Hi again! With all your newfound crochet knowledge, you must be itching to get creating. I know I was when I started! (still am, actually…)
The next step you want to take is learning how to read a crochet pattern. Well written patterns will have everything that you need to know in them, including what level it is appropriate for, what items you will need for it, the terms you will need to know, and the instructions for how to work it.
The first thing you want to look for in a pattern, is the skill level. It should be located somewhere near the beginning. If you are still a beginner, look for a skill level rated “Beginner”.
If you’re feeling like challenging yourself, look for “Advanced Beginner” or “Easy” skill levels. They are a step up from true beginner patterns, often including techniques other than just the straight stitches we’ve learned already; perhaps working in the round, or increases/decreases.
Reading through the rest of the pattern will tell you what to expect as far as stitches. In the abbreviations section, you will find the shortened forms of the stitches that will be included in the pattern.
This section should also include any special stitches used (some common ones are puff stitches, “v”-stitches, and shell stitches), as well as how to work these stitches. This section will not tell you how to work the standard stitches that have already been discussed, so if you need to brush up on any of them, you can refer back to this post and this post.
Yarn and Hook
If you are comfortable with the stitches and techniques used, now you can check out the yarn and hook information. Usually designers will tell you the specific brand and color they used in the model in case you want yours to look as close to that as possible.
If you want to really make it your own, just note the amount of yarn that you will need- which should be included- the weight of yarn used in the pattern and the hook size used. You don’t want to get chunky yarn for a worsted weight pattern and expect to use the same amount (or vice versa). It also will turn out looking quite a bit different from the model project. You will also want to ensure that your hook matches the yarn that you are using, especially if you aren’t using the recommended yarn/hook sizes.
The pattern should also have any extra items you need to complete the project, such as buttons, fiber fill for stuffed items, embroidery floss, etc. These may be in a section titled “Other Materials” or “Notions”.
Now to the real meat of the pattern. Reading the instructions. It may seem kind of daunting at first, but don’t worry. Once you are comfortable with the shorthand, it’s usually quite easy to read a pattern.
First, you will want to determine whether the pattern is worked in rows or the in the round. It should be noted somewhere in the pattern and is important so you know if you need to turn your work or join it.
Sometimes when you work in the round, you will work in spirals, in which case it’s a good idea to mark your first stitch with a stitch marker. The pattern should include a number in parentheses at the end of each row of instruction which will tell you how many stitches you should have had in that row/round.
Here’s a sample instruction line from my Sleepy Time Truck pattern:
This portion is worked in rows.
Row 1: Working into the back bump of the ch, starting in the second ch from the hook, sc 12, ch 1 and turn (12)
You know you will be working in rows. You need to chain (ch) 13 and single crochet 12 starting from the second chain from the hook and working in the back bump of the chain. Once you have reached the end of the foundation chain, you chain one and turn your work. See how simple it can be?
It can also get somewhat complex:
Rd 23: CC1 sc 9; MC sc 2; CC1 sc 6; MC sc 1; CC1 sc 6, dec; MC sc 2; CC1 dec, sc 10, dec; MC sc 2; CC1 dec, sc 6; MC sc 1; CC1 sc 6; MC sc 2; CC1 sc 5 (62)
This is from further into the pattern on another part. This part is worked in the round, which even though you can’t see that note in this snippet, you can tell from the “Rd 23” instead of “Row 23”. So even if the pattern does not specify, you can usually determine on your own whether it is worked in rounds or rows based on the abbreviation at the beginning of each instruction line.
This line includes color changes from contrasting color 1 to the main color and back, as well as decreases, for a total of 62 stitches.
This line would be read as “With contrasting color 1, single crochet 9 stitches, switch to main color and single crochet two. Switch back to contrasting color 1 and single crochet six stitches, back to the main color and single crochet one. Switch back to contrasting color 1 and single crochet six stitches and decrease (or single crochet two together) and switch back to main color and single crochet two stitches. Switch back to contrasting color 1 and decrease (single crochet two together), single crochet 10 stitches and decrease again. Switch to main color and single crochet two, switch back to contrasting color 1 and decrease (single crochet two together) and single crochet six stitches. Switch to main color and single crochet one stitch, switch back to contrasting color 1 and single crochet six stitches. Switch to main color and single crochet two stitches and switch back to contrasting color 1 and single crochet five stitches for a total of 62 stitches.”
While some may say that is easier to read, it is extremely verbose and in a full pattern, would cause the pattern to be 20 pages long. It would also be much easier to lose your place in all the words.
A tip for working any pattern that is especially helpful if you only have short time increments to work, is to print out the pattern and cross off the stitches you’ve already done. I always try to keep going until the end of a row, but sometimes life gets in the way, so this is the easiest way to be able to start working right away when you get the chance again until you get more comfortable with reading patterns.
The most important thing in reading a crochet pattern is knowing your abbreviations so you know what stitch is being worked. The next important thing is knowing how repeats are notated. In our example pattern, repeats are noted as:
() denote a group of stitches worked in the same stitch
 denote a group of stitches that repeats as many times as directed
and this information is included in the abbreviations section, so as to be grouped with the stitch information. Sometimes, repeats are noted with a * to * notation, but you can consider that the same as the brackets we are looking at now.
Here is an example of a line including the repeat information:
Rd 2: [(sc 3), sc 3, (sc 3), sc 1] rep once (20)
Again, we know this section is worked in the round, due to the “Rd” descriptor at the beginning.
Now looking at the stitch instructions, we would read this as follows: “Single crochet three into same stitch, single crochet one into next three stitches, single crochet three into same stitch, single crochet one into next stitch, single crochet three into same stitch, single crochet one into next three stitches, single crochet three into same stitch, single crochet one into next stitch for a total of 20 stitches.”
And that’s pretty much what you need to know to read patterns. I hope that with these instructions, you are now ready to work a project from a pattern.
What are some areas that trip you up when reading patterns? Let me know below, I would love to help if I can! And if you’re interested in learning some of the “next steps”; increases/decreases, working in rounds, and how to work a border up the side of a piece worked in rows, check out this post!