How to Read Written Crochet Patterns

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Reading crochet patterns can look quite tricky at first, but once you learn how to do it, you will be able to follow any of them!

Anatomy of a written crochet pattern

Written patterns are constructed in a very similar way, so all you need to learn is looking for the right informations.

  • Name of the pattern, name of the author
  • Short description of the project – what is it, who is it for, how is it worked (top down, in the round, in rows?)
  • Sizing – you will find it in garments and some accessories.
  • Tools and Materials List – what kind and how much yarn do you need, what size crochet hook should you prepare, and if you need any other tools, such as scissors or markers.
  • Key – in this part you should find names of crochet stitches used in this pattern and their abbreviations. If the pattern uses special or unpopular stitches, they should be explained step by step.
  • Gauge – for example: 19 rows x 22 stitches = 10 cm x 10 cm. It means that you should make a crochet swatch first, so that you can see if the yarn and hook you use are combined correctly.
  • Pattern Notes – any additional informations that are important to properly follow the pattern, for example the way of counting stitches in each row.
  • Written Pattern – instructions on how to proceed to make the project.
  • Finishing – instructions on how to finish off the project. This part can include tutorials on how to assemble the parts, how to add a border to the blanket, or info if your project needs blocking.

Written patterns can, but don’t have to include all of these things.

Interested in crochet diagrams, too? Check out my articles on the topic!

Let’s see how it works step by step!

I will show you how to read patterns that are worked in rows and how to read those worked in the round.

Read the crochet pattern and the key

Just take a look at the pattern as a whole – is it worked in rounds or rows? Is it one-piece, or do you need to make a bunch of separate elements and join them together at the end? What kind of stitches does this pattern use? Do you have all the tools it requires?

Answer these questions to gain clarity on what you are actually doing!

Starting the work

If you have your tools and materials ready, it’s time to start crocheting.

If your pattern is worked in rows, you may see these kinds of starting points:
  • “make a starting chain of even / uneven number of stitches”
  • “chain 101”
  • “chain multiple of 5”

These are quite self-explanatory, but what about “plus 1”?

  • EXAMPLE: Start with multiple of 2 + 1.
    WHAT IT MEANS: Make a starting chain of multiple of 2, and make 1 additional stitch at the end. For example, make 20 stitches (10 x 2) plus 1 = start with 21 stitches.

Read more about foundation chain in my article!

If your pattern is worked in the round, you may see these kinds of starting points:
  • “make a magic ring”, “start with magic loop”, “make an adjustable loop” – it’s all about magic ring.
  • EXAMPLE: “chain 5 and close with sl st”, or “chain 5 and close”
    WHAT IT MEANS: Make 5 chain stitches, form a loop and close it with slip stitch, by working it in the first stitch of your chain.

Row or Round 1

Going from one row to the next require turning chains, so if you are not familiar with the term, check out my article! They are basically chain stitches that replace or complement the first stitch of the row.

If you are working in the round and closing each row with slip stitch, you need to use them too. Exception to this rule are patterns in which you go spirally in the round.

If you are working in rows, your first row can look like this:
  • EXAMPLE: “Row 1: chain 1, 2 sc in each stitch”
    WHAT IT MEANS: “Row 1: make 1 chain stitch (turning chain for single crochet), work single crochet stitches in each stitch until the end of the row”. Remember, that this 1 chain stitch at the beginning DOES NOT count as a stitch, and you make the first single crochet in the first chain stitch.
  • EXAMPLE: “Row 1: chain 3, 1 dc in each stitch”
    WHAT IT MEANS: “Row 1: make 3 chain stitches (turning chain for double crochet), work double crochet stitches in each stitch until the end of the row”. In this case your turning chain of 3 works as one double crochet, so you count it in (unless the pattern states otherwise).

The information about adding turning chains to the overall row count should be included in Pattern Notes.

If you are working in the round, you may encounter such instructions:
  • EXAMPLE: “Round 1: 1 ch, 12 sc into the loop, close with sl st”
    WHAT IT MEANS: “Round 1: make 1 chain stitch (it’s a turning chain for single crochet), work 12 single crochet stitches by inserting your hook into the loop (not into the chain stitches), and join them all together by working a slip stitch into the first single crochet stitch of the round.

If your pattern requires working spirally, there will be no turning chain at the beginning of the round, and no slip stitch at the end.

Instructions in *asterisks* and (brackets)

Asterisks and brackets indicate that you should repeat what’s between them. Sometimes you will see exact number of repeats, and sometimes not. If not, you can assume that you should repeat it until you reach the end of the row.

If you are working in rows:
  • EXAMPLE: “4 ch, skip one, *1 puff, 1 ch, skip one*, finish with 1 dc.”
    WHAT IT MEANS: “make 4 chain stitches, skip one stitch; now repeat what’s between asterisks: make 1 puff stitch, skip one stitch. Repeat this module until you reach the last stitch, which should be 1 double crochet.
  • EXAMPLE: “4 ch, skip one, *1 puff, 1 ch, skip one* x7, 1 dc in each st”
    WHAT IT MEANS: “make 4 chain stitches, skip one stitch; now repeat what’s between asterisks: make 1 puff stitch, skip one stitch. Repeat this module 7 times; after that make 1 double crochet in each stitch until the end of the row.
If you are working in the round:
  • EXAMPLE: “3 ch, 4 dc, *skip 2, 5 dc* x5, skip 2, close with sl st”
    WHAT IT MEANS: “make 3 chain stitches (it’s a turning chain for double crochet), make 4 double crochet stitches; now crochet what’s between asterisks: skip 2 stitches, make 5 double crochet stitches and repeat this module 5 times. Then skip two stitches and close the round by working a slip stitch into the first stitch of the round.

Instructions in brackets may appear when you have a repeat within a repeat – it’s kind of like in the math calculations.

  • EXAMPLE: “3 ch, (4 dc, *skip 2, 5 dc* x5) x3”
    WHAT IT MEANS: First you make 3 chain stitches, and then 4 double crochet stitches. Now crochet what’s between asterisks: skip 2 stitches, make 5 double crochet stitches -repeat this module 5 times. Now repeat what’s in brackets 3 times, so go for 4 double crochets again, then 5 times what’s between asterisks; continue for a total of three times.

In the stitch, or in the chain space?

Sometimes you may encounter instructions that tell you to work stitches “in the chain space”. What does it mean?

When you work chain stitches in the middle of the row, they most likely will create a kind of “arch”, or a space. Sometimes clusters of stitches can create spaces to work in, too! It happens in granny stitch, for example, where triads of double crochet have gaps between each other.

Any tips?

  • Start with simple patterns, which use two or three basic stitches. Once you get how to read those, try something more complicated.
  • Follow written patterns along with video tutorials. You can use my tutorials for Granny Stripe, or Alpine Stitch!
  • Learn crocheting in the round, as well as in rows, because you never know which techniques will come in useful!
  • If you are more of a visual learner, try learning with diagrams, too! They are much clearer for many creatives, because they show how particular stitches interact with each other.

All clear! Now what?

Now you are free to go and explore written crochet patterns on your own! If you have any questions, or would like me to elaborate on the topic, please leave a comment.

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