How to Read a Crochet Pattern

I have had many beginner crocheters that ask the question: “Do you have any videos? I don’t know how to read a crochet pattern.” Reading a crochet pattern can be daunting for a beginner since there are many parts to a crochet pattern and every crochet designer writes their patterns differently. I am going to use my pattern-writing style in today’s example but hopefully you will be able to apply what I show you to other patterns as well. I will try my best to explain what everything means and (hopefully) teach you how to successfully read a pattern.

How to Read a Crochet Pattern tutorial by The Stitchin' Mommy | www.thestitchinmommy.com

Let’s Start at the Beginning

A typical crochet pattern usually starts with these things:
  • A list of materials that you will need to make the project
  • A list of abbreviations for crochet terms used in the pattern
  • Skill/difficulty level
  • Finished size(s)
  • Gauge information
  • Pattern notes that will provide you with any other information that you may need to know about the project.

Materials:

The list of materials is usually pretty straightforward. It will tell you what kind of yarn, crochet hook, and other tools or materials you will need for the project. If you do not have the yarn listed in the pattern, you can always try to substitute it using a similar yarn but make sure to check your gauge before you start your project. Using the incorrect size yarn or hook will have different results than what the pattern intended. Once you have gathered the correct materials, you can proceed with the pattern.

Abbreviations:

Most designers (if not all) abbreviate the names of stitches and other portions of their patterns. In the list of abbreviations, they will tell you what the abbreviation is and what it means. For example:

sc – single crochet
dc – double crochet

If there isn’t a list of abbreviations in the crochet pattern that you are working on, you can always take a look at this Crochet Abbreviation Master List from the Craft Yarn Council.

Skill Level/Difficulty:

This one is pretty straightforward. The skill level will tell you whether the pattern is a beginner, easy, intermediate, or experienced.

Beginner: Great projects for new crocheters that involve basic stitches.
Easy: A little more advanced than a beginner project. Uses basic stitches, simple repetitive stitch patterns, and/or easy color changes.
Intermediate: More advanced than an easy project. These projects use a variety of stitches, stitch patterns, and techniques, including working post stitches. Advanced color changes also fall into the intermediate category.
Experienced: These projects include intricate stitch patterns and techniques. There are usually non-repetitive stitch patterns, intricate color-changing techniques, and advanced shaping.

Finished Size(s):

The finished sizing will tell you just that; the finished size of the project. No matter what project you are making, it should have some kind of sizing information so that you can determine how big or small the item will be.

Gauge Information:

Gauge is really important when working on a crochet project that needs to fit specific measurements. If you are making a sweater, you want it to fit. If your gauge does not match what is listed in the pattern, your sizing will be off. I have written a post entirely about gauge that you can read here.

Pattern Notes:

Pattern notes are written by the designer to give the crocheter any extra information that will be needed to create the project. In this section, I usually let the crocheter know that my patterns are written in US Crochet Terms and provide a little bit of information about how the pattern will be worked (ex: in the round or in rows.) I also like to indicate where color changes (if any) should be made.


Pattern Instructions:

After you’ve gotten through all of the beginning information, you move on to the actual pattern.

Most patterns start with a chain, whether worked in rows or in rounds.

There are cases where patterns are started with foundation stitches such as the foundation single crochet (FSC) or foundation double crochet (FDC) to name a couple. Foundation stitches are an alternate way of working a chain and then crocheting into it. With foundation stitches, you work the chain row and first row of stitches at the same time.

Typically, patterns that are worked in the round start with a chain that you slip stitch together to form a round. An alternate method for starting in the round is the Magic Circle (also called the magic ring or adjustable loop) which does not involve a foundation chain. You can learn more about the Magic Circle here.

When working through the rows or rounds, just take your time. Read through the row/round first to make sure you understand it before trying to crochet it. Then, once you are ready to start crocheting, go through each instruction one step at a time while crocheting.

If you come across brackets [ ] or parentheses ( ), it means that the instructions inside have to be worked as many times as instructed. For example, you could see something like this:

[1 sc, ch 1, 1 sc all into the next st] twice

This means you will work the instructions in the brackets two times before proceeding the the next instruction.

In most patterns, you will see an asterisk * which indicates instructions that need to be repeated. Sometimes you will see two asterisks * * which indicates that the instructions between those asterisks need to be repeated. For example:

*1 sc into the next st, 2 sc into the next st; Repeat from * across.

or

*1 sc into the next st, 2 sc into the next st* Repeat from * to * until the end of the row.

This means you will repeat the set of instructions after the asterisk (or in between the two asterisks) over and over until indicated. For the example above, you will repeat the set of instructions until you get to the end of the row. When you see an instruction that say repeat across, it means that you repeat the instructions until the end of the row.

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If you are working in rows (and sometimes in the round) you will see instructions that tell you to “turn”. This means that you have to turn your work around so that you can crochet the next row. If you are right-handed, you are working from right to left. When you turn your work, you want to flip it around so that you are crocheting from right to left, into the stitches from the previous row. If you are left-handed, it’s the opposite. You will work from left to right and turn your work so that you are working left to right.


Finishing Your Project

Once you have gotten through all of your instructions, there may be a set of finishing instructions. You will usually see terms such as “fasten off” and “weave ends.”
To fasten off your work, you will need to cut the yarn, making sure to leave about 5-6 inches of yarn that you can use to weave in later. This is referred to as the “yarn tail.” Your hook should still have the last loop left on it. Take your hook and pull the yarn up until the tail is pulled all the way through the last stitch.
To weave your ends, use a yarn needle or tapestry needle and thread it with the yarn tail. Weave the tail back and forth through your work so that it is secure. You can find a few examples of how to weave your yarn tails here.

And that’s it! Hopefully I was able to help you successfully navigate your way through a crochet pattern. If there is anything in a crochet pattern that you don’t understand, feel free to reach out to the designer for clarification.

If you have any questions about my patterns or this tutorial, leave a comment below!

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