6 Tips for Reading Crochet Patterns

Have you ever seen a crochet pattern from the 1800s? Some of them are primarily hand-drawn illustrations with a few basic written instructions. I’ve crocheted a few, and I can tell you that those images are critical! But I’ve also learned that those illustrations, visual representations of the stitches, help me understand how the stitches work together and how the piece is constructed.

Today, most crochet patterns have evolved to include very detailed instructions. The best part is that those hand-drawn illustrations have evolved as well. A stitch diagram can hold as much information as detailed written instructions and can give you more information about how the crochet stitches work together. Just take a look at this sample of the Museo Wrap stitch diagram. With the complete stitch diagram, I could create this entire wrap with just a few sentences of instruction.

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Nordic Tapestry Crochet Pouch by Brenda K. B. Anderson, Interweave Crochet Winter 2019

Before you get started on your own diagrammed project—and there are lots of amazing options in the Interweave Crochet Spring 2019 issue—let’s take a look at a few tips for reading stitch diagrams.

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Tips for Reading Crochet Patterns

1. Study before you begin.

Just as you would read all the way through a written pattern, study the stitch diagram from the first row or round to the last stitch. This will help you understand how all of the stitches work together and often helps clear up any confusion about why you work stitches a particular way at the beginning of the pattern.

2. Find the stitch key.

Each pattern with stitch diagrams should have a stitch key. This will show you what each stitch looks like. Stitches are standardized, so you will soon recognize them just as quickly as sc, dc, or st, but it’s still a good idea to make sure a designer hasn’t created a new stitch.

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Sample of the Museo Wrap stitch diagram, Interweave Crochet Spring 2019

3. Look for repeats.

If a designer created a stitch diagram for an entire large project, like a sweater or a shawl, it wouldn’t fit on the page. So many stitch diagrams have repeats indicated. This also allows sizing within the diagram. In addition, this repeat makes it easy to increase the size of your piece. Want a larger shawl? Just add a few more pattern repeats.

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4. Speaking of sizing.

There may be sizing information within the stitch diagram, so study it carefully—see tip number 1. Especially in areas such as a neckline or armhole, patterns differ depending on the finished size. The stitch diagram may have information on stitches worked or unworked depending on size.

5. Don’t lose your place.

An easy trick for remembering is the simple sticky note. Just move it up with each row you work. You can also use a pen or marker to mark off rows as you work them.

6. Find your row or round.

Rows and rounds are numbered, but those little numbers can get lost in all of that stitch goodness. It helps to know where to look. For projects that are worked in rows, odd-numbered rows are labeled on the right and even-numbered rows are labeled on the left. The trick to remember is that the row number is next to the first stitch worked in that row. Many stitch diagrams also show every other row or round in different colors (you can see this in the Museo Wrap stitch diagram). For in-the-round stitch diagrams, you will also find the round number at the beginning of the round, but sometimes only every other round is numbered for space reasons.

Bonus tip

The next time a pattern confuses you, try drawing your own stitch diagram. I do it all the time, and it helps me visualize exactly what I need to do or where I am going wrong.
You’re ready to go. Grab your pattern–the Museo Wrap, Ferro Duster, Porto Top, and Rotatoria Purse are all great options–and discover how easy stitch diagrams are to use. Then let us know what you think.

Happy Stitching,

Explore more crochet patterns in Interweave Crochet!

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