Possibly the most daunting part of learning how to crochet? Learning how to read crochet patterns!
The first time you’re faced with a crochet pattern can be a scary experience, but with an understanding of the abbreviations and a few pointers, you’ll be well on your way to creating beautiful crocheted items in no time.
Your crochet patterns may contain either a list of short abbreviations or diagrams.
Whichever set of directions your crochet pattern includes, this handy article is a guide to help you make sense of them.
What You Will Need
Before you begin, it’s essential to make sure that you have the right tools to hand.
Check your crochet pattern (near the top) for information on each of the below items:
- The recommended crochet hook size (for example, 5mm or 7.5mm).
- The type of yarn required
- The number of balls of yarn
Understanding the Different Skill Levels
The difficulty level of a crochet pattern falls into one of four categories: Beginner, Easy, Intermediate, or Advanced.
With most crochet patterns, a small ‘bar’ diagram will state which skill bracket a particular crochet pattern falls within.
Beginner Level Crochet Patterns: will include some simple stitches and minor shaping.
Intended for first-time crocheters, these crochet designs include many rows of the same stitch to practice basic techniques and get the hang of the essential stitches.
Once you’ve confidently mastered the basic methods in these beginner patterns, you can build on this and move onto slightly trickier designs.
Easy Level Crochet Patterns: advance your beginner skills into more advanced designs, which use simple shaping, some colour changes and longer repetitions.
Intermediate Level Crochet Patterns: if you feel confident after successfully completing easy crochet patterns, the next step is to try intermediate crochet patterns.
Crochet designs of this skill level will feature a variety of stitches and lace patterns.
You may also find mid-level shaping and different methods of finishing.
Many apparel items will fall into this category, requiring intermediate skills when shaping to ensure the perfect fit.
Advanced Level Crochet Patterns: are recommended for experienced crocheters, with intricate designs, complicated techniques, dimension and a variety of threads.
Work can often be intricate with small hooks and precise shapes – it’s best only to tackle this level of the pattern if you are accustomed to crochet and confident with creating very detailed work.
If you’re new to the craft of crochet, you should be looking for beginner-level patterns (or a diagram with one bar).
Want to get started? There are many beginners to easy-level crochet patterns to discover in my free crochet patterns archive.
Reading Crochet Patterns
Crochet patterns contain abbreviations for a good reason – without them, a two or three-page crochet pattern could become a whole book!
To simplify crochet instructions, terms are shortened and contained within either asterisks or brackets to show repeated stitches.
- [ ] – work the stitches within the brackets as many times as directed
- ( ) work the stitches within the parentheses as many times as directed
- * repeat the instructions following the single asterisk as directed
- ** repeat instructions between asterisks as many times as directed or repeat from a given set of instructions
- lp – loop
- ch – chain
- sc – single crochet
- dc – double crochet
- tc – treble crochet
- dtr – double treble
- sc2tog – single crochet 2 stitches together
- dc2tog – double crochet 2 stitches together
- inc – increase
- dec – decrease
- rep – repeat
- rnds – rounds
- tog – together
- yo – yarn over
- ws – wrong side
- rem – remaining
- rs – right side
- sl st – slip stitch
- sp(s) – spaces)
- st(s) – stitches
So, for example, for my Crochet Coasters Pattern, the pattern instructions read as:
*1 dc in next dc, 2 dc in next dc* rep from * to end.
Make a double crochet into the next stitch, then put 2 double crochet into the following stitch (this is an increase).
Repeat this process (the instructions within the asterisks) until you reach the end of your row.
For a comprehensive list of all crochet pattern terms and more information on each, read my post here on crochet abbreviations.
You can also download and print my guide to crochet abbreviations as a pdf, to keep nearby.
Some patterns will include diagrams rather than written words as instructions.
Some crocheters find these more natural to read than written abbreviations, as it shows the crochet pattern visually.
They may look intimidating at first, but once you’ve understood what the basic stitches mean, the rest of the design becomes relatively easy to complete.
I would recommend printing off a list of the crochet icons below to keep nearby, and so that you can refer to it if you are ever unsure.
Included in your pattern will also be a gauge to specify how many stitches you can expect to make within a given area.
- This gauge will usually read something like “14 sts = 4″ (10 cms)”, which would tell you that you should expect to crochet 14 stitches in every 4 inches of your work.
- It’s essential to complete a small sample of stitches before you embark on the whole pattern, to make sure that your work will be the same size that the pattern suggests.
- This is especially important when making fitted garments or tops – you don’t want your crocheted items to fit too small or too big.
- If you find that your gauge is slightly off by being marginally too large or too small, try switching your crochet hook for a different size to adjust, i.e. go up a size if your work is slightly smaller or go down if your gauge is slightly larger.
Looking for more crochet tutorials?
If you’re eager to start making, you can discover crochet for beginners and for more advanced crafters in my complete archive of crochet patterns.