How To Read Crochet Patterns For Beginners

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In this blog post, you will learn how to read crochet patterns for beginners and everything you need to know about understanding crochet patterns.

The first time you’re faced with a crochet pattern can be a scary experience.

Still, with an understanding of the crochet language (abbreviations) and a few helpful tips, 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.

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how to read crochet patterns

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, 5 mm or 7.5 mm).
  • The type of yarn required.
  • The number of balls of yarn.
colourful crochet hook set

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.

Checking the pattern skill level is very important to understand if this is the right pattern for you.

If you are a new maker, you need to choose a beginner-level or easy pattern, as an intermediate or advanced one will be very difficult for a newbie to follow.

Beginner Level Crochet Patterns

These will include some simple stitches and minor shaping.

Intended for a beginner crocheter, these crochet designs include many rows of the same stitch to practice basic techniques and get the hang of the basic crochet stitches.

Like the foundation chain, single crochet stitches, double crochet stitches, etc.

Once you’ve confidently mastered the basic methods in these beginner patterns, you can build on this and move on to slightly trickier designs.

crochet wash cloths

Easy Level Crochet Patterns

Advance your beginner skills into more advanced designs using simple shaping, some color changes, and longer repetitions.

Stitches that require more repetitions such as the popcorn stitch (how to crochet the popcorn stitch) and a greater amount of increases or decreases (how to make a single crochet decrease) are often found in easy crochet patterns.

Crochet wash mitt

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.

granny square crochet afghan

Advanced Level Crochet Patterns

Are recommended for experienced crocheters, with intricate designs, complicated techniques, dimensions, 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 crocheting and confident with creating very detailed work.

crochet squares with various stitch patterns

Free Crochet Patterns

If you’re new to the craft of crochet, you should be looking for beginner-level patterns (or a diagram with one bar, which means it is a basic pattern).

Want to get started?

There are many beginners to easy-level crochet patterns to discover in my free crochet patterns archive.

raffia crochet purse with long tassel

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!

There are common abbreviations defined by Craft Yarn Council that all makers know, but a pattern designer might use special terms, in that case, they will explain everything in the pattern.

To simplify crochet instructions, terms are shortened and contained within either asterisks or brackets to show repeated stitches.

Punctuation Marks/Symbols

  • [ ] – 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

Key Abbreviations

  • 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
crochet hook and yarn

Learn How To Read A Crochet Pattern

Learn how to read a crochet pattern below step by step.

This is one of my beginner dishcloth crochet patterns, you can get all three designs for free here – Crochet Dishcloth Pattern Set (Three designs).

Time needed: 1 day, 23 hours and 30 minutes

How To Read A Crochet Pattern

  1. Understand the pattern title and skill level

    The crochet pattern that you have chosen will have a title, description, and skill level.
    A difficulty level or skill level will let you know if it will be easy or not.
    Patterns are normally classified into basic (for beginners), Easy (for the advanced beginner), Intermediate for the experienced, or advanced for very experienced crafters.
    Each skill level will help you to decide if the pattern is right for you.title and skill level

  2. The supplies you need to make the pattern

    Next, you need to look at the supplies you need in order to make the pattern you have chosen, the yarn weight, hook size, and any notions. Notions are tools like scissors, yarn needles, tape measure, stitch markers, etc.
    Making sure you have the correct yarn weight and amount of yarn is important for the success of your project.
    If you use a different yarn weight or hook size, the project will not turn out how it should according to the pattern instructions.crochet pattern supplies

  3. Sizes and Measurements

    Many patterns will have size and gauge information.
    This tells you how big the finished size of your project will be.
    The gauge is also great information to know, as this will help you to make sure you match the gauge size the designer had for the project pieces.
    You can crochet a gauge swatch (in a 4-inch square) before starting to see if your gauge matches that of the designer.
    If your gauge does not match you may have to try using a smaller or larger hook size.
    This is really important for creating garments, to make sure they fit. crochet pattern measurements

  4. Stitch abbreviations and terms

    You need to know all about the crochet abbreviations and terms (US + UK) for the pattern you are making and if they are using US terms or UK terms as some are slightly different.
    Here is an example of some crochet abbreviations you may see…
    crochet abbreviations

  5. Pattern notes

    Most patterns also have a notes section where they give more explanation of things you need to know before starting.
    This can include:
    If a pattern is worked in rows or rounds.
    What is the right side vs. the wrong side.
    Whether a pattern is worked in one piece, or will be seamed.
    If it is a garment, how many pieces you will make and diagrams of what the pieces look like.
    Any other notes the designer thinks may be helpful.

  6. The main pattern instructions

    Finally you will see the main pattern instructions.
    You will follow the instructions row by row, round by round, or from a chart, to get started on your project.
    Here is an example of pattern instructions from one of my own patterns for you to follow…
    The pattern may say this to begin with – CH 46, turn,
    This means you should chain 46 and then turn the work ready to start the next row.
    Row 1 – 1 SC in the 2nd CH from hook, 1 SC into every CH, turn,
    For row 1 – you will complete one single crochet in the 2nd chain from the hook, the complete one single crochet stitch into every chain to the end of the row, then turn the work ready for the next row.
    Row 2 – CH 1, 1 SC into every st to the end of the row, turn,
    For row 2 – chain one stitch, then single crochet into every stitch unit you get to the en of the row, then turn the work ready for the next row.
    Row 3 – CH 1, 1 SC into the BLO in each st to the end of the row, turn,
    For row 3 – chain one stitch, single crochet into the back loop only of each stitch until you get to the end of the row, then turn the work ready for the next row.
    Rep row 3 until the piece measures 10 inches.
    Next you will repeat row 3 only until your work measures 10 inches in length.
    Finish with a Sl-St in the last st, cut the yarn, and secure.
    You will then finish the work with a slip stitch, into the last stitch, cut the yarn and secure so that the work does not come apart.
    Weave in any loose ends.
    Weave in any loose ends to tidy the work up and finish off. crochet pattern instructions

  7. Look at any photographs of the finished item

    Most patterns will feature photographs of the finished projects or some may have step-by-step photographs to help you along.
    You can refer to these photos to help you to see what the work should look like and if your work is looking the same. crochet pattern photographs

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Another Pattern Example

So, for example, for my Crochet Coasters Free Pattern, the pattern instructions read as:

*1 dc in next dc, 2 dc in next dc* rep from * to end.

Which means:

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.

crochet coasters pattern

Grab your free crochet abbreviations guide

For a comprehensive list of all crochet pattern terms and more information on each, read my post here on crochet abbreviations and terms (US + UK).

You can also download and print my guide to crochet abbreviations as a pdf, to keep nearby.

how to read crochet patterns - a circle made from raffia with a crochet hook

Pattern Dimensions

All patterns specify the dimensions of the project so the maker knows how big the finished product will be.

It’s always a good idea to check the dimensions to make it’s going to turn out the size you want.

And so you can see if you need to adjust anything before you start your project.

This is especially important when it comes to hats, gloves, and garments.

how to read crochet patterns - crochet lace weight yarn and hook

Crochet Terms

Crochet patterns not only use abbreviations to describe stitches and the steps you need to take.

For example, in the crochet language increase means adding stitches, decrease or decreasing – taking away stitches, join means joining two stitches together, and turn, turning the work to flip your project to the other side so you can start a new row.

Crochet Diagrams

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.

Tension

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 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.
crochet hook and yarn

Tunisian Crochet And The Abbreviations.

Tunisian crochet abbreviations can be completely foreign languages on their own.

Tunisian crochet or Afghan crochet is a type of crochet that is considered a mix of knit and crochet as some knitting techniques are used in Tunisian crochet as well.

It produces a waffle-like fabric with a trim border.

Tunisian Crochet Abbreviations 

  • etss – extended Tunisian simple stitch
  • FwP – forward pass
  • RetP – return pass
  • tdc – Tunisian double crochet
  • tfs- Tunisian full stitch
  • thdc- Tunisian half double crochet
  • tks- Tunisian knit stitch
  • tps – Tunisian purl stitch
  • trs – Tunisian reverse stitch
  • tsc – Tunisian single crochet
  • tss – Tunisian simple stitch
  • tslst – Tunisian slip stitch
  • ttr – Tunisian treble crochet
  • ttw – Tunisian twisted

Looking for more crochet tutorials?

Why not try starting a crochet chain (how to start a crochet chain), or learning how to single crochet (sc) next?

If you’re eager to start making, you can discover crochet for beginners and for more advanced crafters in my complete archive of free crochet patterns.

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