How to Read Crochet Diagrams?

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Reading crochet diagrams is not hard to learn, and it’s going to make your life much easier! It’s a great skill for everyone to have, especially visual learners, because they often have a hard time reading written patterns.

I will use the term chart and diagram interchangeably throughout this article!

Let’s learn how to read these mysterious symbols.

Where do I start?

First of all, make sure you understand the basics! To help you with that, I wrote these articles:

I’m ready to start! Please walk me through it.

Great! I’m going to show you how diagrams work in two different projects – one worked in rows, and the other worked in the round.

If you want to crochet along, please do! You can use any yarn and corresponding hook you want.

Reading crochet diagram pattern – Rows!

It goes like this:

1. Take a look at the diagram and the key
2. Find the first stitch
3. Follow the row and find a way out
4. Repeat step 3 in each next row!

Now let me elaborate 🙂

Step 1 – Take a look at the diagram and the key

Let’s look at simple lacy stitch pattern, which I wrote down some time ago for this tutorial – How to Crochet Seven Wonders Lacy Stitch.

As you can see, my chart consists of two things – diagram (obviously), and the key. The latter allows you to quickly decipher the symbols, so that you don’t need to look for their meaning anywhere else.

stitch chart

Step 2 – Find the first stitch

It’s important, because that’s your starting point! If your project is worked in rows, the first stitch will most likely be chain stitch.

I added a little technical symbol that makes it easier to find this starting point. Can you see the arrow on the left side? It points right at your first stitch.

If there’s no starting point, just search for the chain stitch at the bottom of the chart and see where it lays flat. Vertical chain stitches (the blue ones!) indicate turning chains, and these are only applied when we are moving from one row to the next, so at the end of the row.

Sometimes you can see additional informations under your first chain stitch, like this:

I used colors and words to indicate the multiply you need to adjust this pattern. It’s hard to count the chain stitches on the diagram, so color-coding is an easy way to show it. In this case the formula is multiply of 3 + 1.

Step 3 – Follow the row and find a way out

When you have your chain stitch ready, you need to find the way out – in other words, the way to move from one row to the next. It usually happens through turning chains, which I mentioned earlier.

In this case, after you make your starting chain, you need to make additional two chain stitches, then turn the work over and proceed with row 2.

Step 4 – Repeat step 3 in each next row

You are now going to work row 2, so you follow it from right to left. The diagram tells us that it’s going to be a row of half double crochet stitches, so work 1 half double crochet in each stitch.

Your “way out” will be turning chain for single crochet, so this one vertical chain stitch in blue. Make it and turn the work over.

Row 3 looks a bit different, because it’s shorter and creates chain spaces. Remember that you now follow it from left to right.

In this row the pattern tells you to make 1 single crochet, 2 chain stitches, skip two stitches and repeat. It also indicates that your last stitch of this row should be 1 single crochet worked in the half double crochet.

Now let’s move on to the next row – make a turning chain of 2 chain stitches (marked blue) and turn the work over.

Row 4 starts with two half double crochet symbols, which are almost joined at the bottom. It means that they are worked in the same stitch! Whenever you see two stitches ‘coming out’ from one stitch, it means that it is an increase.

Start with 2 half double crochets in one stitch, then skip the chain stitches and move right to the single crochet. Now work 3 half double crochets in one stitch. As you can see, now the pattern goes on repeating rows 2 and 3. Easy!

Reading crochet diagram pattern – In the round!

Diagrams of pieces worked in the round require a little bit more effort, so pay close attention!

First of all, we don’t turn the work over, so you need to figure out how to move from one round to another. Secondly, there are many ways of starting the work – magic ring, or chain stitches closed in a loop.

Steps to read it remain the same.

1. Take a look at the diagram and the key
2. Find the first stitch
3. Follow the round and find a way out
4. Repeat step 3 in each next round!

Step 1 – Take a look at the diagram and the key

Let’s look at the diagram I created for my Calm Cove Square Free Crochet Pattern. The key is much more extended here, but don’t get discouraged!

Calm Cove Square Free Crochet Pattern

Let’s analyze first few rounds.

Step 2 – Find the first stitch

In this case our first stitch is magic ring! It’s this circle in the middle of our diagram.

Step 3 – Follow the round and find a way out

Working first row into magic ring doesn’t require any turning chains, so it may be hard to see where should we start. To do that, we look for the little dot – slip stitch, which closes the round.

We work counter-clockwise, so our first stitch will be the one on the left.

The diagram tells us: work 9 single crochets into the loop and close with a slip stitch.

Step 4 – Repeat step 3 in each next round!

To make row 2, we must “go up a level”, so we need turning chain to do that. Vertical chain stitches tell you where your round starts.

Again, go counter-clockwise and work the stitches accordingly, until you reach the end of the round – then close it with slip stitch.

In the picture below I marked turning chains, so your first stitches of the round. As you can see, they make a roughly straight line, and each of them has a dot on the right side – a slip stitch. It’s an easy way to recognize where your rounds start and end.

Repeat it in every row and pay attention where your stitches should go. If the diagram is made properly, you shouldn’t have any problems with following it.

Any tips?

  • Find a reference image, because it’s much easier to follow the diagram when you can see the desired outcome! It’s not always possible, but it’s worth looking for.
  • Patiently follow the symbols – it’s like following the line! If it helps, print it out and trace it with pencil or colorful markers.
  • Remember to block your crochet pieces! They often look very unflattering, unless you straighten them. I wrote an entire article about Crochet Blocking, so check it out!

All clear! Now what?

Now you are free to go and explore crochet diagrams on your own! The best way to learn is to choose patterns that are both charted and written down, because you can follow both simultaneously. This way you are more likely to succeed!

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