parenthesis like this: Ch 60, (64, 68, 72.) At first, this can be confusing, but after you do it a few times, you quickly learn to ignore the extra numbers.

Notes and Special Stitch Instructions

Many patterns will have one or more notes at the top of the pattern. The notes might also appear in the middle of the pattern, and it is important that you always read them as they contain important information that will help you to understand the pattern instructions.

Notes are often used to provide you with any special stitch instructions, such as the popcorn or the shell stitch. Both of these stitches, as with many others, will vary from pattern to pattern. Therefore, the pattern will place the instructions into a note that is either placed at the beginning of the pattern, or at the row/round prior to its first usage. This way the instructions do not have to be repeated every time the stitch is used, and it makes it easier for everyone.

Rows and Rounds

Crochet patterns are worked either in rows or rounds, and each row or round receives its own set of instructions.

If the pattern is worked in a row, it means that you will have to turn the work after you complete each row. When you turn, you generally will have to make a turning chain, which often does not count as a stitch. The pattern will generally specify the number of chains to make, and whether or not they count as part of your stitch count.

If the pattern is worked in rounds, abbreviated as “rnds”, then you continue to work from one side without turning. One way to do this is to join the last stitch to the first stitch in each round. The next round is then started with a chain or a number of chains to match the stitches used. Again, the pattern will specify whether or not this chain or series of chains will count as your first stitch or not.

Crochet patterns can also be worked in a continuous round, wherein you do not join the first and last stitches in the rounds, but rather, the stitches are worked in a continuous spiral. With this method it is hard to see where the last round ended and the new round began, and therefore, you will need a stitch marker to keep track of the number of rounds.

Although it is not always the case, most patterns will provide you with a stitch count at the end of each round or row. This basically helps you to ensure that you are on the right track with the pattern.

Continue on with Part 2 - the abbreviations, parenthesis, brackets and other symbols.

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Comments 8 comments

Laela Winkelmann 4 years ago

Good clear instructions! Well done


Rhelena profile image

Rhelena 4 years ago Author

Thank you Laela, I hope it will be of help to someone.


PWalker281 4 years ago

Yes, this is a very good overview of the parts of a crochet pattern.

Sometimes, when crocheting in the round, you will turn the work after completing the round. I do this sometimes when I'm crocheting a purse or bag in the round that I'm making from scratch. It just depends on the bag, the stitch pattern, etc.

I also put stitch markers on the first and last stitch of each round so I know where the round begins and ends because the slip stitch to join the round and the turning chain (if stitch is sc) are sometimes confused with an actual stitch on the previous round.

Looking forward to reading P2. Rated up and useful.


Rhelena profile image

Rhelena 4 years ago Author

PWalker, Thanks again for offering your tips. You've taken me back a few years...I remember making a pair of slippers once, and I ended up with way to many stitches and I couldn't figure out why lol. But it turned out I was working into the slip stitch of the previous round. I made it a point at that time to remember that and never had a problem again after. It never occured to me that others would have the same problem, so thank you for putting that in. :)


PWalker281 4 years ago

Oh yes, I can't tell you the number of times I've done exactly the same thing and ended up with too many stitches in the round. I FINALLY figured out what I was doing and decided stitch markers would keep me on track.


Rhelena profile image

Rhelena 4 years ago Author

I think the reason why I remembered from then on was because I struggled with it for several days. Youtube wasn't born yet, and i had no one else to help me. I really like your idea of using stitch markers, and I'm sure others will as well.


TNSabrina profile image

TNSabrina 3 years ago

Nice article! I've been thinking about learning to crochet here lately. Thanks for the article!


Rhelena profile image

Rhelena 3 years ago Author

Thank you! You should definitely go for it :)

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