Crocheting with Symbols

Sometimes the best way to understand how crochet stitches combine to create intricate stitch patterns is to “see” the pattern. Crochet stitch diagrams allow you to visualize not only where to work individual stitches and how a collection of crochet stitches work together but also what the finished piece will look like.

I recently reread a fabulous article on stitch diagrams, also called symbolcraft, in the Interweave Crochet Fall 2005 issue. I love being able to revisit past issues! Here is a short excerpt from Sandi Wiseheart.


It’s not always easy to translate a three-dimensional craft such as crochet into clear, step-by-step written instructions; sometimes words are not enough to describe the process of looping loops through other loops that produces crochet. Fortunately, there already exists an international language for crochet, a language where one picture literally is worth a thousand words.

Learn how to crochet with crochet stitch diagrams.Symbolcraft, as it is known to some, is a way of diagramming the individual crochet stitches that produce the fabric structure; it lets you “see” how the stitches fit together to form a particular pattern. Each crochet stitch has a unique symbol; groups of symbols are linked together to illustrate rows, rounds, and motifs. The symbols for some of the basic stitches used in this issue are shown below.

The first thing to notice is that the symbols are logical in their representation: a chain stitch is shown as an oval; half double crochet is shown with a single crossbar, representing the single yarnover drawn through all the loops in that stitch; double crochet has two crossbars; treble crochet has three. This makes it easier to puzzle out new symbols in diagrams just from the way they are constructed. Complicated stitches become less of a mystery when you can visualize how they are constructed.

Learn how to read crochet sttch diagrams.The logical format of the symbols also makes it quite easy to diagram combinations of stitches, as in the symbols for various types of cluster stitches also shown below. At a glance, you can see that the shell stitch consists of five double crochet stitches worked into a single stitch. Looking at the diagram, it is easy to grasp the difference between this shell stitch and the fan stitch below it: the double crochet stitches in the fan are separated by chain stitches, whereas there are no chain stitches in the shell. Likewise, you can see the difference between a bobble stitch (several incomplete double crochet stitches connected by a single yarnover through all the final loops), a popcorn stitch (several completed double crochet stitches pulled together into a cup shape by connecting the first and last stitch), and a puff stitch (multiple loops on the hook pulled together with a single yarnover).

From individual stitches and stitch combinations, you can build diagrams for entire stitch patterns. There are basically two kinds of diagrams: those that represent part of a repeating pattern worked in rounds or rows, and those that represent an entire motif (such as a granny square or flower). It’s important to note that both types of diagrams show the right side of the fabric, and both assume that the crocheter is right-handed.-Sandi Wiseheart, Interweave Crochet Fall 2005Check out the past articles and gorgeous patterns from some of our first issues. Order your copy of 2004-2006 Interweave Crochet Collection today.

Best wishes,

P.S. Share your best tip for using stitch diagrams in the comments.

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