Most of us learn to crochet by starting with the basic stitches: chain, single crochet, double crochet etc. Either your mom, grandma or a friend showed you how, or you taught yourself through Youtube videos.
Now that you’ve got those basic skills down. You’ve made a few granny squares or washcloths and are ready to move onto bigger projects.
But how? This is where a lot of us get stuck.
The natural next step is to look for instructions for a project through the same visual channels you started learning with.
Your mom/grandma/friend probably won’t sit next to you and walk you through each stitch of every one of your projects. And photos and videos are great resources to learn new stitches and techniques but for complete projects, they have their limitations.
This is where crochet patterns come in!
No time right now? Pin these 5 reasons to learn to read crochet patterns for later!
What is a Crochet Pattern?
A crochet pattern is a set of instructions to recreate a specific crochet project.
Think of it as your project recipe. Just like a cooking recipe, it will have all the information you need to recreate the project. Not just the step-by-step instructions but also the materials, sizing and other information you’ll need to achieve the desired results.
Crochet patterns come in a variety of formats: the written form is the most common, but you also have video patterns, photos, and graphs.
Nowadays, designers often combine different formats to help crafters as much as possible. For instance, I like to include step-by-step photos in all my patterns to help you visualize the pattern and construction.
Patterns can be intimidating when you’re first starting out. They contain a lot of information in just a few pages, most of which is often abbreviated too. But once you learn how to read them; once you know where to find the information, what to do with it and how to follow the abbreviated instructions, a whole new world of crochet is at your feet.
5 Reasons why you need to learn how to read crochet patterns
1. So You Get ALL the Information You Need
Video patterns are great but more often than not they aren’t complete. For example, it’s nearly impossible to give information for different sizes in a video. A lot of videos don’t give you the final dimensions, gauge*, sizing but dive right into the step-by-step instructions. However, knowing these and taking them into account when you crochet a project is crucial to your project’s success.
*your gauge is how many stitches and how many rows you have (using your selected yarn, hook and stitch) in a 10 cm or 4” square
Graphs and photo patterns have the same issue.
Photos and videos are a great support to a written pattern to explain tricky sections and help you visualize what your project should look like at a specific point but it doesn’t replace a complete written pattern.
2. So You Have Plenty of Choice
About 99% of patterns available to you are written. There are several reasons why this is the case:
- Videos take a lot of time to make and edit
- Videos, photo patterns and graphs take more skills/tech knowledge to make and edit.
- Video hasn’t been around for as long as writing.
This means that a lot of amazing designers only provide written patterns.
Here is the thing; when you learn how to work with a written pattern, you have so many more options to choose from! Once you get comfortable with the layout and logic of written patterns your problem won’t be to find a pattern anymore but to decide which one to start with.
3. So You Don’t Spend Forever Looking for a Video Pattern
Another side to the limited choice of video patterns is the time you loose looking for a pattern you want to make.
There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing a gorgeous shawl you want to make but it doesn’t have a video pattern. So you start searching for something similar with a video tutorial. 20 shawls down the road and still no video.
Once you’re comfortable with written crochet patterns, you won’t need to spend forever looking for a pattern that has a video version. You can just go ahead and start stitching the shawl you originally wanted.
Imagine all the extra hours of crochet time you’ll get!
It’s hard enough navigating Pinterest to find the pattern, don’t make it harder on yourself by limiting yourself to video tutorials.
4. So You Learn About New Techniques and Stitches You Didn’t Even Knew Existed
When you make up your own projects without following any pattern, it’s only natural you tend to stick to techniques and stitches you know. Or at least the ones you know about. But there’s so much more out there. So many new skills to explore.
I’ve made the same basic blanket for 15 years before I ventured out and taught myself how to follow patterns. Although I thoroughly enjoy making block blankets, I’m so happy I discovered this entire universe of yarn. And I still have so much more to explore!
When you know how to read a crochet pattern and start following different patterns, you’ll learn about all these stitches and techniques you didn’t even know existed. It’s always good to get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to learn something new. Crochet patterns offer you the opportunity to do so.
5. So You Can Be Flexible and Crochet Anytime & Anywhere You Want
Written patterns have the great benefit of being portable. If you get a PDF version, you can print it, add it to your project bag and start crocheting anywhere you want.
I do most of my crochet while binge-watching the latest episodes of Grey’s Anatomy with my husband. Having the pattern on my phone or even better printed next to me makes that possible.
At first, you’ll probably need to focus more on what you’re doing but with time and experience you’ll get more comfortable and start to crochet while enjoying your surroundings. This is when crochet becomes the most enjoyable. I knit & crochet almost anywhere now. Here are some of my favorite spots:
Imagine if I was following a video pattern. I’d have to set time aside, sit down at my computer in a quiet place and have a big chunk of time to crochet to get anywhere. That’s not happening very often with a 9 months old baby at home.
Instead, I have my latest wip (work in progress) lying around the living room with my pattern and I get a few rows in here and there when I can. You’d be surprised how much I get done this way.
All I need is a pencil or marker to indicate where I stopped last and I can easily put it down and pick it back up later. With videos, it’s harder to find back where you stopped, you need to replay it 20 times because the designer crochets faster than you do or you didn’t hit pause on time.
Crochet patterns are a bit of a struggle to start with but once you know how to read them, they will make your crochet journey so much better and more fulfilling. You’ll save so much time looking for patterns.
You’ll be able to crochet anytime & place you want.
You’ll learn new stitches and techniques you didn’t even know existed.
Most importantly, you’ll have all the information on hand to create beautiful crochet projects to gift your friends and family.
Are you ready to start learning how to work with written crochet patterns?
I’ve got you!
Grab my FREE Master Crochet Patterns Roadmap below. It is going to show you EXACTLY the steps you need to confidently follow a crochet pattern (and end up with a project that actually looks like the pictures)
Carol L. BrownApril 27, 2021 at 11:02 pm
Thank you Hortense for posting this information about reading crochet patterns. It’s exactly like you knew all about me and how I learned to crochet and have been doing the same old steps over and over because I was afraid to venture out and learn more . I really do want to know exactly how to read a pattern, any pattern and be able to do it and be proud that I did it. I do use tutorials a lot, but like you said they are not portable. I’m an eager leaner.
Hortense MaskensMay 5, 2021 at 2:44 pm
Hi Carol, so happy to hear my post resonated with you! I can’t wait to share more about reading patterns and help you master them!
Laura ImpastatoApril 28, 2021 at 12:15 am
Oh, so well said! At 12y.o. I learned to crochet by watching and working with a friend’s mother. English was her second language, it was my only language. She was an excellent teacher but I didn’t know the names if some stitches. I purchased a few beginner patterns to be able to put my learned technique with a name. Then I started my reading venture. I always took advantage of older crochet ers who did everything by rote. And still followed my pattern reading. The two came together perfectly. How blessed and lucky I was! Now I am the “older crocheter”. Most patterns are read now. If I pass on my knowledge, I do it with pattern in hand so my pupil can recreate without me. It has been a wonderful journey. Your article just reinforces my experience. So glad you put it out there. I hope you reach many who will learn pattern reading.
JennieApril 28, 2021 at 5:59 am
GREAT artical! I put my pattern in a clear page protector with a megnatic board. I move the magnet down after I finish a row. That way I always know which row I am working.
There is a hook holder I would love to make, but it is only on YouTube. Like you said, she goes much faster then I can crochet. I am always frogging at some point in my projects.
Carol L. BrownMay 19, 2021 at 12:29 am
Hi Hortense, I would be very interested in your class you are thinking about doing on how to read a pattern. Please let me know all the details when you start. Thank you so much.
Hortense MaskensMay 30, 2021 at 12:36 am
You can find all the details and enroll here: https://programs.knittingwithchopsticks.com/proficient-patterns-salespage
I look forward to have you in the workshop!