How to Read a Crochet Pattern

Want to try the free pattern featured in the post photo? Click here for the Mini Catch-All Basket pattern! 

How To Read a Pattern:   One of the most common comments I hear from people who are interested in learning how to crochet is that they are confused by the pattern. I try to reassure them that once you understand the basic abbreviations and flow of patterns it really does start to make more sense. Most patterns will start by outlining the materials you will need to complete the project and an abbreviation key that will show which stitches you will be using. You can also usually find tips from the designer along with specialty stitch instructions. This information is often followed by gauge and measurement. Gauge helps you to understand if the stitches you are making are matching up with the stitches made by the designer of the pattern. If you find that your gauge is off you can make changes in hook size to assure that your project will turn out as intended. Adjusting your hook up will make your stitches bigger (increase size) while adjusting down a hook size will make your stitches smaller (decrease size). It is also important to note that you are using the type of yarn suggested in the pattern or this too will impact the size of your finished project. 

Next, you will find the body of the pattern, which provides instructions on how to make the item you are crocheting, as well as how to finish the item. To help you understand and practice how to read a pattern I am going to break down my free Simple Mug Cozy pattern (which can be found here) step-by-step below.  

Step 1:   Note the materials you will need to complete your project. Step 2:   Review the abbreviation key and understand which stitches you will be using to complete the project. The abbreviation key from this pattern is very basic and designed for beginners. The abbreviations will be used throughout your pattern instructions in order to make the pattern quicker to read. Abbreviations are also pretty standard in crochet so once you feel comfortable with them patterns will become easier to comprehend. Step 3:   Measurement and Gauge. As discussed above, the measurement and gauge are intended to help assure that your finished project is going to turn out the same as the one the pattern is based off of. So, if the gauge for the project says 10 rows = 2” squared (as in the sample pattern), when you crochet 10 rows of the pattern your work progress should be around 2” squared. If not, then you would need to make an adjustment. Some patterns will ask that you make a swatch for gauge and give you an instruction on how many stitches and how many rows to complete and what the measurements should be when finished. Other patterns, like the one I am referencing, will have you check your measurements at a certain point to see if it is accurate. Step 4:  

The fun part! The point where you start your project! The pattern instructions. Your pattern will start by explaining how you begin. Some projects with start with chain stitches (like the sample) and others may start with a magic ring. The pattern we are referencing begins with a row of chain stitches to form the foundation row (the starting row). If you need help understanding how to start a chain row and make single crochets I would recommend referencing Yarnspirations tutorial videos which may be found here. In the sample pattern you will see that you are instructed to chain 9 stitches. Once you have completed those 9 stitches you are instructed to place a single crochet in the second chain from the hook. You are placing a single crochet in the second chain from your hook because the 9th chain of your foundation row is your “turning chain”. If you can visualize the 8 stitches you made as your foundation and then the 9th chain allows for you to turn and start the first row of single crochet stitches. As you read the sample pattern, you can see that moving forward you would make 8 single crochets across the row and then chain 1 stitch to turn and start the next row. You are working back and forth. The number of chains you need to turn for any project depends on the type of stitch(es) the pattern calls for based on the height of the stitch. Single crochets generally only require 1 chain stitch to turn.   You will read the pattern in Rows (some patterns will be read in Rounds because you will be working in a circle). Each row you simply complete what the pattern is telling you to do. In the pattern referenced you will complete 1 single crochet stitch in each stitch across so that when you get to the end of the row you have completed 8 SC (single crochet) stitches and you have chained (Ch) 1 to turn and start the next row. I tell my daughter to imagine the chain 1 as “stepping up” to the next row. 

If you are completing the same steps for a series of rows instead of having all of the rows listed out individually stating the exact same thing most patterns will just group them together i.e. Rows 2-49.  

Now, let’s move on to looking at a row that may have a few more instructions in it. For this pattern, when you are getting to the last rows of the project you need to complete a button hole. So, instead of just completing single crochet stitches across it now looks like this:  Row 50: 1 Sc in first 3 Sc. Ch 2. Sk next 2 Sc. 1 Sc in last 3 Sc. (6 Sc and 2 Ch stitches made). Ch 1 turn. (2 Ch stitches and 2 Sk stitches will create button hole). Let’s break this down a bit further. It is stating you are going to place a single crochet (Sc) in the first three stitches of your last row. Next, you Chain (Ch) 2 stitches. You then skip (Sk) the next to single crochets. You are then instructed to place a single crochet (Sc) in the last remaining stitches of the row. The pattern then summarizes that you have made 6 single crochet stitches and 2 chain stitches. If you add those together it = the 8 stitches you have been making in each row in the pattern so far. It also goes on to explain that the skipped stitches in this row have created your button hole.   In the final row of the pattern you will return to placing single crochets across the row. You’re then instructed to finish off the row and weave in the ends to complete your project.  

I hope you have found this explanation on how to read a pattern helpful! With practice I am confident you will become more comfortable reading patterns. Feel free to comment or send questions. Happy crocheting! 

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