How to Read a Crochet Pattern
Do you remember that scene from the movie A Christmas Story when Ralphie is hiding in the bathroom trying to decode the message from his favorite radio program, Little Orphan Annie? Reading a crochet pattern is kind of like that, except (spoiler alert!) you won’t encounter a disappointing advertising message for Ovaltine at the end!
How to Read a Crochet Pattern in 3 Easy Steps
How to Read a Crochet Pattern
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I’ve had quite a few experienced crocheters admit to me that they cannot read a crochet pattern. They are very good at what they do and are able to make gorgeous blankets, scarves, and beanies but never got around to learning the basic skill. Reading a crochet pattern is as simple as translating abbreviations into “normal talk”! I swear it’s that easy. It’s not hard. It’s not even terribly complicated! But there are three tricks that will make it even easier, and I’m going to help you do it! Are you ready? Don’t be nervous! I’m going to be right there helping you the whole time!
Have a crochet abbreviations chart on hand
Having a good crochet abbreviations chart is the first step to being able to read a crochet pattern. It will list most, if not all, of the abbreviations you will encounter. Crochet patterns are not written like a sentence. Patterns are abbreviated and use symbols to express stitches and repeats. Once you get the hang of abbreviations it will become second nature and you won’t need a chart very often. But for now it is a good idea to keep one on hand. I have created one that is certainly not an exhaustible list, but these are the abbreviations I regularly encounter in the amigurumi patterns I use. Keep this resource handy because we are going to need it soon!
Printable version here: Crochet Abbreviations Chart!
Read over the entire pattern
Before we start this step you are going to need to grab a crochet pattern. If you don’t have one on hand click here to view my free Princess Bernadette Bear – Free Crochet Pattern!
Start by skimming over the entire pattern. How long is it? Are there photos? Locate where each part of the pattern is. There is usually a notes section near the beginning that gives an overview or provides specific information that will be important.
Another critical section is the materials. You will need to make sure you have the materials you need on hand because there is nothing as frustrating as getting to a point in a project and then realizing you don’t have the necessary supplies. A good pattern will have all of it listed out, usually near the beginning.
The next step is to skim over the actual pattern. You do not need to read over every single line. This is where you get a feel for how the project is constructed. Is is one piece? Does it start at the head and work down or start at the feet and work up? It’s a good habit to begin becoming familiar with patterns before you dive in, it can save you headaches in the end! Ask me how I know!! Lol!
Translate the pattern line by line
This is the fun part! Really it is! Don’t believe me? Well then let’s get started! I’m going to use my own pattern for sake of ease and walk you through my process for translating! It helps to have a sheet of paper handy but you can also write on the pattern itself!
Looking at the “Head and Body” section on page 4 it reads: Using smaller hook, make a magic ring. The first line doesn’t even need a translation! That’s not too hard is it? I’m going to list the rounds and then the translations so you can see just what I mean!
Round 1: – 6sc in magic ring (6)
Translation: make six single crochet in the magic ring.
The number in parentheses at the end of a line in crochet indicates how many stitches you will have after you’ve worked that line.
Round 2: inc each st (12)
Translation: increase in each stitch, you will now have twelve stitches.
An increase stitch is as simple as making two single crochet into one stitch. You are making the one stitch from the previous round into two stitches.
Round 3: (1 sc, inc) 6 times (18)
Translation: (make one single crochet, then increase) do what it is parentheses six times in total. You will now have eighteen stitches at the end of round 3.
By translating each line, not only will you be able to read the pattern, you will begin memorizing those abbreviations very quickly! If you come across an abbreviation that you aren’t familiar with, and is not on your printout, just google it. Youtube is also your friend. There are hundreds of tutorials for how to make any crochet stitch you will likely ever come across!
I hope these three easy steps will help you feel confident that you can begin reading crochet patterns. Always remember that it’s always harder in the beginning but in no time you’ll be an old pro! I would love to hear your experience. Do you read crochet patterns or do you rely on tutorials?
I started to crochet when a friend dragged me along to a beginners course at a yarn shop in our town. From the very start I learned to read a written pattern and a chart/diagram. What looked like complete gibberish at first turned out to be quite easy to “read”. And once I understood the way most amigurumi patterns are written I actually found myself able to read and understand a basic amigurumi pattern written in russian ! I impressed myself 😉
The only reason I use a video tutorial is to show me how to do complicated stitches in some blanket patterns (e.g Kalevala blanket) I have made.
I try to live my life by a saying from a Pippi Longstocking childrens book, which translates roughly into …
I have never tried it before, so I think I can do it!
So, my advice is to grab this abbreviation chart and give it a try! Thanks Elise
Thank you so much for sharing your story! Yes, it’s not that hard and if you break it down into simple steps it’s even easier! I love the quote from Pipi Longstocking! Great motto to live by!
This is so helpful! I think I might be brave enough to try following a pattern 😊
Thanks so much Jayme! It really isn’t that hard but it does intimidate some people at first. If it’s broken down into bite sized pieces its easy peasy!
Such great tips, Elise! Knowing how to read patterns definitely has so many advantages and does get easier with practice. It’s fun to know another language too! 😉
Thanks, Jen! It really does have so many advantages and it’s just not that hard!
Interesting! I actually think it’s easier to follow a pattern vs trying to think on the fly. I’m like that with overly detailed recipes too. Just tell me what do! 😂
I’m like that too! I think a lot of folks watch YouTube tutorials that just show them what to do. That’s how I started making amigurumi but I believe it’s good to move to patterns at some point. You just have more options that way!
I wish I had this talent. This is so interesting to me! I remember my grandma and great aunt crocheting amazing things. Nothing like these precious babies! I think I would have to name them all! Lol
Awww, thanks so much! I actually do name them all! Heehee!!
I definitely fall into the scarf and blanket crocheter category! I had a book that was helpful in learning the different stitches, but your video has helped me to brave patterns, or at least teach my girls to!
Thank you, Jenn! It really isn’t hard especially when you break it down into bite sized pieces!
You have the best blog! I look forward to each new post and vlog.
I found YouTube vids so helpful in the beginning but I actually avoid them now, unless I’m learning a new stitch, just because they take so much longer than reading it from a pattern on paper.
Thank you so much, Janelle! I really appreciate your kind words. Yes, I love YouTube for learning how to do something new but they take way too long compared to just reading the pattern!
It is like a foreign language! Thanks for all the tips! You were very thorough!
Thank you so much!
This is great usable information. My goal for 2018 is going to try making a crochet animal. I’ve made lots of knit ones so I’m Curious to see the difference myself.
Since you have knit them I think you will be completely fine crocheting them. I wouldn’t be surprised if you found the process much easier!