Crochet for Beginners: How to Read Crochet Patterns

By Toni Rexcoat

After first discovering the addictive quality of the crochet chain and the possibility of the basic crochet stitches, such as the single crochet and the double crochet, the next thing any beginning crochet needs to learn is how to read crochet patterns.

How to Choose a Crochet Pattern

Step one is to choose a crochet pattern you love. While I wouldn’t recommend choosing an experienced level pattern, don’t be afraid of a pattern that will stretch your crochet skills. You want to enjoy crochet process and the finished project. That being said, there are hundreds of gorgeous crochet patterns for beginners available.

The Typical Crochet Pattern Schematic

learn how to crochet with this handy crochet pattern schematic and other useful tips on how to read crochet patterns.If you are crocheting a garment, the schematic can be your best friend. On the schematic you will find important measurement information for fit.

First take your own measurements. Remember to not to suck in your tummy, as appealing as it may seem. You will regret it when your garment ends up being too small. Decide whether you prefer negative easy, a tighter fitting garment, or positive ease. Then choose a size that works best for you.

The schematic can also let you know if a garment will not fit well without modification. Perhaps the waist or hip measurement is correct, but the corresponding bust size is too small. Our Step-By-Step Guide to Garment Construction guide from Interweave Crochet is the perfect resource for any crocheter looking to tackle garments. You’ll learn everything you need to know about constructing the perfect garment plus get five beautiful patterns to practice your skills on.

Understanding the Crochet Pattern

After you have chosen you pattern, read the crochet instructions completely, including the stitch guide, notes, any charts or diagrams, and finishing sections. Many times, confusion can be avoided by reading the notes section. Here you will find information on construction, tips on technique, and guidelines for keeping track of stitches with stitch markers or scrap yarn. Spend some time with the stitch guide, studying any stitches that you have never tried before.

How to Start Crocheting

standard-yarn-weights-crochetThe “Getting Started” section of the pattern includes the finished sizes, yarn specifications, hook size(s), special notions needed, and gauge. This is a great overview of the pattern. The finished size tells you whether the project is the right size. Be sure to check the notions to see if you need any additional supplies such as buttons, zippers, or fabric. The gauge swatch information is frequently a good opportunity to practice the stitch pattern used in the pattern.

Gauge Swatch

Our #1 on crocheting for beginners is don’t forget your gauge swatch! No one really loves the gauge swatch, but if your project ends up too small or too large, you will wish you had taken the time. The gauge swatch is especially important if you are substituting yarn. Not all DK weight yarns are exactly the same size. Substituted yarns, in combination with your individual crochet tension, you may not always give you exact gauge with the listed hook size. If your gauge is off, try a larger or smaller hook. Even a little difference in gauge can make a big difference over an entire project.
Make sure you don't forget to use your gauge swatch when starting a crochet pattern.

Substituting Yarn in Crochet Patterns

If you decide to substitute the yarn called for in the pattern, the first thing to look for is the yarn size. If the pattern calls for a worsted weight yarn, one option is to find another worsted weight yarn. This isn’t a guarantee that your yarn will be the correct size and may require you to play with hook size to get gauge. A better indicator of correct yarn size substitution is wraps per inch (wpi). To figure out wpi, wrap the yarn repeatedly around a ruler and count how many wraps there are in an inch (see example at the right).

Keep fiber content in mind when you are substituting yarn. Cotton or silk will have a different drape than an animal fiber such as alpaca or wool. Pure cottons and silks also can have a tendency to stretch or “grow” over time. Some nice acrylic or acrylic blends can be used as alternatives for animal or plant fibers.

The top indispensable resource for crocheters, The Crocheter’s Companion has all the essentials for any skill level. Get tools, stitches, techniques, newly updated yarn information, abbreviations and symbols, and much more. This book is sure to become your go to resource for everything crochet!

Finally, believe the pattern. Designers are continually discovering inventive techniques for creating unique construction or stitch textures. Sometimes you have to simply follow the crochet instructions and trust the designer. Sometimes the most confusing sections of the pattern will become clear as you work them.

Learning to crochet for beginners can seem a bit overwhelming. But a good understanding of how to read crochet patterns can make the process easier. Grab one of the favorite crochet resources for beginners we’ve featured and, with these crochet instructions and tips, you too can learn to crochet today.

More of a visual learner? Crochet expert Kristin Omdahl walks you through basic to intermediate crochet stitches, how to read crochet patterns, gauge, and even how to hold yarn. It’s easy to learn to crochet with this helpful video.