Learning to read crochet patterns

Written by Brenda Stratton

The key element in learning to read crochet patterns is understanding the writing style, which includes the crochet abbreviations and symbols included for your convenience at the end of this article. It's not necessary to learn the abbreviations and symbols all at once, but refer to the lists as you find these terms listed in your crochet patterns.

Some things to remember when reading crochet patterns:

  • Crochet patterns are worked in either rows or rounds (rnds). Each pattern will specify whether you are working in rows, rounds or a combination of both.
  • Most crochet patterns are rated according to level of difficulty, including beginner, easy, intermediate and advanced. Choose the level of difficulty most suited to your crochet abilities. Avoid the frustration in trying to work with a crochet pattern that is too advanced. As you gain more crochet experience, you will be able to successfully tackle more difficult patterns.
  • It is important to count your stitches as you work so you have as many stitches on each row or round as the pattern indicates.
  • Always check your gauge. While it may not be so important if you are making a project for which you have an unending supply of yarn or thread and feel it isn’t important what size it turns out to be, you will be setting yourself up for disappointment if you are making a project that needs to be the size indicated in the pattern. To check your gauge, crochet a swatch approximately 4 inches by 4 inches in the stitch pattern used in the crochet instructions. If your gauge is larger than the gauge indicated in the pattern, try a smaller hook. If your gauge is smaller, try a larger hook.
  • Reading crochet patterns takes practice, so don’t be discouraged in the beginning if you don’t understand all of the patterns you would like to crochet. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. Before long, you’ll be able to follow any crochet pattern you wish.
  • You may find it helpful to take a class in learning to crochet. Check with local craft stores and continuing education centers to see what is available. If you have a friend who crochets, he or she may be willing to get you started.

To most beginners, a pattern written in standard crochet abbreviations looks like a foreign language. To help simplify things, we’ve given two rows of a single pattern written first in standard crochet abbreviations, then repeated in standard English. As you can see, writing a pattern in standard crochet abbreviations takes up a great deal less room and helps you to focus on the instructions.

Written in standard crochet abbreviations, row 1 looks like this:

Row 1: With size H hook, ch 15, sc in 2nd ch from hook and in each ch across, turn.

(14 sc)

Now, written in standard English, row 1 looks like this:

Row 1: Using a size H crochet hook, make 15 chain stitches, single crochet in the second chain stitch from the hook and in each chain stitch across, turn. (There are 14 single crochets at the end of this row.)

After completing row 1, proceed to row 2. Written in standard crochet abbreviations, it looks like this:

Row 2: Ch 1, 2 sc in first sc, sc in each rem sc across to last sc, 2 sc in last sc, turn. (16 sc)

Written in standard English, row 2 looks like this:

Row 2: Chain 1, work 2 single crochets in the first single crochet of row 1, work a single crochet in each remaining single crochet of row 1 except for the last single crochet; work 2 single crochets in the last single crochet of row 1, turn. (You have increased 1 stitch in the first single crochet of this row and 1 stitch in the last single crochet of this row for a total of 2 increased stitches. There are 16 single crochets at the end of this row.)

Refer to this site often for lists of abbreviations and symbols, videos and explanations of individual stitches and helpful tips and hints. Armed with these tools, the desire to learn and a little patience, you’ll soon be on your way to reading crochet patterns!

Abbreviations, Symbols and Additional Terminology

Abbreviations

beg....................... begin/beginning

bpdc..................... back post double crochet

bpsc...................... back post single crochet   

bptr....................... back post treble crochet

CC......................... contrasting color

ch.......................... chain stitch

ch-......................... refers to chain or space previously made (i.e. ch-1 space)

ch sp..................... chain space

cl........................... cluster

cm......................... centimeter(s)

dc......................... double crochet

dc dec................... double crochet 2 or more stitches together, as indicated

dec........................ decrease/decreases/decreasing

dtr......................... double treble crochet

fpdc...................... front post double crochet

fpsc...................... front post single crochet   

fptr........................ front post treble crochet   

g........................... grams 

hdc........................ half double crochet

hdc dec................. half double crochet (decrease) 2 or more stitches together, as indicated

inc......................... increase/increases/increasing

lp(s)....................... loops(s)

MC........................ main color

mm........................ millimeter(s)

oz.......................... ounce(s)

pc......................... popcorn

rem........................ remain/remaining

rep........................ repeat(s)

rnd(s)..................... round(s)

RS......................... right side

sc.......................... single crochet

sc dec................... single crochet (decrease) 2 or more stitches together, as indicated

sk.......................... skip(ped)

sl st....................... slip stitch

sp(s)...................... space(s)

st(s)....................... stitch(es)

tog........................ together

tr........................... treble crochet 

trtr......................... triple treble

WS........................ wrong side

yd(s)...................... yard(s)

yo......................... yarn over

Symbols

Crochet patterns use symbols to signal repeated text, special instructions and clarifying information.

(  )  Work instructions within parentheses in place directed; used to indicate collective stitch groups worked as one procedure in the same place; used for additional or clarifying information, indicated in italic text.

Examples:

·         (3 dc, ch 2, 3 dc) in next corner sp

·         (sc, hdc, 3 dc, hdc, sc) in next st

·         (48 dc) – indicating stitch count at end of row or round

·         (88 [94, 106, 112] sc) – indicating multiple stitch counts for additional garment sizes or rows/rnds.

·         Row 1 (RS): – indicating front of work

 

[  ]  Repeat instructions within brackets as directed; also used to indicate additional or clarifying information.

Examples:

·         [dc in next dc, cl in next ch-1 sp] 5 times

·         [dc in each of next 3 dc, shell in next shell] across to next corner

·         Child’s 2 [4, 6, 8] – indicating multiple finished garment sizes

·         Rows 29–36 [31–38, 31–40]: – indicating additional rows/rnds for multiple sizes

·         Sc in each of next 4 [5, 6] sts – indicating additional instructions for multiple sizes

 

{  } Repeat instructions within braces as directed; used to indicate a set of repeat instructions that are worked within a bracketed set of repeat instructions, or to indicate multiple repeats of stitch patterns that are part of a collective stitch group contained within parentheses.

Examples:

·         [dc in each of next 3 sts, {shell in next ch-1 sp} twice] 4 times

·         [{ch 5, sc in next ch sp} twice, ch 5, sk next dc, dc in next dc, {ch 1, sk next dc, dc in next dc} 6 times] twice

·         ({dc, ch 1} 5 times, dc) in next ch-2 sp

·         ({sc, ch 3} 3 times, hdc, ch 2, hdc, ch 3, {sc, ch 3} twice, sc) all in corner sp

 

*    Repeat instructions following a single asterisk or between two single asterisks as directed.

Examples:

·         Ch 1, sc in first sc, *ch 1, sk next ch-1 sp, sc in next sc, rep from * across

·         *Sc in each of next 2 sts, 2 sc in next st, rep from * around

·         Ch 1, *(sc, dc, tr, dc, sc) in next ch-2 sp, ch 2, sc in next hdc, ch 2, rep from * 6 times

·         Ch 1, sc in same st, sc in each of next 22 sc, *[2 sc in next sc, sc in each of next 3 sc] twice, 2 sc in next sc*, sc in each of next 23 sc, rep between * once, join in beg sc.

 

**  This symbol has two uses, as follows:

1. Repeat instructions between or from double asterisks as directed, usually in combination with a set of single asterisk instructions.

 

Examples:

·         Ch 1, *(sc, 2 dc, ch 1, 2 dc, sc) in corner sp, (sc, 2 dc, sc) in next ch-3 sp, **ch 1, sk next ch-1, sl st in next ch-1 sp, ch 1, sk next ch-1**, [(sc, dc, ch 1, sc) in next ch-3 sp] 3 times, rep between ** once, (sc, 2 dc, sc) in next ch-3 sp, rep from * 3 times, join.

·         Sl st in next st, sl st in corner ch sp, ch 3, dc in same sp, *[(picot, 2 dc) 3 times in same sp, **2 dc in next ch sp, (picot, 2 dc) twice in same sp, rep from ** across to next corner ch sp], 2 dc in next ch sp, rep from * twice, rep between [ ] once, join.

 

2. Work a partial set of repeat instructions as indicated by double asterisks.

Examples:

·         *Ch 3, (sc, ch 3, sc) in next ch-2 sp, ch 3**, V-st in next dc, rep from * 3 times, ending last rep at **

·         2 sc in first st, *ch 2, sk next st, cl in next st, ch 2, sk next st**, 2 sc in next st, rep from * around, ending last rep at **

 

à    Repeat instructions between or from diamonds as directed, usually in combination with single asterisk instructions.

Examples:

·         Ch 1, sc in same sc, *àsk next ch-2 sp, [sc in next sc, ch 3] 4 timesà, sc in next sc, sk next ch-2 sp, sc in next sc, rep from * 6 times, rep between àà once, sc in next sc

 

·         ({Sl st, ch 3} 3 times, sl st) in corner sp, ch 3, sk next 3 sts, (sl st, ch 3, sl st) in next st, ch 3, sk next 3 sts, (sl st, ch 3, sl st) in next ch-2 sp, àch 3, sk next 3 sts, sl st in next st, ch 3, sk next 3 sts, (sl st, ch 3, sl st) in next ch-2 sp, rep from à across to last 7 sts before corner sp, ch 3, sk next 3 sts, (sl st, ch 3, sl st) in next st, ch 3, sk next 3 sts, rep from * around, join.

Additional Terminology

Work even: Work in pattern already established without increasing or decreasing stitches.

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