Tuesday Crochet Tip: Reading Crochet Patterns

Tuesday Crochet TIpsIt’s officially spring! I’m so excited. I live in the northern part of the US and it gets COLD and snowy and blowy in the winter months. Of course that makes for some great crocheting days when it’s too cold and nasty to venture out of the house. I sit by the fireplace and make all kinds of pretties. But I’m always thrilled when spring rolls around and the temperatures warm up and we can start looking forward to the appearance of the tulips.

Speaking of which, I launched my Tulip Coin Purse, Tulip Clutch, and Tulip Purse patterns this week as well as a Layered Flower pattern to celebrate the onset of spring and the flowers that will soon appear. Check them out! Mother’s Day is fast approaching, and moms love flowers! Why not give her a flowered purse this year? I made a Tulip Clutch for my MIL last year on her birthday and she loved it!

Crochet Pattern BooksOkay, so our subject on today’s Tips segment is about reading crochet patterns. Crocheting is an art form that most of us learn from a friend or relative. It’s a skill that is easiest to learn if you have someone sitting beside you guiding you and showing you what to do by example. For those of you who learned to crochet from looking a pictures and diagrams in a book, I commend you! That is a feat that few are able to accomplish.

Once someone has shown you some basic stitches and you have the general hang of the techniques, you might want to begin experimenting with different ways to combine stitches to build textures and patterns into your crochet projects. The best way to do that (without a lot of trial and error and frogging) is to follow a crochet pattern.

But for most beginners, they pick up a crochet pattern and it looks like some kind of foreign language. All those abbreviations and symbols and repeats ā€” they can make a person’s eyes go blurry while their brain twists into a pretzel. But it doesn’t have to be as painful as all that!

When you first start working with patterns, I suggest you start with one that contains just a small handful of basic stitches and a pattern that isn’t too complex. And look for patterns that are from reputable sources. You can find patterns on people’s blogs and freebie sites online, however, not every pattern designer knows how to clearly write and communicate a crochet pattern. I have encountered patterns written by amateurs that even after 30+ years of crocheting I could not decipher because the instructions were so convoluted. Don’t frustrate yourself in the beginning. Start with a pattern that you know is well written.

Next, the biggest challenge in learning to read a crochet pattern is simply to learn all the abbreviations. Once you know the “code”, it makes reading much easier. For example:

sc in each dc across

Once you know that sc means single crochet and dc means double crochet, you can read through the pattern and see that you are going to work a sc (single crochet) into the top of each dc (double crochet) across to the end of the row. When working through a new pattern, I often read the instructions out loud, substituting the full terms for the abbreviations.

Here’s a chart of abbreviations and terms to use as a cheat sheet until you have them memorized:

Crochet Term Abbreviations

Next you need to know how to execute each of the basic stitches. YouTube is a great place to learn crochet basics and new crochet techniques. There are dozens of great crocheters on there who create videos that walk you through step-by-step. If you run into a stitch you aren’t familiar with, do a search online and I’m guessing you can find a video tutorial on it.Ā  Allfreecrochet.com also has some great tutorials available, some in print, some in video, but all free! Check them out. If you know of other great crochet resources for beginners, please feel free to share them in the comments so we can all benefit! šŸ™‚

Finally, if you get stuck and can’t seem to figure out the next step, ask a mentor. If you don’t have one, pack up your crocheting and go to your local yarn store. Ask if there is someone who could help you decipher the pattern and show you how to work through the part that is giving you trouble. Often they will have an employee, or in a small niche store they might teach classes, and there will be a teacher or experienced mentor who can work with you.

I had a mentor who taught a class through my church one year. She helped me take my crocheting to the next level. As I attempted harder and harder patterns and projects, she was always willing to help me through the more difficult sections. I just took my crocheting to church and sat down with her for a few minutes before or after the service. šŸ™‚ I greatly appreciated Jeweldene and her willingness to mentor me! I’ve tried to pay it forward by teaching others to crochet and helping them learn to read patterns.

Special stitches

If you choose to make a pattern with more complex stitches or specific combinations of stitches that are used in the pattern, the designer will often include a Special Stitches section at the beginning of the pattern instructions. In this section, the designer explains how to work through unusual stitches or stitch combinations. If you are a beginner, read these instructions carefully, and maybe even consider doing a test piece in which you practice special stitches before you begin your project so you become familiar and comfortable with the special stitches.

Most importantly, don’t let crochet patterns intimidate you. With a little knowledge, help, and effort, you can be reading patterns and creating some amazing crocheted works of art!

Happy Crocheting,

~ Lisa

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