So you picked up a crochet book or downloaded a pattern for the cute project you want to make, but then you look at it and aren’t quite sure where to go. As with any hobby, career, niche; the crochet world is full of jargon and abbreviations that you are expected to know! A crochet pattern is the perfect place to find ALL of the jargon and get lost!
So, how do you read a crochet pattern?
The basics of a crochet pattern
- Pattern name/description: written in plain terms, describes what the final project will be
- Difficulty level: tells you if it is appropriate for beginner, intermediate, or advanced/expert crocheter
- Materials: will include information about the yarn, crochet hook, needles, etc needed to crochet the project
- Gauge: tells you how big your stitches should be
- Size information: tells you the size of the final project
- Abbreviations list: provides the “definitions” of shorthand used in the pattern
- Pattern notes: includes how to make special stitches used in the pattern, how to assemble the project, tips/tricks; whatever the designed wants to communicate that doesn’t fit somewhere else
- Pattern: the actual instructions for crocheting the project from start to finish; written row by row or round by round
- Finishing instructions: things like sewing together, weaving in ends of yarn, etc.
So, now you know the VERY basics of looking at a crochet pattern and reading it. But it is still FILLED with information that you aren’t quite sure of? Keep reading for details of how to read (decode!) the information in your pattern!
This video shows you much of this information, and you can refer to each written section for more as needed!
Crochet Pattern Basics
The first thing to know is a crochet pattern is kind of like a recipe. It has specific sections that provide specific information you need to know. The name, the description, the “ingredients” and tools needed, the written instructions, etc.
It SHOULD be laid out in a format that is easy to read and flows well. For example, you probably want to know how to crochet that super fancy, special stitch BEFORE you are told to do it! The pattern should tell you that!
Let’s now look at each section that a typical crochet pattern will include and delve into what information is included and how to actually understand what it is telling you!
The pattern name/title will tell you what you are making. Some are more descriptive than others, but it will at least tell you if it is a blanket, scarf, shirt, stuffed animal, etc.
The description is usually included under the title and will give some more information, in layman’s terms about the finished project is.
It may include information about the inspiration for the project, the use of the project, or the overview of the design.
It will usually talk about the features of an item, like if a shirt is made to be lightweight and flowy for springtime or a scarf that is very warm and made for cold winters.
The description may be super short or may include a lot of details, but either way, it shouldn’t have too much jargon in it, so it should give you a good idea of what you are making without being too confusing.
The pattern should tell you in plain terms if it is suitable for a beginner, intermediate, or advanced/expert crocheter. This will provide you with a quick reference for if you should even look farther into the pattern.
If you are a beginner, you are probably not going to want to go for an “advanced” level pattern, but you may stretch for an intermediate level pattern. (If it is a free pattern, no harm in looking, except using your time, but this especially applies if you are going to pay for a pattern.)
Even if you are an “advanced” crocheter, you may be looking for only easier patterns for a project you plan to do when there are a lot of distractions or something.
This section may also talk about some of the skills needed to complete the project, but typically this information will be in “pattern notes.”
This section should include multiple subheadings, then the descriptions for each. Let’s look at each of those headings separately.
The pattern will explain the yarn needed for the project. Sometimes this is more detailed than other times. I definitely prefer when this section includes a lot of detail because then if I needed to make substitutions I can.
The following is the information it may include:
- Yarn brand/color
- The designer will likely state an exact yarn brand and the name of the colors that they used for the original design
- Yarn type/fiber
- The pattern may specify to use acrylic, wool, cotton, or a blend of fibers for the type of yarn.
- Often this information is not specified as it is available on the yarn label (the only problem with that is if a yarn is discontinued and you can’t find the information!)
- Yarn “weight”
- The pattern may specify to use a certain “weight” of yarn, which means the thickness. They may use numbers or words to describe it. Yarn “weight” varies from 1 to 7, most common are 3 (light or sport), 4 (medium, worsted, or Aran), and 5 (bulky or chunky).
- Similarly to yarn fiber, the pattern may not include this information because it is assumed it is available on the yarn label.
- Yardage/weight needed
- This is the actual amount of yarn needed to complete the pattern. It may be listed as number of yards or the weight in grams or ounces. If the pattern provides this information, it is helpful because you can look at the number yards in a skein and calculate how many you need.
- Number of skeins
- The pattern most likely will tell you how many skeins of the specific yarn used by the original designer are needed to complete the pattern.
- The number of skeins would also tell you the approximate number of yards, ounces, or grams of yarn needed because the skein is labeled with that information.
- Suggestions for substitutions
- The pattern may include specific suggestions for changes in yarn brand or color, or it may include all of the above details so that you can just choose a yarn that is similar (same thickness, same fiber type) and get the right amount of yarn.
The designer will tell you the size of hook they used for the project. It may be in “US” terminology with a letter and number or in metric terms with the size in millimeters (mm).
One thing to note is that this is a guideline: a place to start. You may actually end up using a different hook when you crochet the pattern because you crochet tighter or looser than the original designer. To determine this, refer to the “Gauge” section of the pattern (which is the part of the pattern we will discuss after materials.)
Crochet Hook Size Chart
The designer SHOULD list EVERYTHING else that is needed to complete the crochet project. This would include things like stitch markers (tools used to put into one of your stitches to keep track of where you are starting/finishing, or going to insert your hook later), yarn/darning needles (used to “weave in ends” or sew together seams), buttons, zippers, beads, scissors, etc.
This should be specific and include things like the number of buttons you will need, the color and length of zipper, the types/size/number of beads, etc.
Sometimes designers will assume you know these things and leave them out, or they will just forget to put them. Then you are working through your project and it says to add something that wasn’t in the materials list, and you have to get up and go find it, or worse, go out and buy it!
I think this portion of the materials list is super important, but sometimes overlooked by designers.
Gauge is a SUPER important part of the pattern. This is the part that will help you KNOW that your final project will turn out the same as the original designer’s project. It is especially important when crocheting garments! You are going for a larger shirt, and you could end up with an extra small if you don’t get the gauge right!
So…what is it.
Gauge refers to a “swatch” of crochet that you should complete prior to starting crocheting the actual project. The pattern will tell you how many, and of what, stitch to crochet. It will usually look something like this…
For project worked in rows (flat project, usually square or rectangle): 13 single crochets for 14 rows using a size 5.5 mm hook = 4×4″ square
For project worked in rounds (for things like hats, baskets, etc): rounds 1-5 of pattern=circle with 3″ diameter
For “motifs” (patterns with repeats): Finished Motif (A) measures 3 inches across and 1 inch high. (Could also be special stitches like “5 shells for 4 rows=4×4” square)
What this means is that you should crochet what it instructs (13 single crochets in a row and then complete 14 rows in the first example), then measure the size of your crochet swatch. Use the size of hook indicated in the gauge sections. If it does not specify the hook size, use the size of hook indicated in the materials section of the pattern.
After crocheting the swatch, if the size matches, you are golden! Move on!
If the size does NOT match, you will want to change something! If your swatch is too big you will want to try a smaller hook; if it is too small, you will want to try a larger hook. I highly recommend re-doing the gauge swatch until you get the right size IF the final size of the project really does matter (like for clothing).
This sizing section will look different depending on the type of project.
Worked in rows
If it is a blanket or a scarf for example; with a basic rectangular shape, the pattern will tell you the length and width of the finished project.
Worked in rounds
If the pattern is worked in the round, it should tell you the diameter. If the rounds also have height to them (think basket versus a flat coaster), the pattern should tell you the height of the finished item as well as the diameter.
Worked in pieces
If the final project is a bunch of pieces that are then stitched/sewn together, the pattern SHOULD tell you the size of each of those pieces. (When it does, it is super helpful because then you know you are of the right track with each piece instead of having to just wait until the end to see if it is right).
For clothing, it will list the sizes by name. For example, “small (medium, large, X-large). This will tell you where to look in your pattern for the size that you need. In the pattern, it will have areas that are formatted this way with numbers in them. This will tell you how many stitches or rows to do for the size that you want. So it might say single crochet 13 (15, 18, 22). That would mean for a small do 13, for a medium do 15, etc.
For clothing, the size section may also include specific measurements for each size listed. For example, “Bust 32″ (34″, 38″, 42″)”. It may include any measurement that would need for clothing, but will likely NOT be inclusive for ALL the measurements. Sometimes, a diagram or schematic will be shown with the finished measurement labeled.
The pattern may provide tips on choosing the right size and state the size that is in the photographs in this section as well.
This portion could be called multiple things including “Glossary” or “Reference.” They all mean the same thing; “refer to this area to figure out what I am saying in the pattern.”
This area may list all of the abbreviations used in the pattern, or it may just list anything noteworthy or out of the ordinary. For example, special stitches or repeats that the designer may have given a name and an abbreviation that is not “standard.” Always defer to this list when it is provided in a pattern even if it does not match the “standards.”
This section may include instructions/references/tutorials for making special stitches or that may be in the next section, “Pattern notes.”
This section should also include whether the pattern is written using US or UK terminology. Crochet stitches are actually called different things (even though they are made the same way) in US versus UK patterns. Refer to the chart below for the differences in basic crochet stitch names between the two.
Stitch Abbreviation Differences between the United States (U.S.), Canada, and United Kingdom (U.K.)
|slip stitch (sl st)||slip stitch (ss)|
|single crochet (sc)||double crochet (dc)|
|half double crochet (hdc)||half treble (htr)|
|double crochet (dc)||treble (tr)|
|treble (tr)||double treble (dtr)|
|double treble (dtr)||triple treble (trtr)|
The pattern notes and abbreviation sections are sometimes combined in a pattern, so pattern notes may include any of the information under the abbreviation list section.
This section may include tips and tricks or variations that can be made to the pattern. For example, tips for changing the size.
Special stitch instructions may be provided with the specifics of how to make them. This may be in written, picture, or video format.
The same goes for stitch “repeats” or “patterns.”
Anything that is done that is “out of the norm” should be included in this section. For example, in all of my double crochet patterns, I chain 2 as a turning chain instead of the standard chain 3. I put this in my pattern notes so that it is clearly stated that I am doing something that is not considered standard.
Pattern notes may (and, in my opinion, always should) include notes that apply to the whole pattern to avoid making the written pattern excessively wordy. This would include things like stating if the turning chain does or does not count as a stitch or whether or not you are turning your work when working in the round.
This is the beefy section of the pattern, so it is going to be a beefy section of this post. This is where the pattern actually gives you step-by-step (row-by-row, round-by-round) instructions for how to crochet the project. This can be SUPER long, like 10, 14, 20 pages. DON’T be intimidated by it! Just take it one row or round at a time!
Let’s look at some examples of what those row or round instructions might look like, and then decode what it actually means.
Working in rows
This would be for something like a blanket that is worked in even rows (without wanting to change the width of the piece.)
|In the Pattern||In English|
|ch 62||make a slip knot on your crochet hook, then chain stitch 62 times to make a foundation chain|
|Row 1: Dc in 4th ch from hook (3 skipped ch count as first dc) and in each ch across (60 dc)||turn your chain (flip it from pointing to the right to pointing to the left like you are turning the page of a book if right-handed)|
work a double crochet stitch into the 4th chain from your hook. The 3 chains that end up at the end will count as one of your double crochet stitches.
Work a double crochet into each chain across the foundation chain row.
(60 dc) indicates that at the end of the row, you will have worked 59 double crochet stitches into chains and have the 3 skipped chains that counts as your 60th.
MAKE SURE TO COUNT!
|Row 2: Ch 3, turn, skip first st, dc in each st across working last dc in top of beg ch.||Work 3 chain stitches then turn. These 3 chains will again count as a stitch. |
Skip the first stitch (meaning do not put a stitch into the last stitch of the previous round; because the turning chain counts as that stitch).
Double crochet into each stitch from the previous row, including working a double crochet into the top chain of the beginning chain (which counted as a stitch).
Working in Rounds-circular
This would be for something like a bag or a basket where you are making a round base.
|In the Pattern||In English|
|ch 2||make a slip knot on your crochet hook, then chain stitch (ch) 2 times|
|Rnd 1 (RS): Work 8 sc in 2nd ch from hook; join with sl st in first sc – you will have 8 sc in this rnd. Note: Work the first st of each rnd in the same st as the joining sl st||Round 1 (right side)-means you are looking at the front side of the piece|
Work 8 single crochet stitches into the first chain that you made (put your hook in at the same place every time).
After 8 single crochets, slip stitch to anchor (join) your last single crochet to your first single crochet.
|Rnd 2: Ch 1, 2 sc in each sc around; join with sl st in first sc. (16 sc)||Chain 1 time. |
Work 2 single crochets into each stitch of the previous round.
Join with a slip stitch (like last round). (16 sc) means you have 16 single crochets total at the end of the round. *By working 2 stitches into the same stitch all the way around, you have doubled the number of stitches.
|Rnd 3: Ch 1, *sc in next sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around; join with sl st in first sc. (24 sc)||Chain 1. |
The * * mean that everything between them will be repeated
So you will single crochet into the one stitch, then single crochet twice into the following stitch; and keep repeating that 1 single crochet then 2 single crochets until you get all the way around the row.
Slip stitch to first single crochet.
Working in Rounds-Granny Square
Granny squares are super common patterns, but they can be made with all sorts of different designs. The basics are generally the same though, and if you can read 1 granny square pattern, you should be good!
We’ll start at round 4, since our last couple examples went over the beginning chains. We are going to break round 4 down into each step for more clarity. This is what that round would say in the pattern all in one chunk.
Rnd 4: Sl st in first corner ch-2 sp, ch 5 (counts as dc, ch 2), 3 dc in same corner ch-2 sp, *(ch 1, 3 dc in next ch-1 sp) to next corner ch-2 sp, ch 1, (3 dc, ch 2, 3 dc) in corner ch-2 sp; rep from * 2 more times, (ch 1, 3 dc in next ch-1 sp) to first corner ch-2 sp, ch 1, 2 dc again in first ch-2 sp; joinwith sl st in 3rd ch of beg ch-5 –48 dc, 12 ch-1 sps, and 4 corner ch-2 sps (Four 3-dc groups and 3 ch-1 sps along each of 4 sides between corner ch-2 sps).
|In the Pattern||In English|
|Rnd 4: Sl st in first corner ch-2 sp, ch 5 (counts as dc, ch 2), 3 dc in same corner ch-2 sp||Slip stitch in the first corner chain space (this means you put your hook into the hole in the fabric created underneath the chains.) |
Work 5 chains (the first 3 counts as a double crochet, the last 2 counts as a “chain 2”).
Double crochet 3 times into the same chain space where you slip stitched.
|*(ch 1, 3 dc in next ch-1 sp) to next corner ch-2 sp, ch 1, (3 dc, ch 2, 3 dc) in corner ch-2 sp; rep from * 2 more times||* means to repeat, and () means to repeat inside of that * repeat!|
chain 1, 3 double crochets into the next chain 1 space
keep doing that sequence until you reach the corner.
Chain 1 time and work 3 double crochets, chain 2, 3 more double crochets into the corner chain 2 space. These () means to group it, not to repeat it, which can be confusing. Not that there are no repeat instructions after (like “to next corner) so just do it once.
Then-Repeat all of the instructions from the * 2 more times (between and into the next corners)
|(ch 1, 3 dc in next ch-1 sp) to first corner ch-2 sp, ch 1, 2 dc again in first ch-2 sp; joinwith sl st in 3rd ch of beg ch-5 –48 dc, 12 ch-1 sps, and 4 corner ch-2 sps (Four 3-dc groups and 3 ch-1 sps along each of 4 sides between corner ch-2 sps).||() means repeat here|
chain 1, double crochet 3 times into the next chain 1 space
keep doing that until you reach the corner chain 2 space (this is the initial/final corner of the round)
Join your last double crochet to your initial chain (remember that the first 3 chains of the “ch 5” counted as a double crochet, slip stitch to that 3rd chain)
Everything after the — give you information only, not instructions.
48 double crochets with 12 chain 1 spaces and 4 corner chain 2 spaces.
four groups of 3 double crochets and 3 chain 1 spaces on each of the 4 sides of the square
|Rnds 5-10:Rep Rnd 4 for 6 more times –120 dc, 36 ch-1 sps, and 4 corner ch-2 sps (Ten 3-dc groups and 9 ch-1 sps along each of 4 sides between corner ch-2 sps) in Rnd 10.||This means that for rounds 5-10, you will do the same thing as round 4, so just follow those same instructions for 6 more times around your project. |
Everything after — gives you information. So you can see it says 120 double crochets, (significantly more than 48 at the end of round 4).
This is because you are increasing the number of stitches each round by following the instructions.
So to keep you on track, it tells you that at the end of round 10 you will have 120 double crochets with 36 chain 1 spaces and 4 corner chain 2 spaces.
also between each corner, there will be ten groups of 3 double crochets and 9 chain 1 spaces.
Woo! I told you this was going to be a beefy section! These are some of the most common things you will encounter in various patterns. There are other stitches and instructions that you will run across, but the basics of how to follow those instructions won’t change much.
For other abbreviations you run across, you can refer to my posts for crochet terms and crochet stitch abbreviations and definitions.
The finishing section will include stating to weave in ends of yarn, which means to pull the cut tails of the yarn through the stitches worked (with either a crochet hook or yarn needle) to hide them and to secure the work to prevent unraveling.
This section may include information about edging, but that may be included in the actual pattern as well.
It the project requires construction, this section will tell you how to assemble all of the pieces. This will include how to actually sew the pieces together (with a crochet hook and a slip stitch or other specific stitch, with a yarn needle and yarn sewing together, etc.)
It will also specify how to hold the pieces together when putting in these seems. For example, “holding RS tog, sl st the seam” would mean to hold the two pieces with the front sides (right side-RS) touching, then slip stitch along the joint to create a seam.
The pattern may also say to “block” when finished. There are various methods, and the pattern should describe what they mean. But in general, blocking means adding moister to the finished project, shaping it, then letting it dry. It helps to straighten out the edges, flatten any areas that may be curled, stretch the project to open it up more or show more of the details or ensure all the pieces are evenly sized/shaped for your project.
Wrapping Up Reading Patterns
As shown in this post, there’s a TON of crochet jargon, terminology, abbreviations, etc. If you want a complete, chart version of this information head over to my other two posts where I have inclusive charts for crochet stitch names, abbreviations, and definitions/instructions and crochet terminology, abbreviations, and definitions/instructions.
You can save these pages as a quick reference for any abbreviation you may need to know. The charts also include videos or pictures as needed to show how to do what the abbreviation or term means.
“Crochet Stitch Abbreviations and Symbols: With How to Guide For Each“
“Decoding Crochet Jargon: Common Crochet Terminology and What It Means“
I hope that this clarified some things and provides you with a great resource that you can save and always come back to! If you think of any other questions about reading a crochet pattern, drop me a comment, and I will answer the best I can!
Now it is time for YOU to get Crafty with Ashy! Go grab a pattern and crochet away!!
Be sure to subscribe and follow me so you don’t miss any inspiration!