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How to Read Crochet Patterns for Beginners

Once you learn how to read crochet instructions, you can get to the fun part of creating your favorite projects! If you’re trying to figure out how to read a crochet pattern, I’ll show you the most common language, abbreviations, and pattern information so that you can get started with crocheting.

text "how to read crochet patterns" on a background of hands holding yarn and crochet hooks

How do you read a crochet pattern?

When you’re first learning how to crochet, reading written crochet patterns can seem like reading a foreign language. But once you understand the lingo, you’ll be stitching away in no time. All you need to know to get started are a few basic stitch abbreviations as well as some common crochet terms and symbols. 

You’ll also need to be able to understand the requirements for your pattern, such as yarn type, tools you’ll need, and gauge.

variety of pink crochet hooks and pink yarn

Part 1: Learning the Crochet Language

The first thing you need to do to read a written crochet pattern is to become familiar with common crochet terms. Once you understand these terms, you’ll use them over and over.

Basic Stitch Abbreviations

Here are the abbreviations for the most common crochet stitches you’ll encounter in crochet patterns. These abbreviations may seem confusing at first, but once you memorize them, you’ll find that they make patterns shorter and simpler to read.

These are the most common stitch abbreviations that you’ll see. Many patterns will remind you of the stitch names they use within the pattern, so don’t worry if you don’t have them all memorized right away.

Common Crochet Terms

Besides basic stitch abbreviations, you’ll also notice some abbreviated terms that are commonly used in crochet patterns. Below are the terms you’ll often see, along with their meanings.

  • Inc – increase (add one or more stitches)
  • Dec – decrease (take away one or more stitches)
  • Join – join two stitches together (this is usually done by working a slip stitch)
  • Turn – flip your project around so that you can start on a new row of stitches
  • Rep – repeat
  • Sp – space (refers to crocheting in the space–or spaces–between the stitches)
  • St/Sts – stitch or stitches
  • Ch-Sp – chain space

Parentheses, Brackets, and Asterisks

Lastly, crochet patterns use a few different symbols to communicate how to work the pattern. You may notice parentheses, brackets, and asterisks in your pattern. 

How to read crochet pattern parentheses and brackets

Parentheses ( ) are often used to describe a group of stitches that should be worked together. For example:

Row 4: in next sc work (2 sc, ch 3, 2 sc)

This means that the stitches in the parentheses would all be worked into the one single crochet stitch together.

Parentheses are sometimes also used to indicate the number of times that a group of stitches is repeated, as in the example below.

Row 9: Sc in next 3 sc, ch 1, (sc next dc, ch 4, sc in next dc) 4 times, ch 1, sc in next 4 sc

In this row, the pattern in parentheses would be repeated 4 times before going on to the ch 1, sc in next 4 sc.

Brackets [ ] are generally used in very similar ways to parenthesis. In many cases, they are interchangeable. Most of the time, though, brackets are used to group stitches that should be repeated.

In the example below, the bracketed instructions should be repeated 7 times before moving on to the next step.

[ch 2, sc in ch 3 sp] 7 times

How to read crochet pattern asterisks

Lastly, asterisks (*) are used to show a series of repeated stitches or actions. This reduces the need to write out the same steps over and over. 

Let’s start with a simple example of asterisk use:

*Sc in second chain from hook. Sc in each stitch across row. At the end of the row chain one, turn*

Repeat from * to * until width desired is obtained.

This simple example could commonly be found in a project such as a dishcloth or hot pad, where the exact size is up to you.

Here’s another example of asterisk usage:

Round 3: Ch one. Two sc into the next stitch. * One sc. Two sc in the next stitch. Repeat from * to the end. Sl st to join. (18 stitches)

In this example, you’ll simply be repeating “one single crochet, two single crochet in the next stitch” until you get to the end of the row.

In some cases, you’ll notice that a pattern uses both one asterisk (*) and two asterisks (**), such as in this example:

Ch 5, *skip next 2 dc, 1 dc into next dc, [2 dc, ch 3, 2 dc] into next ch 3 sp, **1 dc into next dc; rep from * twice and from * to ** once again, join with sl st into 3rd of ch 5.

This looks a bit more complicated! When you encounter a more difficult instruction such as this one, take a deep breath and break it down. Work one stitch and one instruction at a time.

In the previous example, you’ll crochet from the first single asterisk (*) to the second single asterisk (*) twice. Then, you’ll go back to the first single asterisk (*), crochet to the first double asterisk (**), and then go to the end of the step where you join with a slip stitch (sl st).

Breaking a step apart by commas also helps. Get to the next comma, pause, and then take in the next instruction. Trying to understand a whole line or two of abbreviated crochet terms at first glance can be overwhelming for anyone!

hands holding a pink crochet hook and pink yarn

Part 2: Reading a Crochet Pattern Step by Step

Whew, you did it! You learned basic crochet language. Now comes the easy part!

Aside from common crochet language, you’ll also notice a few standard sections on nearly every crochet pattern you use. These sections will contain all the details you need to know in order to work up your project so that it turns out just right. 

It’s important to pay attention to the pattern information before beginning your project. Using the correct yarn and crochet hook size, checking your gauge, and reading any important pattern notes can save you hours of frustration and headache!

Here are the standard sections that you will find in most written crochet patterns.

Pattern Title and Description

Your pattern will start with a title and a simple description. You’ll also notice a difficulty level in or near the description. Patterns are generally classified into either beginner, easy, intermediate, or advanced.

Skill Level

Beginner – These projects make use of basic stitches and shaping and usually stick with one color. Introductory stitches in these patterns may include the single, double, and treble crochet. You’ll likely also notice other abbreviations such as sl st and ch. Beginner patterns could include crochet scarves, washcloths, and simple granny squares.

Easy – Easy patterns are similar to beginner-level patterns, but can involve a bit more experience in order to complete tasks such as shaping and color changes. Examples of easy-level patterns include crochet beanies and crochet headbands.

Intermediate – These patterns usually include more shaping, textures, and color changes. Intermediate patterns often involve creating fun textures using a variety of more complicated stitches, like puff stitches and bobbles. Or, your pattern could involve simple stitches but with more difficult yarn, such as in a lace pattern or a pattern that uses very fluffy yarn, making it more difficult to count stitches.

Advanced (or experienced) – These patterns are for those who are very experienced in crocheting. Advanced patterns make use of the most complex techniques, stitches, varying colorwork, and detailed shapes. Those who are very advanced may crochet projects such as detailed doilies, garments, and complex afghans.

Yarn, Tools, and Notions

Next, you’ll be able to see what type of yarn and supplies you’ll need to gather for your project. 

Here’s an example of the supplies needed for a sunburst granny square.

Hook: H (5.0 mm)

Yarn: Worsted weight yarn (Category 4)

You’ll also need: 

– yarn needle

-stitch markers, if desired

– ruler or tape measure

Collecting the correct sized hook and an adequate amount of the correct type of yarn is important in order to ensure that your project comes out just right. A slightly different-sized hook or yarn weight can make a big difference when it comes to the finished size, shape, and texture of your project. 

Many patterns will let you know exactly how much yarn you need. For example: 75 yards extra-soft, bulky-weight blanket yarn.

Sizes and Measurements

Most patterns will let you know the finished size that you should expect your project to be. For example, this section on a baby blanket pattern might read: “Finished size: 30 x 34 inches.”

Again, in order to ensure that your crochet project works up to the correct size, it’s important to use the correct size yarn and hook, and to check your gauge (which we’ll discuss next).

Gauge

If size is of importance in regards to the pattern, you’ll notice a “gauge” section in the instructions. Crocheting a gauge swatch before beginning on your project ensures that it will turn out exactly the right size. Imagine creating a beautiful clothing item and not having it fit!

Many patterns will tell you how many stitches and rows you should have per 4″. Here are the gauge instructions for our easy crochet beanie pattern.

Gauge: 12 sts and 7.5 rows per 4″.

This means that in a 4-inch square, you should have 12 stitches and 7.5 rows.

Some patterns – especially patterns that are worked in the round – specify gauge in a different way. Below you’ll see an example of gauge instructions for a fun and easy bucket hat pattern. 

“To test your gauge, crochet the Crown section of the hat pattern (Rounds 1-13) and measure the width of the circle. It should measure 6.5 inches wide.

If your circle is too small, that means your crochet is too tight, and you need to use a slightly larger hook. If your circle is too large, that means your crochet is too loose, and you need to use a slightly smaller hook.”

As noted, if you find your gauge swatch doesn’t come out right, you may need to use a slightly larger or smaller hook.

Stitch Abbreviations and Terms

Feeling nervous about all of those crochet abbreviations and terms we talked about in the beginning of this post? Not to worry! Fortunately, most patterns will let you know what abbreviations you can expect. They’ll also usually give you a refresher on what those abbreviations mean. 

If there are any uncommon or special stitches used, you will most likely see instructions for them as well.

Here’s an example of the stitches used in the bucket hat pattern.

If a pattern uses crochet charts or crochet diagrams, you’ll also see it in this section in most cases.

Pattern Notes

If there are any special instructions for your particular pattern, you’ll usually find them here in the pattern notes. These could include: 

  • Whether the pattern is written in US vs UK terms
  • 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
  • Any other notes the designer thinks may be helpful

Main Pattern Instructions

Finally, you’ll find the main pattern instructions. This is where understanding stitch abbreviations and other common crochet language will pay off.

Let’s look at an example of some pattern instructions to make sure you feel comfortable with reading a pattern on your own. 

I’ll use round 3 from this simple granny square. Below each step, I’ll translate the instructions into simple terms.

Round 3:

1. Chain 3. (This counts as 1 dc.)

Chain 3 stitches. When you get to the next row, you’ll find that this looks like an equivalent to 1 double crochet.

2. Then, into the ch-1 space just below in the previous round, work 2 dc, ch 1. (This makes the first granny cluster of this round.)

The previous round has a space from a chain stitch. In that space, make 2 double crochet, and then chain 1. You now have a granny cluster.

3. Into the next ch-3 corner space, work: 3 dc, ch 3, 3 dc, ch 1.

In the previously crocheted row, there is a space in the corner made from 3 chain stitches. In this space, work 3 double crochet, 3 chain stitches, 3 more double crochet, and 1 more chain stitch.

4. Into the next ch-1 space, work: 3 dc, ch 1.

Next, you’ll find another space made from 1 chain stitch. In this space, work 3 double crochet and then 1 chain stitch.

Repeat steps 3 and 4 around to the beginning chain. Finally, join with a sl st to the top of the starting 5. ch-3.

Go back and continue working steps 3 and 4 until you get around the square. When you arrive back at those first 3 chains that you worked in step 1, use a slip stitch to connect the yarn. You now have a full row finished on your granny square!

hands with a pink crochet hook and chain stitches in pink yarn

Where is the best place to find crochet patterns?

Now that you know the basics of how to read crochet instructions, you can follow a myriad of crochet patterns! There are plenty of resources for wonderful patterns, and many of them are even free.

Use a search engine to find thousands of free patterns online. Here are a few to get you started.

You can also buy patterns online through sites like Etsy.

If you’re looking for a collection of crochet patterns, you can find books online or at your local craft store.

Lastly, many yarns will even have fun patterns written on the tags. (This definitely makes it easy to know that you’re buying the correct yarn for the pattern!) There is no shortage of places to find fun crochet projects now that you know how to read a written pattern.

What’s Next?

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Leave a comment: We love to hear your feedback. Tell me in the comments below!

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Peggy McKay

Saturday 1st of October 2022

Could you explain how to do the slip stitch properly. Eg; scion next 5 ch,skip 2 ch ; sc in next 5. I seem to make a mess and end up missing st in next row thanks. Am new at this.

Christina Evans

Saturday 21st of May 2022

Please can you send me the free crochet book thank you

Sarah Stearns

Monday 23rd of May 2022

Hi Christina, Here's a link to sign up for the crochet cheat sheets. https://sarahmaker.ck.page/79b7836e9d