How to Read Crochet Patterns
Once you know the basics of crochet, it’s time to make something! Learning how to read crochet patterns is essential to being able to recreate crochet designs you see out in the world. It’s also a great way to challenge yourself to learn new skills and create items you never thought you’d be able to make!
Reading crochet patterns may seem intimidating at first, as they’re filled with abbreviations and crochet language. However, once you know what to look for when reading a crochet pattern, you’ll easily follow them in no time!
WHAT’S IN A CROCHET PATTERN
If you’re crocheting a garment, your pattern will likely contain sizing notes so that you 1. know how much yarn you’ll need, and 2. know how to follow the pattern for your particular garment size.
As far as yarn quantity, be sure to look at the yardage for your garment size and compare that with the amount that is noted on your yarn label. If you use a different weight yarn than your pattern calls, the yardage your pattern requires will change, i.e. a chunkier yarn will call for fewer yards, while a thinner yarn will call for more yards. If you’re new to patterns, however, we recommend sticking with the yarn size the pattern calls for to better ensure your project success while you’re still getting used to patterns!
To read a pattern for your size, the pattern will usually include instructions on how to interpret it for each size. One common format is that the counts for the smallest size will be listed in the pattern, then larger sizes will be next to it in ( ) with a , in between each size. It’s helpful to circle or highlight your size counts on the printed-out pattern before starting your project, so you know which counts to follow as you go.
Yarn: Your pattern will tell you the type/weight of yarn you’ll need in order for the size of your pattern to match the instructions. (More on this later in “Gauge Instructions.”) For example, a pattern worked up in a chunky yarn will turn out much bigger than the same pattern worked up in a fine yarn. It’s important to use the yarn weight listed in your pattern’s supply list. If you have a yarn in a similar but slightly different weight, or if you’re not sure what weight your yarn is, make sure you make a gauge swatch. Info on that below! Your yarn label will always tell you the weight of your yarn.
Crochet Hook: If you’re using the pattern’s recommended yarn, use your pattern’s recommended hook size, which is meant to correspond to the weight of the yarn. At this point, you’ll definitely want to make a gauge swatch to see if it matches that of the pattern.
If your gauge swatch comes out too small, go up a hook size.
If your gauge swatch comes out too big, go down a hook size.
Crochet hook size + your tension (the tightness/looseness with which you hold your yarn) = your stitch size, which is ultimately what your gauge swatch is meant to show you. Always check your gauge, even if you’re making a pattern you’ve already made. Your tension can change over time, especially if your crochet skills are in the process of maturing!
Other common supplies:
- Yarn/tapestry needle (for weaving in ends)
- Stitch markers (for keeping your place and preventing your project from coming undone when you set it down)
- Small scissors (for cutting your yarn, especially on projects that call for you to change color)
In order to test how your stitch size and tension compare to those in the instructions, you must make a gauge swatch. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. A gauge swatch is essentially a swatch of the item that you’re making, which allows you to see if the number of stitches and the measurements of the swatch match the gauge specs in the pattern. In the gauge instructions, your pattern will offer 1. the dimensions of the swatch (commonly a 4”x4” square or similar) and 2. the quantity of rows and stitches that should be in your swatch.
If your swatch contains more stitches than that of the pattern, use a larger hook. If your swatch contains fewer stitches than that of the pattern, use a smaller hook. Keep swatching with different hook sizes until your stitch count matches that of the pattern. Also, please refer to the note on “Yarn” in the Supplies section above to learn how yarn weight also affects your gauge.
In order for patterns to be as concise as possible, pattern instructions are written in abbreviations. Many (but not all) patterns contain a list of the crochet abbreviations used within the pattern so that you’ll learn any abbreviations that are new to you. If your pattern does not have abbreviations, you can find a list of all standard crochet abbreviations here on the Craft Yarn Council website.
US vs UK terms: Different crochet terms are used for different stitches depending on whether your pattern is written in US or UK terms. Your pattern should note which terms it uses. If you’re used to one set of terms but your pattern is written in the other, you can refer to the same chart on the Craft Yarn Council website to translate your pattern.
What your pattern will be missing are instructions on how to follow the stitches and other instructions that your abbreviations represent. You can find instructions for the most common crochet stitches here in The Neon Tea Party’s Online Craft Studio. If you can’t find the stitch or instruction you’re looking for there, YouTube is your best friend! Just search what you’re looking to learn and you’ll find many helpful videos!
Notes & Tips:
The designer of your pattern will often include notes and tips to successfully complete your project. Be sure to take them to heart as you work up your project!
Here are some of our general tips to help you successfully bring a pattern to life:
- Take notes! Circle your size counts, write out abbreviations, take note of any calculations, etc! Your pattern is yours to annotate!!
- Use stitch markers to keep your count or place. Whether you’re counting many chains, want to mark the end of a row, or any other myriad problems you can anticipate, stitch markers are your best friend when it comes to saving your crochet sanity!
- When in doubt, contact the designer of your pattern! Most pattern writers are happy to answer any questions that come up while you’re crafting up their designs. You can often find their contact info on the pattern itself, or on their website or Instagram. Don’t be shy!
WHERE TO FIND CROCHET PATTERNS
- Ravelry: The ultimate database of crochet & knitting patterns! You can find almost anything on there, both free and paid patterns. Simply create a free account, then search for what you want to make!
- Etsy: Many independent pattern designers sell their patterns on Etsy. Go directly to the shop of a designer you love, or look there if you’re not finding something suitable on Ravelry.
- Yarn brands, such as Lion Brand and Knit Collage, often share their own patterns to use along with their yarn. Many (but not all) of these patterns are free and can be used interchangeably with other yarns.
- Follow pattern designers on IG. Some of our favorites include:
IMPORTANT COPYRIGHT NOTICE
It’s important to keep in mind that patterns are property. Many pattern designers make a living on selling their patterns. Each pattern copy is sold individually and is not meant to be reproduced or redistributed in any way. Be sure to honor your pattern’s copy/distribution terms (and the designers who create them!) and purchase additional copies as needed.
Hopefully after taking in this guide, you’ll feel confident in how to read crochet patterns! If you have any questions, be sure to drop them below! And if you use this guide to follow crochet patterns, be sure to share what you’re working on and tag us on Instagram @theneonteaparty!
Peace, love & neon,
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