Learning to read crochet patterns

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If  you struggle to read a crochet chart or a pattern, then you’re not alone.  There are many crocheters that are in the same situation as you. And it is why some have joined my clubhouse.

Reading patterns can seem like a foreign language, but it doesn’t need to be!  If learning to read them is something that you would like to do, then keep reading as I would like to make the process a little bit easier for you.

Firstly.  Don’t worry that you cannot read them. Reading patterns is a skill that needs to be learned.  And how well you can pick up and read them is going to depend on your current crochet knowledge.  It is also going to depend on who has written them and how.  Not all patterns are written equally.  And I know, because I can read and write patterns and sometimes I struggle to read a pattern too!

So here are some reasons why you might struggle to read a pattern.

Some crochet patterns are written with the assumption that the person reading the pattern has prior knowledge of all of the terms and techniques.  I like to write my patterns under the assumption that the crocheter reading the pattern has never read a pattern before.  If you come across something that is unfamiliar to you you will struggle unless the author of the pattern has defined everything.

Some crocheters will struggle to read a pattern because they are unfamiliar with the names of stitches or, in the case of charts, what each symbol means.  This is also complicated if you don’t know if the pattern is written in UK or US terms!  And sometimes it is almost impossible to figure it out as there is overlap of most crochet stitch names between the different languages.  I have been caught before following a pattern thinking it was in US terms, when it was in UK terms.  It wasn’t until I compared it to the image of what was being made that I realised that I was making it in the wrong language.

Sometimes the pattern has mistakes in it!  Remember that humans are the ones writing the patterns and carbon based errors are some of the most common ones.  If you do think it is a mistake in the pattern, then check with the designer (assuming you can).  I am always happy to be asked the question, because I know that I have made mistakes, and I would rather fix them than have everyone frustrated and thinking that they can’t make something.  I doubt that any designer would deliberately write a pattern with errors in it, so if you can, check with them.

And sometimes the pattern is written in a way that is just too complicated to follow.  Especially if there are repeats and you’re expected to follow from * to * except ** you go do XYZ.  Nothing drives me battier!  Which is why I don’t write my patterns that way and it is why some of my purchased pattern books have writing all over them.  Formatting can make a huge difference to how easy it is to read a pattern.  And spelling out instructions as much as possible while remaining concise also makes a difference.  I have evolved my formatting and written instructions over time too, and know that my most recent patterns are much easier to follow than some of my earlier ones where I followed more of the conventional methods.

So do any of these ring true to you?  Then let me help!

Here are some handy tips when starting to read a pattern.

Before you start reading a pattern, get familiar with the names of the stitches you’re making.  And in doing so, be clear if you are using UK or US terms.  If you’re not sure what language you’re using, then a simple test is this – do you have a single crochet in your stitch vocabulary?  If you do, then you’re using US terms.  Still not sure?  Another test – what stitch do you make a grannie square with?  If you make it with a treble, then you’re using UK terms.  If you make it with a double crochet, then you’re using US terms.  Still not sure?  Message me and ask, I’ll help you figure it out!

Once you know what language you use, always check for it in the pattern or book.  Some books won’t tell you.  If that is the case, then use the test above – if you see single crochet anywhere, then it is US terms.  If not then it is most likely UK terms.  Another way is to check where the book is published.  This is something I do before I buy all my books now as I have made the mistake of buying the UK based publisher when I prefer US terms.  And if you’re super lucky (like you are when you use my patterns!) then the pattern will include both terms.

If you want to read a chart, then get yourself familiar with what stitches the symbols represent.  These are uniform across the languages so it should be easier for you to figure out.  There are some differences with how a chart is presented to you, but there are consistencies across them too.  Most charts will contain numbers for the round or row.  The number is usually placed next to the first stitch in the round or row.  If they don’t, then most often the start is where you see a set of chains standing vertically to represent a stitch.  For example you might see 3 chain symbols together, standing vertical.  This will represent starting with a chain 3.

When using a chart, every stitch in a design is represented.  If you’re reading a chart for a pattern worked in a round, you will be reading each round in the same direction – which is the same direction in which you work – which is usually the direction for right handed people.  When reading a pattern for a chart worked in rows, you will be reading every second row in the opposite direction to that which you work.  The number will be at the start of the row though, so if the number is on the left you will read from left to right, but will work the stitches from right to left.  Confusing?  That’s ok, you’ll get the hang of it.

When you first start out reading a pattern I suggest finding a written pattern for something that you already know how to make – like a grannie square.  Sometimes it is easier to interpret the written word when you know what it should say.  Alternatively, look for patterns that have a step by step picture guide with the written word.  Visualising what you’re reading can make it easier.

So those are some of the most common hurdles that hold people back from reading a pattern.  Hopefully those tips will help get you started!  In the Hooked on Crochet Club I aim to help you read patterns.  Each month the first project is provided as a written pattern as well as with a pre-recorded video.  And during the month, the square that is provided is also demonstrated on live video while I instruct on the steps against the chart.  Over time you will start to find it easier to read a pattern.

Reading patterns is like anything.  It takes time and practice to learn.  Anyone can do it if they make the time and have the right guidance provided.

If you’re wanting to improve on reading patterns, or any other crochet skills, then be sure to check out the clubhouse.  Doors open this week for a few days so now is your opportunity to get your name down to get in!  If you’re reading this after the doors have closed, then have no fear, add your name to the waitlist as the doors will open again!

If you have any specific questions regarding help to read a pattern, then be sure to comment below or email me.  I’m more than happy to answer them!

If anything in particular helped you in this post, then be sure to comment below too!  I’d love to hear it!

Seona x







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