I’m Marie from Underground Crafter and I’m starting a series about taking your crochet skills up a notch! Whether you’ve been crocheting for one year or fifty years, you can always learn something new to make your crochet projects even better and to allow you to have even more fun crocheting.
The most important thing I ever did to boost my own crochet skills was to learn to read patterns. For the first twenty years of my crochet life, I didn’t know how to read patterns, and I made basically the same project over and over. (It was a single crochet scarf.) Within the first year of learning to read patterns, I was able to make many projects that were previously outside of my reach and I got excited about crocheting again.
But why should YOU learn to read patterns?
- There are more written patterns available than there are video and photo tutorials out there, so reading patterns gives you access to a wider range of projects and stitches.
- Once you can read patterns, it’s much easier to “mix and match” pieces of different projects into your own unique creations.
- It’s easier to make notes about changes you’ve made to existing patterns and later reproduce those changes if you understand how patterns are written.
- You can start a project on your own without relying on a friend or family member to demonstrate a stitch or technique for you.
I hope I’ve convinced you that knowing how to read crochet patterns is a good thing! So, let’s talk about the two major ways you can read patterns.
Pattern abbreviations started in the early days of pattern books as a way for publishers to save paper by printing fewer (and shorter) words. Think of these abbreviations as short hand for the different names of stitches. Each stitch has it’s own abbreviation (such as sc for single crochet) and other frequently used terms (like rep for repeat) are also abbreviated.
AllFreeCrochet has a standard list of U.S. abbreviations. Bookmark that page so you can refer back to it if the pattern you’re following doesn’t have a key to the abbreviations at the beginning. (By the way, pattern abbreviations for U.K. patterns are slightly different, but there are many conversion charts available online.)
International stitch symbols
International stitch symbols allow readers to understand crochet patterns regardless of their language ability. If you’ve ever seen a great Japanese, German, or Russian pattern and wished you could make it, international stitch symbols allow you to do just that! As with the abbreviations, there are standard symbols, which you can find here. Many visual learners find it easier to understand stitch symbols. Other crocheters find it easier to “read” their own stitches when looking at a symbol pattern.
So, how do you actually read these things??!!
Learning to read crochet patterns is just like learning a new language, and it’s going to be challenging at first, so take a deep breath before you get started! Here are several tips to make the learning process easier.
- Start with “beginner” or “easy” patterns. Even though you may be an advanced crocheter, you’re new to reading patterns, so starting simple allows you to focus on learning the abbreviations or symbols.
- Keep your abbreviation or chart key handy. Don’t be embarrassed to look back and forth between the pattern and your key. Think of it as a bilingual dictionary!
- Keep your eyes focused. To avoid distraction, use post it notes or a ruler to block out other parts of the pattern so you can look at just the line or row you’re working on reading.
- Understand that it takes time and practice. Especially if you’ve been crocheting for a long time, it can be tough to go back into “beginner mode.” With a little patience, you’ll learn the abbreviations or symbols and then you’ll be ready to tackle more advanced projects.
- Listen at the same time. You may find it helpful to listen to a pattern being read at the same time as you are reading the written pattern. Try the Faux Fabric Circle Scarf, an easy, one-skein project with an audio version.
With these tips, you should be able to tackle reading patterns in no time.