How to Read Crochet Patterns: Step by Step Basics
Ever tried reading crochet patterns? It can feel like trying to read something in a foreign language for any newcomer to the hobby. But don’t let this deter you from pursuing this incredible craft; all you need is a little guidance on how to read crochet patterns and you’ll be completely fluent in all crochet-lingo in no time at all.
Here’s a basic guide to the most important things you need to know about reading crochet patterns, starting from the very beginning:
Step 1: Choosing the right crochet pattern
Most crochet patterns are categorised by skill level. When choosing a new pattern make sure you examine the packet closely to determine which skill level it is aimed at. If you’re completely new to the hobby, start with patterns aimed at novices. Once you’ve become proficient at reading crochet patterns at this level, you can gradually build up towards intermediate and advanced patterns.
You should also look out for patterns that include tutorials. Some direct you to YouTube tutorial videos, while others include step-by-step photo tutorials which provide valuable assistance alongside your crochet pattern.
Now you’ve got the right pattern for your skill level, it’s time to familiarise yourself with the pattern or kit you’re using:
Step 2: Read all the Information
Before you delve into the pattern itself, take some time to read through all the important information. Most crochet kits will include sections such as:
- General information about the pattern
- Yarns, materials and hook sizes needed
- Information on required stitch tension and/or sizing
- Abbreviations and terms used
- Special stitches specific to that particular pattern
Read through everything thoroughly and make notes if you feel you need to. One of the most important elements to watch out for is the terminology used. The general information section should inform users which version of terminology is used; UK or US. Yes, UK crochet patterns use slightly different terminology to US crochet patterns – arrgh! So keep an eye on this and make sure you’re using a kit with terminology you are used to.
Step 3: Reading Crochet Stitch Abbreviations
When learning how to read crochet patterns, the best place to start is familiarising yourself with the common stitch abbreviations used. Stitch abbreviations are used to save space and – believe it or not – make the whole pattern easier to read. They can be confusing at first, but reading them will eventually become second nature.
Here are the most basic and commonly used UK crochet stitch abbreviations you will come across as a novice. If you’ve ended up with a US crochet pattern or kit, you will need to translate your terms using a UK to US crochet conversion chart.
Step 4: Reading Crochet Stitch Terms
There are lots of other terms you’ll need to know about while you’re learning how to read crochet patterns. These terms are instructions for things you need to do between stitches. Here are some of the most commonly used crochet terms in UK patterns:
Here is a full glossary of UK crochet terms and abbreviations for you to refer to.
Step 5: Understanding Crochet Tensions
Knowing about crochet tension (also known as Gauge in US terms) is essential if you’re making something that needs to be true to size (e.g. clothing). Most crochet kits will inform you of the required tension for the project, which will look something like this:
14 sts = 10 cm (4″); 7 rows = 10 cm (4″) in double crochet using a size G hook (4mm)
Translated this means:
14 stitches should be equal in length to 10 centimetres (4 inches). 7 rows should also be equal to 10 centimetres (4 inches) when making double crochet stitches using a size G hook.
Read our guide to choosing the correct hook, needle and yarn for knitting and crocheting.
To check your tension you will need to crochet a swatch of 14 (or more) stitches by 7 (or more) rows using the stated hook size and stitch type. Then you need to measure the finished swatch to check you are using the correct tension for the project. If your swatch is too big, this means your stitches are too loose and need tightening up. If your swatch is too small, your stitches need loosening slightly.
It’s a fiddle and a faff, but checking your tension using swatches will ultimately save you hours of time and prevent you from making big mistakes.
Step 6: Start crocheting!
Now you’ve got the basics of how to read a crochet pattern covered, it couldn’t hurt to grab yourself a novice crochet kit and start experimenting. Reading crochet patterns takes a lot of practice, so don’t worry if you don’t get it right away.
With a little patience and perseverance you’ll find yourself with a very rewarding hobby indeed. Good luck!