“Help! How do I read a crochet pattern?”

–Melissa L.

Hi Melissa,

So, you’ve decided that you want to learn how to crochet – that’s great! You’ve picked out your yarn and learned a few of the basic stitches, but now what? If you are just learning to crochet, one of the hurdles you must overcome is learning to read crochet patterns. While you don’t have to learn everything all at once, there are a few important elements of a pattern to know so that you can pick up any of the patterns in this issue and feel comfortable enough to attempt them if one strikes your fancy.

Skill Level – Most patterns are given a skill level rating indicating if the pattern is easy, beginner, intermediate or advanced. Don’t let the ratings scare you, though. Read through the pattern from start to finish, and if you understand it – feel free to give it a go.

How a Pattern is Worked – Patterns are worked side to side (flat) or in the round.  If you are working flat, the pattern will indicate row numbers, which row is the right side and which is the wrong side.  If the pattern is worked in the round, you’ll be prompted with round numbers as your progress through the steps. If you work in the round, you don’t need to worry about turning your work, but when working flat, that step is crucial at the end of rows.

Gauge – The gauge information is there for a reason! Always check your gauge – always. Trust me. Save yourself the frustration. Using the yarn and hook size indicated, work a swatch that is 4” x 4” in the stitch pattern indicated. If your gauge is not right, adjust your hook or how you hold your yarn.

Abbreviations – Before that actual pattern starts, you are given a list of the abbreviations used throughout the pattern, ones like “ch = chain” and “dc = double crochet.” These abbreviations are what make the patterns look like they are written in a foreign language. Take a little time to study this list, and soon you’ll be replacing the “ch” with “chain” as you read it in your head.

Symbols – As you are reading your pattern you may come across some symbols such as { }, ( ), * ** and [ ]. These are important indicators on what to do while you’re working across your row.

  1. { } – anything inside these braces is to be repeated.
  2. ( ) — anything in side these parentheses is worked in the place indicated. These are also used anywhere more clarifying information about the pattern is needed (such as total stitches in a row).
  3. [ ] – these brackets are used interchangeably with { } and ( ) but just follow the instructions within the brackets as indicated.
  4. * ** – again, these indicate part of the pattern that must be repeated.

Finally, don’t start a new pattern until you have read the entire thing and understand what is happening.  There’s nothing worse than starting a new pattern and getting halfway through before you realize you don’t understand what is going on.

Good luck and happy hooking!



Christina Hammond is a crochet professional with more than 30 years of experience designing and tech editing patterns. Do you have a crochet question for Chris? Write us (submissions@ilikecrochet.com) and include “Chris’ Corner” in the subject line. 


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