If you’re a beginner crochet enthusiast, learning how to read a crochet pattern can seem daunting at first. But don’t worry, because once you understand the basics, it’s actually quite easy!
This post will cover the abbreviations and terms used in crochet patterns, as well as the anatomy of a crochet pattern. It will also provide tips on how to decipher what a written pattern is trying to tell you, so that you can start crocheting beautiful designs with ease!
Want in-depth pattern reading help? Check out the Crochet Pattern Cure Workshop – it’s FREE
Crochet Pattern Anatomy
When you’re reading a crochet pattern, there are a few key things you need to know in order to follow it correctly. Let’s take a look at each of these components in more detail:
The title of the crochet pattern really isn’t terribly important, but it should have something. It can be cute and clever or informative, but the title should be at the top of the pattern.
A well-written crochet pattern will always include a clear, close-up photo of the finished project. This will help you to visualize what the end result should look like.
Almost all crochet patterns include a materials list, which tells you what type of yarn and hook size to use. You’ll also find how much yarn you’ll need for the project.
In this section you will also see any notions you might need for your project, such as buttons, yarn needle, or beads. The only thing you might need that wouldn’t be listed here is scissors, as those are usually understood.
The gauge is the number of stitches and rows per inch in a swatch worked in the indicated stitch pattern, usually over 4″ (10cm) square.
It’s important to check the gauge before you begin any project where size matters, because if your gauge is different than what is called for in the pattern, your finished project may not turn out correctly.
Blankets, scarves and some other items may not have a gauge or may say “gauge not crucial for this project”.
Almost all crochet patterns include the finished size of the project. This information is important so you can determine whether or not the project is a good fit for you.
If it is in one size only you will find this listed in this section. If the pattern includes multiple sizes, you will find the finished measurements (usually a chest/bust measurement) and what corresponding sizes this relates to (such as small, medium, etc).
All crochet patterns are written with a designated skill level, which can be beginner, intermediate or advanced. Make sure you choose a pattern that is appropriate for your skill level.
Not sure what your skill level is?? Take this fun quiz to find out!
Crochet Abbreviations, Stitch Guide & Pattern Stitches
Most crochet patterns are written in standard American crochet terms, which can be a little confusing for beginners. In this section, I’ll define some of the basic stitches and abbreviations you’ll find in a crochet pattern.
Basic Crochet Terms
Chain (ch): To create a chain, wrap the yarn around your hook once and draw the yarn through the loop on your hook. This creates the first chain stitch.
Slip Stitch (sl st): To slip stitch, insert your hook into the next stitch, yarn over and draw the yarn through both the stitch and the loop on your hook.
Single Crochet Stitch (sc): To single crochet, insert your hook into the next stitch and yarn over. Draw the yarn up, yarn over and draw through the two loops on your hook.
Half Double Crochet Stitch (hdc): To half double crochet, yarn over and insert your hook into the next stitch. Yarn over and draw up a loop. Yarn over, draw through three loops on hook.
Double Crochet Stitch (dc): To double crochet, yarn over and insert your hook into the next stitch. Yarn over and draw up a loop. Yarn over and draw through two loops on hook, yarn over and draw through last two loops on hook.
A stitch guide is the part of the pattern where any special stitches will be listed. Some patterns will also list out the basic stitch abbreviations (and sometimes descriptions).
This information is very useful because you will refer back ot it any time you get to an abbreviation you are not familiar with. So, if you’re cruising along with your pattern and suddenly see something weird like sc3togblo, check the stitch guide at the beginning of the pattern for instructions on how to complete this stitch. (That’s a single crochet 3 together through the back loop only, btw!)
Okay, so what’s the difference between a stitch guide and a pattern stitch anyways?? Well, here it is.
A crochet stitch guide tells you how to work individual stitches, increases or decreases. It could be simple or complex, but it involves stitches worked on one row or round only.
A pattern stitch on the other hand, is a set of stitches worked over multiple rows or rounds. For example, if you are going to work in a pattern stitch of one row single crochet and the next row double crochet, you will find that information in a “pattern stitch” section, which can also be found in the section above the pattern instructions.
The notes section is where the designer tells you anything else they want you to know about the pattern that does not relate to specific stitches.
This may be things like “ch 3 at beginning of row counts as double crochet” or “join each round with slip stitch”.
Some people have a tendency to skip this section – but don’t!! It’s very important.
The instructions are the most important part of the pattern! They will tell you what stitches to use and in what order.
Let’s delve into some important items in the pattern instructions:
Crocheting in Rows vs Rounds
Most crochet patterns are written either in rows or in rounds.
When you crochet in rows, you work a series of stitches across a row, then turn the work and start working the next row. This is how most scarf and blanket patterns are written.
When you crochet in rounds, you work a series of stitches around a central point, without turning the work. This is how most hat and amigurumi patterns are written.
How to Read a Crochet Pattern
Now that you know the basics, let’s take a look at how to actually follow a crochet pattern!
1. Read through the entire pattern before you start. This will help you to understand what the pattern is trying to tell you.
2. Make sure you have all of the materials listed in the materials list.
3. If you’re not familiar with a particular stitch, be sure to look it up in the crochet stitch guide.
4. Follow the gauge listed in the pattern. If your gauge doesn’t match the gauge listed in the pattern, your project may not turn out the same size. It DOES NOT matter if you use the same size hook as the pattern, what matters is that you are getting the same gauge.
5. Always read the notes section carefully, as it may contain helpful tips or clarification on how to follow the pattern.
6. Read and follow the pattern stitches in the order they are written.
7. After you’ve completed a section of the pattern, CHECK YOUR WORK! This is probably the most important step of all. It’s very easy to make mistakes when crocheting, so it’s important to take the time to check your work every few rows.
8. Have fun! Crocheting is a really enjoyable hobby, and it’s a great feeling when you finish a project and see the final result.
This is the section that tells you what to do after you have finished crocheting the piece(s) of the pattern.
Once you’ve finished your crochet project, there are a few things that you need to do in order to finish it off properly:
1. Weave in the ends. This is probably the most tedious part of finishing a crochet project, but it’s important to do it properly so that your project doesn’t unravel.
2. Block the project. Blocking is a process that involves wetting and shaping the project so that it looks its best. Blocking is not necessary for all types of projects, but there are some projects that look a hundred times better if you take the time to block them.
3. Sew on any accessories or embellishments. This may include things like buttons, beads, or sequins.
4. Enjoy your beautiful new crochet project!
Crochet patterns rely on specific punctuation to indicate repeats of stitches, sections and entire rows.
The most commonly used punctuation symbols in crochet patterns are asterisks with semicolons, parentheses and brackets.
All of these symbols work together with abbreviations to keep the pattern as concise as possible. Without them most patterns would be pages upon pages!
I think the punctuation symbols are what trip up most people when they go to read a crochet pattern. Especially if you are in a section that uses asterisks, semicolons, parenthesis and brackets all together – it can get confusing very quickly!
Repeating a Single Stitch
There are different ways a designer can indicate that a specific stitch is to be repeated a certain number of times.
Let’s say the designer wants you to work a single crochet in the next three stitches.
Here are ways it can be written out:
#1: Sc in each of next 3 sts.
#2: Sc 3.
Each of these mean to work in separate sts. If a designer wants you to work in the same st, you will see something like:
#1: Sc 3 in next st
#2: Sc 3 times in next st.
Asterisks & Semicolons
The asterisk and semicolon work in a crochet pattern very much like the parentheses and brackets, but with this punctuation you will usually not be given a specific stitch count or number of times to repeat.
This punctuation is more common when you are repeating to the end of the round or row or to the last few stitches.
If you see an asterisk, you know that you are going to come back to that section of the pattern to repeat it.
Look for the semicolon when you see an asterisk – it will be the “stopping point” of that section and after it you will find instructions for how many times to repeat this section.
Parenthesis & Brackets
Parentheses and brackets are used when a section of stitches are repeated, not just a single stitch.
As a general rule, brackets are only used when parentheses indicating a smaller repeat are included inside the brackets. Parentheses go inside the brackets.
If you see parentheses, you know you are going to work that section of sts together. It might indicate a certain set of sts to be worked into the same st, or it might tell you to work that same section of sts multiple times.
Brackets are used to indicate a repeat section as well. A section enclosed by brackets will have a parentheses (or more than one) inside and usually are seen in more complicated patterns.
Other Common Abbreviations and Terms
Here are a few other things you will run across that are NOT stitches, but are necessary to learn:
back loop only (blo)
front loop only (flo)
main color (mc)
contrasting color (cc)
right side (rs)
turning chain (t-ch)
wrong side (ws)
chain space (ch sp)
Special Instructions for Patterns with Multiple Sizes
Sometimes when working with a pattern, you may come across lots of numbers in parenthesis for sizing or instructions for certain sizes only.
How to Tackle Multiple Sizes
Step One: Choose the size you want to make. If you are unsure, measure the size of a favorite top and go with the same finished measurement.
Step Two: Find the position of that size’s instructions (either before a parenthesis or in between). Circle or highlight your chosen size.
Step Three: Go throughout the entire pattern highlighting your size. It should be in the same position for most all instructions.
Where a lot of crocheters go wrong with a garment is cruising along with their chosen size only to accidentally start making another size. This is a super common mistake, especially if the pattern has instructions that are only for a certain size (see note below). When this happens, it often changes the position of the stitch counts, so be careful when you see this!!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this deep dive into the world of reading crochet patterns. Remember, if you’d like detailed video tutorials to help you study this topic further, check out the Crochet Pattern Cure Workshop!
Reading crochet patterns can seem daunting at first, but with a little practice and these tips, you’ll be able to decipher even the most complicated instructions. Remember to highlight your size and pay attention to special instructions for multiple sizes. With a little patience, you’ll be crocheting beautiful garments in no time!
How to Read Crochet Patterns
Learn how to read crochet patterns with this helpful guide.
- Crochet Pattern(s)
- Yarn and hook
- Read through the entire pattern before you start. This will help you to understand what the pattern is trying to tell you.
- Make sure you have all of the materials listed in the materials list.
- If you're not familiar with a particular stitch, be sure to look it up in the crochet stitch guide.
- Follow the gauge listed in the pattern. If your gauge doesn't match the gauge listed in the pattern, your project may not turn out the same size. It DOES NOT matter if you use the same size hook as the pattern, what matters is that you are getting the same gauge.
- Always read the notes section carefully, as it may contain helpful tips or clarification on how to follow the pattern.
- Read and follow the pattern stitches in the order they are written.
- After you've completed a section of the pattern, CHECK YOUR WORK! This is probably the most important step of all. It's very easy to make mistakes when crocheting, so it's important to take the time to check your work every few rows.
- Have fun! Crocheting is a really enjoyable hobby, and it's a great feeling when you finish a project and see the final result.