Do you find reading & understanding crochet patterns baffling?
Don't worry, it's not just you!
Most beginners to crochet feel a little overwhelmed trying to figure out crochet patters...
It's not as difficult as it seems though.
There are many tutorials on YouTube explaining the ins and outs of crochet patterns. The problem is that when you first start out, you still don't know the crochet terms they use to be able to follow the instructions.
When I first started, I thought I'd never get my head around these patterns, but following these helpful tips, things became much clearer.
I know it's frustrating when you find the cutest crochet project, start working on it, only to find that half way through, there's an instruction in the pattern that you don't understand!
The problem is one of two things:
1. Either you don't understand what the abbreviations mean; or
2. The pattern actually has a mistake.
You can reach out to the pattern designers. Ask them what they meant, or if it's difficult to get in touch with them and you'll get stuck with your project.
This has happened to me a few times before. I ended up having to 'frog' my whole project! It's so disheartening 🙁
The good thing is, once you figure out a few basic things, it becomes super exciting to explore the world of crochet!
Here are the best tips & suggestions for where to start with crochet patterns and progress quickly...
Let's get you started on the right foot.
What Are Crochet Patterns & What Do They Look Like?
Think of a recipe for cooking a meal. Crochet patterns are the tools and instructions you need to complete a crochet project.
Just like a cooking recipe calls for tools and ingredients, crochet patterns tell you the:
- Skill-level needed to complete the given project (ranging from beginner to expert),
- Materials/supplies needed: what type & colour of yarn and crochet hook size you need, tapestry needle and/or stitch markers.
- "Gauge": how to make a sample size and what the dimensions of that sample should be. It is the number of stitches per inch and rows per inch that are the outcome from a specific yarn used with a given hook size. Variations may occur since everyone crochets a little differently, some loose, some tight.
- Abbreviations used in the pattern will also be defined as well as the stitches you need to know to complete the project.
- Some patterns will also include some helpful notes, and if there are any special stitches or techniques that you need to know beforehand.
- Then comes the written pattern itself, which is comprised of all the crochet abbreviations and terms used for every row or round.
- Crochet patterns are broken up into sections, especially for amigurumi projects that have several parts to them that need to be joined together in the end.
- Last, you'll find the finishing section that explains what you need to do to finish up your project.
If you need help understanding crochet abbreviations, you can print out these two sheets below to help you with reading patterns.
Crochet Terminology & Stitch Abbreviations
Crochet patterns may look quite confusing at first, but if you read through and figure out all the instructions carefully, you'll find that they're quite simple to read and understand.
Where can you find crochet patterns?
Crochet patterns are super easy to find. Some are free, others you'll have to pay for. Most free patterns are available on crochet websites and blogs.
You can also browse through Pinterest to get visual ideas and once you click on a picture you like, it'll take you to the website/blog where you can find the pattern.
How many crochet stitches are there?
Most sources say there are over 200 stitches in crochet. But before you get too overwhelmed, all you need to really know how to crochet is about 3-6 types of stitches.
There are 6 basic stitches in crochet:
Crochet Pattern Terms: UK vs US
The issue though, is that there are two crochet "languages" so to speak! There is the (US) American version and the English (UK) version.
This means that the same stitch has 2 different names, depending on whether the pattern is American or English.
Normally, patterns state in which language they are written, but if they don't, then one way to know whether a pattern is written in US or UK terms is to check whether it mentions a "single crochet" (sc).
If it does, then it's a US pattern because "single crochet" doesn't exist in UK crochet terms.
Have a look at the chart below to see the difference.
What you need to know is that a UK stitch is one stitch up from the US one.
This means that a US single crochet stitch is the same as a UK double crochet stitch. Similarly, a US double crochet stitch is a UK treble crochet stitch and so on.
What are the abbreviations for crocheting?
Sometimes you'll find capital letters in abbreviations. You don't need to focus on that at all since it makes no difference if the abbreviation has a capital letter or is all in lower case letters.
Below, you can download a free printable with alphabetized crochet abbreviations. You can print it and keep it for reference as you read crochet instructions for any pattern.
Please note that this printable is written in US Terms.
Crochet Terminology & Stitch Abbreviation
What does pattern repeat mean in crochet?
Pattern repeats are usually marked by an asterix* or brackets [ ] and means that you should repeat the same row (or rows) of the pattern a given number of times.
The pattern will tell you how many times to repeat a certain instruction, or till what point it needs to be repeated.
What does frogging mean in crochet?
Frogging is not really something you'll like to do, but it is sometimes necessary for your project to be done correctly.
If you realize somewhere along the way you've made a mistake in your stitch count (or stitch type), maybe you end up with too many stitches in a row or too few, well then the best next thing you can do is frog it.
Frog it, means rip out all the stitches you made to the point where you realize you've made a mistake. And then continue with you work without repeating the mistake, so that your project follows the crochet pattern correctly and your work doesn't come out all wonky.
Where does the term "Frogging" get its name?
Since frog it means rip out your stitches, so rip it, rip it, rip it.... sounds like a frog saying "ribit, ribit, ribit". You're not really ripping your yarn, you're just undoing the stitches you realized you didn't do correctly.
What Types Of Yarn Can Be Used For Crochet?
You can crochet with just about any type of yarn. Basically, there are two main different types: Natural & Synthetic. Natural fibers can be either animal or plant fibers as opposed to synthetic ones that are made through chemical synthesis.
How to follow a crochet pattern for beginners?
A good way to start is to read the instructions at the beginning of the pattern to make sure the pattern:
- is at your appropriate skill level,
- you have all the tools you need,
- know all the stitches required to make the project.
Make sure you're counting your stitches correctly and use a stitch marker if necessary (especially to mark the ends of your rounds).
That's a mistake I made all too often when I started out crocheting. For some reason, my projects turned all wonky because my stitches increased from row to row!
I eventually figured out that I inserted my hook into the wrong stitch when I turned my work at the beginning of a new row and also, at the end of the row, I'd add a stitch for some reason!
I'd encourage you to count your stitches carefully to avoid this common mistake and watch instructional youtube videos carefully to make sure you're inserting your hook into the correct stitch.
Read your pattern row by row and make sure you understand the instructions before you start your project.
Have your Abbreviations and Terminology sheets handy so you can refer to them easily when reading the pattern.
When you're done, finish off your project following the instructions given in the pattern.
Best Tips to read crochet patterns easily
Tip # 1: You need to have the desire to learn
Truly wanting to learn is THE most important thing when it comes to picking up a new skill quickly.
You have to understand that it is a process and it will take some time, just like you learned to read as a kid. First you learned your alphabet, then words, then sentences.
Same goes for reading crochet patterns. You first learn the stitches, terms and abbreviations, then you can go on to symbols and more advanced terminology.
Don't worry, reading crochet patterns won't take you nearly as long as it took you to learn to read!
All you need to do is train your brain to recognize the abbreviations and terms so that when you look at a pattern, you can quickly understand what it's all about and whether you know how to make the stitches required for the project at hand.
Don't be a quick quitter! You got this 🙂
Tip # 2: Figure Out How You Learn Best (then get your learning tools together)
Some people are more visual, others learn best by reading and taking notes.
What I'd suggest you do, is watch some instructional videos and read some written explanations in crochet books or blogs.
You'll quickly realize what works better for you. What method of learning makes more sense and gets you to easily understand what's being instructed?
A lot of people like using crochet cheat sheets that they print out and laminate. They refer to those when reading crochet patterns and it make understanding the pattern so much easier and faster.
Here's a cheat sheet I put together for you. It's a dictionary of crochet terms and abbreviations. You can download it instantly below.
& Stitch Abbreviations
Your info is 100% secure and will never be shared.
Tip # 3: Read patterns very SLOWLY and CAREFULLY
Every little punctuation mark in a pattern really matters.
If you misread a line in the beginning and crochet it the 'wrong' way, you'll find yourself making the same mistake over and over again.
I can't stress this enough, but it is super important to make sure you understand each row properly before you proceed.
If you're not sure what something means, I'd recommend researching it and trying it out until you 'get it' rather than winging it and finding out you've made a mistake half way through your project.
Tip # 4: Build on the knowledge you ALREADY KNOW
Don't get ahead of yourself too fast!
Pick patterns that have stitches you already know so you don't get frustrated with a project and end up quitting.
Build your skills bit by bit so you can use them later on.
Pick easy projects that have many 'repeat stitches' so you can practice them to perfection.
Then work yourself up and challenge yourself to try new stitches.
You'll find the process will exponentially get faster as you improve your skills.
Tip # 5: TRUST Yourself!
You know you're not a giver-upper! You know you can do this!
Millions of people throughout the world are avid crocheters and have learned this skill step by step.
You're no different than any of those people. Have confidence in yourself and you'll get there in no time at all.
It's an amazing journey to hone a skill that you can keep for a lifetime.
It's truly worth a little bit of effort and patience.
Easy Crochet Patterns For Beginners To Get You Started
My first crochet project was a flower, and I now realize that's probably not the best way to start.
I recommend starting out with simple square or rectangular projects that let you practice a certain stitch over and over again and you'll find yourself doing that stitch perfectly!
Here are some examples of projects and links to where you can find their free patterns:
Don't yet know how to crochet a Magic Circle?
Check out this post:
Here are some more easy crochet projects in the round:
Free Video Tutorial On How To Read Crochet Patterns & Symbols?
If you want to watch a crochet expert explain step by step how to read crochet patterns & symbols, here's a wonderful course by Edie Eckman at Creative Bug. She guides you through a typical crochet pattern, explaining line by line how it should be read.
You will learn how to:
- Read crochet patterns
- Understand crochet abbreviations, numbers and cryptic symbols
- Interpret written pattern instructions
The Last Thing You Need to Know about Reading Crochet Patterns
Basically, all you really need when reading crochet patterns is a handy printout to keep by your side when you're reading patterns that have terms or abbreviations you haven't come across before.
You are welcome to print out your list of crochet pattern abbreviations to keep as reference.
Feel like you still have more questions that I haven't covered here? I'd love to hear them and I'll be sure to get them answered for you!