How to Read Crochet Patterns

By Rachel Choi – 105 Comments

I bet every crocheter remembers the dreadful first time they read a crochet pattern and had no clue what they were reading. I know for sure that happened to me! Let’s get rid of all that frustration and decrypt crochet patterns once and for all. Here is a basic guide to start reading crochet patterns.

Basic Crochet Abbreviations
For some reason pattern writers are too lazy to spell every word out. So they use abbreviations for just about every single word in the pattern. The master list of crochet abbreviations is always handy, but here are the basics to get started.

Abbreviation
Description
ch chain stitch
ch- refers to chain or space previously made: e.g., ch-1 space
ch-sp chain space, the space made by the chain
dc double crochet
dec decrease/decreases/decreasing
hdc half double crochet
inc increase/increases/increasing
lp(s) loops
MC main color
pm place marker
rep repeat(s)
rnd(s) round(s)
sc single crochet
sk skip
sl st slip sitich
sp(s) space(s)
st(s) stitch(es)
tr treble crochet
yo yarn over

Basic Crochet Symbols
Not only do pattern writers use abbreviations, they also use special symbols. Most symbols are used to indicate what parts of the pattern are to be repeated. Here are the primary ones.

Abbreviation
Description
[ ] work instructions within brackets as many times as directed
( ) work instructions within parentheses as many times as directed
* repeat the instructions following the single asterisk as directed
* * repeat instructions between asterisks as many times as directed or repeat from a given set of instructions

Crochet Syntax
Now that we know basic abbreviations and symbols, lets take some examples and examine them.

Example 1
Row 1: With red, ch 21, turn, sc in second ch from hook, sc in each ch across: 20 sc

This is the first row you are crocheting and you will be using your red colored yarn. Make a chain that is 21 chains long. Then turn you crochet work to work in the opposite direction. Make a single crochet stitch in the second chain from your hook. Then make a single crochet in each of the chains across the row. When you finish this row, you will have made 20 single crochet stitches.
Note: When you count the second chain from your hook. Do not count the loop that is on your hook. The first chain from your hook is the chain right after the loop on your hook. So the second would be the chain after that.

Example 2
Round 1: With Beige, ch 2, 8 sc in second ch from hook, place marker: 8 sc

This is the first round that you will be crocheting and you will use your beige colored yarn. Round means that you will be crochet in a circle shape.

Start by making a chain that is 2 chains long. Remember that the loop on your hook does not count as a one of the chains. Next, make 8 single crochet stitches in the second chain from your hook. Then place a marker. At the end of this round you will have crocheted 8 single crochet stitches.
Note: Markers are used to keep track of where the round ends and a new round begins. When you crochet around a circle, it is very easy to loose track of where to stop and start a new round if you do not use a marker. A marker can be a small scrap piece of yarn. To place a marker, just insert it into the loop that is on your hook. At the end of every round, you should move the marker and put it into the new loop that is on your hook.

Example 3:
Round 5: (2 dc in next dc, dc in next 3 dc) around: 30 dc

This is the fifth round of a crochet project. Make 2 double crochet stitches in the next crochet stitch, which was a double crochet in the previous round. Then make a double crochet stitch in the next 3 stitches. Repeat this all the way around, until you reach the end of this round. You will have completed 30 double crochets in this round.
Note: You will know you reached the end of this round when you reach your marker. For this round, do not crochet in the loop that has the marker in it, stop in the stitch right before it, since the loop with the marker represents the beginning of the next round.

There are unlimited amounts of examples that can be placed here. Even expert crocheters have trouble reading crochet patterns from time to time. Just remember to not get frustrated, and to ask for help when you need it! If you need help with a pattern always ask the designer of the pattern since he/she would know the most about it. If it is one of my Crochet Spot patterns, you can always ask me for help anytime!!! Just leave a comment on the crochet pattern’s post and I’ll be sure to answer.

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105 Comments

  1. Katie says:

    Well, I thought this was supposed to be an easy pattern. I’ve only been doing this for a few months. But I don’t understand the part between the **** Do I turn it? What does it mean “on opposite side of ch”? Am I going back here? I don’t understand how I get a round.

    1st rnd: 1 sc in 2nd ch from
    hook. 1 sc in each of next 23 ch.
    3 sc in last ch.
    ***** Working in rem
    loop of each sc on opposite side
    of ch, 1 sc in each of next 23 ch. *****

    2 sc in last ch. Join with sl st to
    first sc. 52 sc.

  2. Katie says:

    Thank you!! I started knitting about a year ago and then picked up crocheting about 8 months ago, I really like crocheting better. I see what I’m supposed to do now! I was almost in a panic, I’m making a purse for my niece for Christmas which is only a few weeks away now!! Thanks!! :)

  3. Katrina says:

    When working in the round, say on round 3 you place the marker at the end. Does round 4 (and all consecutive rounds) end at the same place as round 3? I’m trying to make an Amigurumi shark for the first time. Thanks

  4. Jessica says:

    I’ve been crocheting for a few months and this is the first time I have heard of this. I am making a hat, and it says to 24 chain-1 space? I have no idea what to do here :)

  5. Jessica says:

    Okay I am a little confused on the whole first row. It says to first chain 50, then sc in 2nd chain from hook, *chain 1, skip next chain; sc in next chain, repeat from * 24 times, turn- 25 single crochet, 24 chain-1 spaces. I was okay until I turned to do the 25 single crochet. Sorry I had to add to my question. Thank you for your help :)

    • Rachel says:

      Jessica, a chain-1 space refers to the space or “hole” that is created when you make a chain stitch and then skip a chain stitch. In the row you are asking about, you will have 24 of these chain-1 spaces and 25 single crochets when you are done the row. The row is telling you to make a chain of 50, then single crochet into the second ch from your hook. You are now working into the 50 chains you made, and will be making 1 chain, skip one chain on your chain of 50, and then single crocheting into the next ch. You will repeat this pattern 24 times. When you are doing you will reach the end of your chain of 50 and you will turn your work in the opposite direction to start the next row.

  6. Jessica says:

    Thank you for your help- It confused me because none of the other rows are written out like that. I like your blog, and will be back.
    Thanks again :)

  7. Ramona Medina says:

    excellent work of crochet !!!!!!! happy new year !!!!!!!. with love RAMONA….

  8. Stacey Mancilla says:

    Hi Rachel!
    I’ve been coming to ur site for a while now but I recently noticed that I haven’t seen a pattern for any dog sweaters. I have a teacup Chihuahua who gets cold rather easily. I’ve made her a few little somethings from one pattern I found, but I haven’t figured out how to add sleeves to it to help keep her a little warmer. And I’m not very fond of that pattern anyway, so I was wondering if you might have any ideas for a dog sweater. If you do come up with something, that would be awesome! ((I’m not all that creative when it comes to crocheting something new…I’m more of a pattern type of gal lol))

    Thanks!

    Stacey Mancilla

  9. Rick Martin says:

    I’m mainly a knitter but with lace things there’s often a lace edging that needs to be done. Usually I’ve had no problems figuring them out but this one has me stumped. The instructions say:
    “Crochet Edging: 4-3-3-3-4-6 stitches together with chain 7 between.”
    Can you help me figure out what that means??
    Thanks,
    Rick

    • Rachel says:

      Rick, that stumps me too! Is that the only info the pattern is giving you? Is it telling you to crochet with a particular stitch, such as double or single crochet? If is does tell you what stitch to use, then you can crochet the stitches together. For instance you can double crochet 4 stitches together and chain 7 after it.

  10. Lori says:

    The pattern is telling me to
    Ch 13
    HDC in 3rd ch from hook and in next 9 ch, 3 hdc in last ch, working in free lps along opposite side of ch, hdc in next 9 ch, 2 hdc in last ch; join with a sl st in first hdc – 24 hdc.. (Have no clue one it states working in free lps along opposite.

  11. Lori says:

    Thank you Rachel. You have helped tremendlously.. I am making booties for 3 of my friends that are expecting and the pattern I was using called for that pattern. If you have any suggestions for an easier to follow pattern for baby booties and hat please advise.

  12. Jules says:

    Hi I am very new at crochet and i am following my 1st pattern. I have managed to do the cuff ok but I am struggling with a line in the palm.
    “Rnd 9: Ch 1, sc in 1st sc, [ch 1, sc in next sc] 7 times, thumb inc in each of next 2 sc, ch 1, [sc in next sc, ch1] 8 times, join in beg sc, turn. (20 sc)”

    I get the 1st bit but when it says 7 times, thumb inc in each of next 2 sc

    i have no idea what that means or what to do.

    help :(

    thanks Jules

    • Rachel says:

      Jules, the “7 times” is telling you to repeat the instructions within the [ ] 7 times. Thumb increase is a stitch or a series of stitches. Try looking at the beginning of your pattern for instructions on what a “thumb inc” is referring to. Normally it refers to making 2 single crochets in the next stitch. So whatever a thumb inc is for your pattern (as it may vary from pattern to pattern) “in each of next 2 sc” is telling you to work a thumb inc in the next 2 single crochet stitches.

  13. Llianyk says:

    Ok, I tried this pattern for a baby blanket, and it didnt work out so my numbers were correct, the gauge was fine when i did that, but when i actually started the blanket, it was all screwed up. :(
    PATTERN:
    Row 1 (eyelet rows): Dc in eighth chain from hook, (ch2, skip next 2 chs, Dc in next ch) across: 68 sps.
    Row 2 (right side): Ch3, turn; 3 dc in next ch-2 sp and in each ch-2 sp across to last sp. 4 Dc in last sp: 206 dc
    Row 3: Ch 3, turn; skip next dc, (dc, ch 1, dc) in next dc, * skip next 2 dc, (dc, ch 1, dc) in next dc; repeat from * across to last 2 dc, skip next dc, dc in last dc: 68 ch-1 sps
    Row 4: Ch 3, turn; 3 dc in next ch-1 sp and in each ch-1 sp across, dc in last dc: 206 dc
    Row 5-10: repeat row 3 and 4, 3 times.

    now what i ended up with was 69 spaces in the eyelet row, and then in row 2, i had 205 dc and the pattern was not square, it angled way out. and then when i did row 3 i ended up with like 70 sps. If you could help, i would greatly appreciate it. I am not sure if the problem is me or if there are som enumber issues with the pattern. Thanks!

    • Rachel says:

      Llianyk, Row 1 is correct, you should have 68 spaces. The first space is created when you dc in the 8th ch from your hook. Then there are 201 chains left and the repeat uses 3 stitches each. So 201 / 3 = 67 more spaces. 67 + 1 = 68. For row 2, if you have 68 spaces and there are 3 double crochet into each space, but 4 double crochet in the last space, that is (67 * 3) + (1 * 4) = 205 dc, not 206. However, sometimes the “ch 3″ at the beginning of the row is counted as a dc, so that may be why it says 206. For row 3, the repeat uses 3 double crochets and creates one space each time it is repeated. Since 2 dc are used before and after the repeat, 205 dc – 4 dc = 201 dc used in the repeat. So there are 201 / 3 = 67 space created during the repeat. But don’t forget to add the one space created before the repeat, so the total spaces is 67 + 1 = 68 spaces. Overall the numbers are correct except for row 2, where it should say 205 dc. The pattern is symetrical so if it is starting to slant it is probably due to something you are doing.

  14. Llianyk says:

    I am not sure it matters, but you start with 209 ch to begin with. Sorry that I forgot that in the previous post. :D

  15. Rick Martin says:

    I found the answer to my question – you slide the first four live knit stitches onto the crochet hook then loop the yarn pulling the yarn through the four stitches, then single crochet seven stitches. Then repeat this through the next three stitches, and so on.

    Rick

  16. Teresa says:

    I am trying to make a bag from the website bernat.com. (pattern #494). I got the first four rows okay (just sc’s). But I am having trouble with the rest of it. I got stuck trying to figure out what this means: *Ch 5. [(Yoh) twice. Draw up a loop in next st. (Yoh and draw through 2 loops on hook) twice] twice. Yoh and draw through all 3 loops on hook – tr2tog made. Now what I don’t understand is why they have the word “twice” on there one after the other. If you can tell me what that means, I would greatly appreciate it.

    Thanks,
    Teresa

    • Rachel says:

      Teresa, the first “twice” means to repeat the instructions within the parenthesis ( ). The second “twice” is telling your to repeat the instructions within the square brackets [ ].

  17. Ninka says:

    Hi!

    I’m fairly new at crocheting, and wanted to make myself a pair of mittens to wear in the winder’s cold. It’s just that I get problems early in the pattern. While crocheting the palm the pattern says:

    “Rnd 4: Ch 1, sc in first sc, ch 1, [sc in next sc, ch 1] rep around, join in beg sc, turn.”

    I just can’t get my heat around what the “sc in next sc, ch 1″ means. I interpret it as “make one chain and in the sc directly after where you are – make a sc” and repeat. Which would mean to double the stitches, no? It sounds weird, and looks awful when I try. What do they really mean?

    Could you please help me? Thank you! :)

    Ninka

    • Rachel says:

      Ninka, your interpretation is correct. If it doesn’t look right, perhaps there is an error in the pattern? Maybe there should be a “skip 1 ch” after the ch 1. You should contact the designer and ask or you can try my crochet mitten pattern.

  18. Ninka says:

    Thanks for answering so quickly!

    Since I really need to increase the size in order for it to fit the hand I doubt I can skip 1 ch. On the other hand, the pattern says I should do the “ch 1, sc in next sc” round five times – and I doubt anyone has hands that size!

    I think I’m better of using your pattern – thank you for the link!

  19. Teresa says:

    How do you finish off a pattern? I finished making a round coaster/doily. The pattern doesn’t say how to finish it off. Is there a way not to have the yarn showing without coming out?