American Independence! Converting British Crochet Patterns

We all know that crocheters speak their own language. Quirky abbreviations aside, if you’ve traveled at all, or perhaps just picked up a crochet pattern from a different country, you’ve probably noticed some oddities. American and British crochet terms look the same on paper, but they MEAN different things.

For instance, the term for single crochet, as we know it in the U.S., is DOUBLE CROCHET in England. In fact, British patterns don’t use the term single crochet at all! If you see single crochet, the pattern is from the U.S. The Brits use different terms for most of their stitches, which can make following a British pattern tricky for an American crocheter.

American single crochet is shown in the above illustration.


But if you know the pattern is British, you can either keep a handy chart of conversions on hand (like this one), or you can remember one simple trick.

In Honor of Independence Day We Give You… Pattern-Reading Freedom:
American crochet stitches = one yarn over FEWER than British stitch names

For example, a British double crochet is worked as an American single crochet; a British half treble crochet = an American half double crochet. And on and on!

british crochet patterns

Find the pattern for this flag afghan in Love of Crochet Summer 2017.

Make sure to figure these things out and write the differences into your pattern! Can you imagine picking up a pattern and working the whole project only to find out that you’ve been working the wrong stitches the whole time? SHUDDER.

Now, I should point out that chain and slip stitch mean the same things in both cultures.

As to WHY Americans and Brits use different terms…I haven’t found a conclusive answer to that. One theory is that, since crochet became popular after 1800, the lingo on either side of the pond evolved differently. I asked one crafter why she thought we used different terms, and I was surprised when she shrugged apathetically and said, “Eh, why do we use the Imperial system and not metric? America is weird.”

And that, my friends, is good enough for me.

Free your hooks,
—Lisa


These Hooks Will Work in Any Language!

 

5 Comments

  1. Amanda G at 10:27 am July 3, 2017

    Here is an opinion. I believe crochet began in France. I suspect the abbreviations may have come to The British Isles that way. As far as imperial verses metric, the UK had always been imperial until they joined with Europe. I lived in the UK from 1982-1994 and I know a lot of Brits who continue to use the imperial system of measurements as that is what they grew up using and relate to. In America as to why we use different terms, I suspect it is a matter or clarification. I would have to spend time researching this to be sure, but I would rather be knitting and crocheting. 🙂

  2. Heather K at 4:12 pm July 3, 2017

    Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me if early British crocheters worked a lot in slip stitch to produce a fabric that looks knitted because, AIUI, they do in fact use the term “single crochet.” It means slip stitch, but only in the context of slip stitch crochet, not when it’s being used for joins or to shift the beginning of a row.

    How’s that for confusing?

    • Heather K at 4:15 pm July 3, 2017

      Also, note that “half-double” vs. “half-treble” would be a dead giveaway if that stitch appears in the pattern at all.

  3. Cecelia M at 6:20 pm July 3, 2017

    Two wonderful countries with thousands of crocheters. Enjoy the craft and our unique terminology.

  4. M H M at 8:55 pm July 3, 2017

    I read in an old (40 years?) copy of Crochet World magazine in a Q&A by someone whose first name was Dawn that terms were standardised in 1929 because patterns were being written every which way. I had assumed that the terms used in many languages were fused – that was until I actually found the terms in many other languages! Donna Kooler’s Encyclopedia of Crochet says American terms are named for the number of times you yarn over & take off 2 loops, while British term go by the number of time you yarn over & draw through, including the initial pick-up. (p24) Neither of these is a really full explanation, but maybe some one in you Guild would have access to records?

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.