Coming Soon! A brand-new Idiot’s Guides website, where you are the expert! Stay tuned for more details!

Browse Quick Guides by Subject

How to Read a Crochet Pattern

The first time you pick up a crochet pattern, it can be intimidating, with rows of seemingly inexplicable code. But once you learn to read them, you’ll see how much easier they make your life! Crochet patterns are written in shorthand, because if every stitch was written out in full, even the shortest pattern would be many pages long—and you’d constantly be losing your place! In this guide, you’ll learn how to decipher all of that shorthand. Once you get the hang of the abbreviations and notations, you’ll find that crochet patterns are actually very easy to follow!

Common Crochet Abbreviations

In crochet patterns, abbreviations are used for the stitches, and repeated sections of the pattern are marked as such and only written out once. Here are the common crochet abbreviations:

Abbreviation Meaning
BL back loops
ch chain
dc double crochet
FL front loops
hdc half double crochet
invdec invisible decrease
rnd round
sc single crochet
sc2tog single crochet decrease
sl st slip stitch
st stitch
YO yarn over

If you’re following a pattern, check the key before you begin to see if it uses any nonstandard or unfamiliar abbreviations. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with any you don’t know before you begin.

Rounds and Rows

Crochet patterns are worked in either rounds or rows. In the pattern, the directions for each round/row are written on a separate line, each numbered Rnd 1, Rnd 2, Rnd 3, etc., or Row 1, Row 2, Row 3, etc.

If you’re working in rows, you’ll turn your work at the end of each row and then work back across the top of the previous row. The most common way to work in rounds is to work in a continuous spiral, so you’ll never turn your work and the end of the round is indistinguishable from the other stitches in the round.

On the pattern, at the end of each round (or row) of a pattern, the number of stitches is given in parentheses. This tells you how many stitches you should have completed during that round and is a very useful way to see if you’ve made any mistakes during the round.

Repeats

Most rounds include a repeated section of instructions. The section that’s to be repeated is indicated in the pattern with symbols. The actual symbols used vary, but the meaning is always the same.

Sometimes you’ll see repeats indicated by a set of parentheses (…), a set of brackets […], or a pair of asterisks *…* around the stitches that are to be repeated, then following the closing parentheses will be the number of times you are to repeat those stitches. In each case, follow all the directions between the pair of symbols as many times as indicated before moving on to the next instructions.

Let’s look at an example:

(sc2tog, sc in next st) 3 times, 2 sc in next st.

Following these instructions, you should crochet sc2tog, sc, sc2tog, sc, sc2tog, sc, 2 sc.

Putting It All Together

Here’s a sample round:

Rnd 5: (2 sc in next st, sc in next 3 st) 6 times (30 st).

This might look daunting at first, but if you break down the instructions into pieces, you’ll see that each part is pretty easy to understand. Let’s look at each piece separately:

Rnd 5 This is the fifth round of the pattern.

2 sc in next st Make 2 single crochet stitches, both into the same stitch.

sc in next 3 st Make 1 single crochet stitch into each of the next 3 stitches.

(…) 6 times Repeat everything within the parentheses 6 times.

(30 st) You’ll make a total of 30 stitches in this round.

Looking at all the pieces together, you can see that you’ll crochet 2 sc in the first st, sc in the next 3 st. Then you’ll start the next repeat: 2 sc in the next st, sc in the next 3 st. When you reach the end of the round, you should have completed 6 repeats of the pattern and a total of 30 single crochet stitches.

Now that you know how to read the notations and abbreviations in a crochet pattern, you can break down every line of a pattern in the same way, to “decode” it into language you understand. Keep on practicing, and you’ll be a pro in no time. Happy stitching!

From The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Amigurumi by June Gilbank