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How to Understand a Crochet Pattern

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What You'll Be Creating

When you're a crochet beginner, most crochet patterns almost look like a foreign language! To help you understand a pattern, you have to understand the writing style first. 

Terms and Abbreviations

Most patterns are written using standard shorthand abbreviations. To make things a little more difficult, the abbreviations aren't the same world wide; there's a difference between US terms and UK/Australian terms. Use the following table for reference the next time you're reading a crochet pattern, and make sure you know what terms and abbreviations are used.

US termsUK/Australian terms
chain stitch (ch)chain stitch (ch)
slip stitch (sl st) slip stitch (sl st)
single crochet (sc)double crochet (dc)
half double crochet (hdc)half treble crochet (htr)
double crochet (dc)treble crochet (tr)
treble crochet (tr)double treble crochet (dtr)
double treble crochet (dtr)tripe treble crochet (trtr)
finish offcast off
gaugetension

There are more abbreviations used in crochet patterns. Patterns usually come with explanations of each abbreviation, plus specific instructions on how to make certain special stitches. It's always a good idea to read over a pattern at least once before starting; that way you know what to expect, and you can familiarize yourself with the terminology.

Getting Started

Once you've established the correct 'language', it's time to start with the pattern. Each pattern usually specifies how the project is made. It could be a project that is worked flat, and back and forth in rows; or it's worked in the round, joining the work after each row, for instance when you're making amigurumi's. 

An example of a project that is worked flat is the Kaleidoscopic Lap Rug; for an example of a project that is worked in the round, check out the Dip-Dyed Bottle Cozy.

Repeats

Most patterns include repeats. The section of the pattern that you have to repeat is indicated with symbols, usually asterisks or brackets/parentheses. In the Leg Warmers pattern for instance, you'll find this line:

Repeat *sk 2 st, [3dc]* until you've reached the last stitch.

If you follow these instructions, you have to: skip 2 stitches, crochet 3 double crochet stitches into the same space (as indicated by the brackets), and then repeat that until you've reached the end of the row. You simply repeat what's between the asterisks. 

In the Dip-Dyed Bottle Cozy tutorial, you'll find this line:
*1sc, inc* around (18 stitches)

If you follow these instructions, you have to: crochet 1 single crochet stitch, then crochet an increase into the next stitch (by making 2 single crochet stitches into the same stitch), and then repeat that until the end of the row. You know you've done a good job when you end up with 18 stitches after completing the row.

Using brackets or asterisks is a very common way for pattern writers to indicate any repeating of stitches.

Ready, Set, Crochet!

Now that you know how to properly read any crochet pattern, it's time to grab your hook and start crocheting! For more in-depth crochet tutorials, be sure to check out our Crochet Fundamentals series. 

And whether you're a beginner or a true crochet master; check out our growing library of crochet patterns! Remember that if you're ever stuck on a pattern: it's okay to ask for help! 

Are you a crochet beginner? Feeling stuck? Leave your questions in the comments section of any tutorial; the authors are always willing to help out, or offer tips & tricks on their patterns.

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