How To Read Color Charts

By Alicia Kachmar – 12 Comments

Most crochet patterns are written out line by line with abbreviations and numbers, such as “Row 1: ch 2; 5sc in 2nd ch from hook,” but there are also patterns that utilize color charts or graphs instead. The below chart is one such example. It may remind you of needlepoint and cross-stitch charts if you’re familiar with those crafts. How does one go about reading a color chart or graph? I’ll tell you!

Photo by Lion Brand Yarn

Photo by Lion Brand Yarn

  1. Colors and Symbols: In the above graph, there are only two colors, represented by black and white squares. However, if the graphs are not printed in color, and there happen to be more than two colors, symbols (+ = / * x) are used to designate each color instead. One block could represent different stitches: one single crochet, 3 double crochets and so on.
  2. Rows and Stitches: The foundation chain is not shown on crochet graphs. From the above graph, you would be making a foundation chain of 27 stitches (so, ch 28 to account for the turning chain), represented by the numbers that appear along the bottom, horizontally. The numbers that appear on both sides vertically indicate the row number.
  3. Reading the Graph: You begin to read the graph from right to left, starting where the “1” and “1” are in the corner because this is the direction you move after making a foundation chain, from right to left. In this case, you’re crocheting 1 white stitch, 25 black stitches and 1 white stitch. Then, you begin to read the 2nd row from left to right, crocheting 2 white stitches, 23 black stitches and 2 white stitches. You continue reading back and forth in this way. Note: if you are left-handed, you read the graph from left to right when beginning the 1st row, then reading from right to left along the 2nd row and so on.

Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. Elizabeth says:

    All my experience so far with crochet has been with line-by-line instructions, but I can see how doing a color chart can offer a lot of options, especially for designing my own pattern. Thanks for explaining how this works!

    Have you had any experience with stitch diagrams?

  2. Alicia says:

    I actually haven’t, Elizabeth, but I was looking at those when writing the above. Maybe I will try it out and write a related post here for them!

  3. Victoria says:

    Do you just pick up the color each row? The black makes sense, but if you pick the white back up on both sides of the black, won’t there be a huge loose line on the backside?

  4. Darlene says:

    Yeah, good question, Victoria!
    I’ve never done color work – unless you want to count variegated yarn, so I don’t know how to handle changing colors.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Victoria – it would make more sense to use two balls of white; one for the right side and one for the left, otherwise, you’ll have to weave in a lot of ends. When each white side ends, just drop the white & pick up the black. On the next row you can re-pickup the white that you dropped, that way you’re not carrying the white under or behind the black.

  6. Would you also use the knitter’s trick of twisting one color around the other color once before you pick it up to avoid a hole? (As you can tell, I haven’t crochet in a while and like I said, I’ve never used two colors before – not even in my knitting.)

  7. Elizabeth says:

    I’m not familiar with knitting, so I have no personal experience with that, but if it works for knitting it’ll probably work for crochet also.

    What I would actually do is to actually change colors in the middle of the stitch. So, if I start with white doing a single crochet I’ll take it to the last white stitch in that section, single crochet into the stitch, yarn over and pull through, then on the final yarn over I would change to black (dropping the white).

    There’s actually a blog post here – – that will explain it better with pictures (2nd section).

    The remaining white yarn that you dropped to pick up the black will just be hanging until you pick it back up in the next row.

    I hope this helps! And if that doesn’t work for you, feel free to try your own methods to achieve the look you want.

  8. Sandie says:

    If you need 27 working stitches, then you will need to make your foundation chain more, depending on what stitch you’re using. For single crochet, you’d chain 28, for example. I agree with using two skeins of white, one for each end. I would use yarn bobbins as they keep the yarn from twisting so much.

  9. Alicia says:

    Ahh yes, you’re right, Sandie, I just fixed that part to clarify about the foundation chain.

    In terms of carrying the yarn along the back, it depends on what you’re making, i.e. do you care if it shows or not?

    Elizabeth, that’s a good post about changing colors!

  10. […] sweaters, etc. If you’ve never worked with color charts before, feel free to learn about How To Read Color Charts before making your own. 1. Determine your gauge with your desired stitch. To start, determine the […]

  11. Caitlyn says:

    Hey I want to crochet a baby afghan for a friend, a Dallas Cowboy afghan. I have found a pattern I want to use, I’m just worried about the back when I change from color to color will it be noticeable? Like I’ve made a purses for my little girls before and when I changed from color to color it was noticeable on the ends (where the color changing happened) and I didn’t like that. I want the front of my afghan to look exactly like the back. I have a pattern in mind but I’ve never used a pattern before I’ve either followed videos on youtube or followed instructions on what I wanted to make. I got an the official Dallas Cowboys star and then uploaded it to “” and that website made a pattern for me but I have no clue how to start or how many chains I need to make to start it or how to change the colors when it gets to the star part.

    Dazed and Confused, Please send help! lol

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Caitlyn, if it’s your first time working with a color chart, I’d recommend trying the sample that’s in this tutorial. Read through the tutorial and try out this simple color chart. Once you get started you’ll probably get the hang of it after a few rows, then you can start on the chart that you actually want to make.

      Here’s another tutorial that you may want to take a look at, to help you determine how many chains to make, etc: How to Make a Crochet Color Chart

      As for changing colors, here’s a tutorial that may help: How to Change Colors in Crochet

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