Reading Charted Crochet Patterns

By Claire Ortega-Reyes – 15 Comments

The first time I saw a charted crochet pattern, I thought it was some form of ancient hieroglyphics, or a language beamed down from another planet. It didn’t help that the rest of the instructions was in Japanese–another very foreign language to me. I shouldn’t have been intimidated–as it turned out I would prefer charted patterns to worded ones.

There are many benefits in learning how to read crochet charts or crochet diagrams:

  • Do you find it a constant challenge to understand written crochet patterns? You may not know it yet, but you just might be a visual learner, and so can understand charts, graphs, and diagrams better than written instructions.
  • It’s easier to adjust a pattern to your needs if it is charted–at one glance you can see which parts of the pattern you can change to make it a better fit for you.
  • Charted patterns use an international set of symbols. Once you understand how it works, you can try your hand at patterns from around the globe!

The Basics:

Every crochet pattern that uses charts should have a table of symbols used in the pattern, and which stitch each symbol represents. Below are the international symbols used in crochet patterns:

Image Courtesy of the Craft Yarn Council

Not all charted patterns use this set of symbols though. Not to worry; in any case, they should all have a similar table provided in the pattern. Also, some patterns use a mix of charted and written instructions, like the one featured below.

Try it!

There’s only one way to know if this works better for you. Try working on patterns that have both charted and written directions. Cover worded instructions and just rely on the chart. If you get really stuck, consult the written instructions to see how or why you misunderstood that specific part of the pattern. The ever-popular One-Skein Scarf pattern is an example of a pattern you may want to try (go ahead, it’s free).

Good luck with your crochet ventures, and happy crocheting!

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  1. Evelyn Morgan says:

    The first time I successfully read a crochet chart, I felt elated, and I cannot mention how many times the chart provides the information on how to work a pattern when the words on the page make no sense. Thanks for the primer.

  2. The symbols somewhat resemble what they represent in form and direction, so if you know the main crochet stiches you can probably follow a chart using these symbols.

  3. Linda cee says:

    I’ve been wanting to try this, I think you just gave me the inspiration to do it.

  4. Lane† says:

    Thank you so much, Claire!!!!

  5. i would like to learn different stitches like the spike stitch ect..

  6. Peggy says:

    I have a friend who creates her own afghan patterns and annotates them using this method. I’m still more comfortable with patterns in words. It does open us up to patterns from crafters who do not speak English.

  7. Deborah says:

    I love this scarf and have made many of them! One of the things I’m not sure everyone knows but if you roll this scarf up like a jelly roll – and lay it down – it looks like a rose! It makes a lovely presentation for a gift!

  8. John Hablinski says:

    I love these things because they work, at least for me. There are few patterns, no matter how difficult or advanced I would hesitate to make as long as I have such a rendering. There is a slight problem with the nomenclature for these things. One would think with the international aspect a suitable standard name could be found. I almost skipped the article because I associate the word Chart with filet crochet. I know some think filet is the essence of crochet but I don’t find it attractive at all. Different strokes and all… Aside needing a common name there is another facet needing improvement, kinda, sorta, kinda. We really need a program which could translate a pattern from written to symbols; I guess I’m spoiled and want it all.

  9. Fran says:


    Thank you for the crochet chart. It will be helpful.

  10. Marieta says:

    thank you, i try it

  11. I just recently started trying to read charted crochet patterns. It is quite a stretch for me! I am more comfortable with a written pattern, but I have found some really neat charted patterns, so I am stretching myself for the sake of awesome crochet, LOL.

  12. John Hablinski says:

    I’m guessing here that people who just don’t like dealing with maps might not like the symbol charts. In essence they really are maps which show exactly what stitch and where to put it. If a symbol lines up exactly with a symbol on the previous row then the new stitch is worked into the pervious row’s stitch— if it lines up in between two previous row stitches that’s also where it goes. Life would probably be pretty boring if all our minds worked alike though. Different strokes…

  13. When I first read the title, I also thought the article was going to be about reading a chart made using graph paper, which is generally how charts for filet crochet and also tapestry crochet are done. The symbols used inside the boxes (dots, x, plus and minus signs, etc.) usually represent different colors used in tapestry crochet.

    Regarding this article, this is what I wrote on Crochet Spot’s Facebook page previously: This type of chart isn’t as intimidating as it looks because the symbols somewhat or vaguely resemble the stiches and the direction you need to go. Think of it as if you are following a lot of tiny black and white traffic symbols on a map. LOL. The charts usually come with the written instructions also for backup if you get lost.

  14. MrsAmyTheCrafter says:

    Thank you for sharing. I only have an I pad and no desktop or printer, so I cannot print out patterns. Therefore, I have saved some money ( and a lot if trees!) by purchasing crochet pattern magazines for inspiration. Well, just recently I started on my merry way TRYING to crochet a little cute owl for a birthday present “topper” for a dear friend who just got her driving permit. I am an experienced crocheter and low and behold it took me like 5 tries with no success. Need I say it was from a British crafting mag. Well, I was trying to use the WRITTEN instructions. Had I known (like I do now) to use the INTERNATIONAL CHART I would have understood that in Britain they do not use our American crochet terms! Also I purchased thru I tunes a wonderful crochet magazine from Thailand. Since I do not speak the language, I will now be able to READ AND ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND the pattern with the chart. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS INFO (-;

  15. Marjorie Evans says:

    I don’t have a website– so here is my email. I have learned a lot about symbles and I thank you. But I have a pattern that has only 2 () instead of (I) in the patteren- for the half double crochet. What does that mean? To make only 2 for a cluster? I really want to do this pattern, but this confuses me some.. can you please help me with this?

    Thank you for your time.

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