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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Reading a Crochet Pattern

I've noticed a lot of posts on FB lately from people asking for help reading a pattern. So, I wrote up a pattern to make a simple poppy flower. We'll go through how to read the pattern and understand the abbreviations.

This is what we'll be making. I should add that this is my own, untested pattern, inspired by all the flowers I've been making lately. If you find any mistakes, please let me know.
Most patterns start out with a materials list which looks something like this:

     Small amounts of yarn in black & red
     Hook sized for yarn used  (check your yarn label for the recommended hook size)
     stitch marker  (optional, but we'll be crocheting in the round, so this is a good way to mark the first stitch)
     blunt needle    (to weave in the ends)

This is just a list of what you will need to complete the project. The pattern will tell you exactly the type of yarn used to complete the finished project as seen. If you don't wish to use the yarn specified, you can substitute a different yarn. In order to ensure you buy enough yarn, I like to look up the yarn used (Google comes in handy here!) and calculate how many yards were used to complete the project. When I buy the yarn I want, I now have an idea of how much to buy. If you're unsure what yarn to substitute, bring the pattern to your local yarn store (LYS) for advice. You can also google "yarn substitutions" for ideas.

For this project, you just need small amounts of the colors used, so it's a great stash buster. For the flower pictured, I used 100% wool in red and black because I plan on felting the flower.

Next, most patterns will list abbreviations used when writing the pattern. This is helpful so that you know how to read the pattern & it also tells you what stitches you'll need to know in order to complete the pattern. If you see a stitch you don't know, search for it on YouTube. YouTube is a great resource to learn a new stitch as you get to watch someone make it and you can bookmark the video & refer to it when needed. For this pattern, we will be using the following abbreviations:
     ch = chain                                                                           
     hdc = half double crochet                                            
     RD = round                                                                        
     sc = single crochet
     ss = slip stitch
     st = stitch
     tc = treble crochet

If there is a need, some patterns will list notes before the instructions. What you might find here are the special stitches you will be working or anything the author feels you should know before beginning the pattern. For my pattern, I have listed the following instructions:
Notes:  You will need to know how to work a magic circle to use this pattern. I used    worsted weight 100% wool (#4) and an “H” hook for flower about 3.25” before felting.

If you don't know how to start with a magic circle, you can chain 3 and slip stitch to form a loop. You can then work the stitches from Round 1 (below) into the loop. I do recommend looking up "magic loop" on YouTube and learning how to do this. Once you learn the magic loop, you will never want to chain to form a loop. The magic loop is so much easier and it allows you to completely close the center, so there is no hole. With that said, if you're making a pattern that needs a hole in the center, do not use the magic loop (or don't close your loop the entire way.)

If there is any information on gauge you will see this information before the instructions. This flower doesn't have a gauge because the size will be determined by the type of yarn & size of hook used. However, if you see a pattern that does recommend a gauge swatch, please take the time to work the swatch. This is when you will see if you need to make any changes to the hook size or tension you're using to crochet. The last thing you want to do is complete a pattern and find out it's the wrong size. Been there, bought the t-shirt. Now I ALWAYS make a gauge swatch before starting any new pattern or if I'll be working a familiar pattern with a different kind of yarn. It really doesn't take long and it's soooo worth it!

Next come the instructions. Since this post is intended to help someone learn to read a pattern, I thought it would be best to post the instructions & then break them down. I did not take pictures of the steps as this post is not intended as a tutorial. If there is a need, later on, I can create a tutorial post to make this flower. I promise you, it's very easy!

This pattern is only 6 lines long. We'll take each line (or round) individually.
     RD 1: With black yarn: 5 sc in magic circle, ss to join 

You've looked up magic circle & tested it out. Now you're ready to start. Using your black yarn, work a total of 5 single crochets into your magic circle. I recommend using a stitch marker to mark the first single crochet, so you know which stitch to use to join the stitches. Once you have make 5 single crochets, close the circle by slip stitching to the first single crochet. Now tighten the circle by gently pulling on the magic circle tail until there is no hole. 

     RD 2: sc in each st, ss to join. Fasten off black & switch to red.

Continuing with your black yarn, you will single crochet in each single crochet you just made. To start, remove the stitch marker and make the first single crochet. You may wish to mark this stitch as, once again, this is the stitch you will use to join the circle.

After you make all your single crochets, you will slip stitch to the first single crochet to join the circle. You can either slip stitch using the black yarn and then join the red yarn in the next round or you can join the red yarn in the last stitch (this is what I do.) To join the red in the last stitch:

Make all 5 single crochets. When you come to your slip stitch, insert your hook into the first single crochet DO NOT PULL THE BLACK YARN THROUGH. Instead, drop the black yarn and pick up the red yarn and pull the RED yarn through to complete your slip stitch. Cut the black yarn leaving a long tail which you will weave in later. Your red is now attached & you can continue to round #3. In Rounds 3 & 4, we're going to use the red yarn to make the foundation for two rows of petals.

     RD 3: (*ch2, 1sc in next st*) repeat around from * to *

To read these instructions you need to know that the information in the parenthesis is meant to be read as a complete set of instructions. Also, when you see an asterisk (*) that means the stitches given between the two asterisk will be repeated. So, for this round using the RED yarn, what we're going to do is chain 2 stitches and then make 1 single crochet in the first single crochet of your circle. This completes the instructions in the parenthesis. You can now move on to the next set of instructions, which tells us to repeat these instructions in the next stitch. So, you will once again chain 2 and make 2 single crochet in the next single crochet in your circle. Complete this process until you've come to the last stitch. Since you're ending with a single crochet, you will single crochet in the stitch where you started the chain 2 process.

     RD 4: repeat RD 3 in same stitches. You will have 2 st and 2 ch2 spaces in each sc
              – one set in the front & one in the back.

These instructions are read as:  Repeat round #3 using the same technique & stitches. Something that is different for this row is the additional information in italics. You will sometimes see this on instruction sheets if the author feels additional information should be given. In this case, the additional information is to assure the reader that they should be making two stitches in each single crochet, as this is not something that would usually be done.

So, to complete Round 4, you will chain 2 stitches and work 1 single crochet in the next stitch. Repeat this process until you come around and single crochet (you're ending with a single crochet, remember) into the last stitch. You will now have two "rows" of chain 2 spaces. One that sits in the back & one in the front. With Round 5, we will start making petals using the front "row" of chain 2 stitches. 

     RD 5: ss into closest front ch2 space (*ch1, 5 hdc, ch1, sc in next ch2 space*) repeat   
              around from * to *

You should read this line as:  slip stitch into the closest (next) chain 2 space (remember, you're working in the front "row" of chain 2 stitches.) After the slip stitch the next cluster (in parenthesis) of stitches is: chain 1, 5 half double crochets (IN THE SAME STITCH AS THE SLIP STITCH,) then chain 1 and single crochet in the next chain 2 space. Repeat this cluster of stitches all the way around the circle. When you get to the last single crochet, we will move to Round #6, where we will create the back row of taller petals.

     RD 6: ss into closest back ch2 space (*sc in next ch2 space, ch4, 5tc, ch4, sc in same 
              space*) repeat around from * to *.  Fasten off and weave in ends.

This round is, actually, very much like the previous round except we're going to be making more chains and doing a different stitch. You should read these instructions as:  slip stitch into the closest (next) chain 2 space in the row behind the row you just worked. After the slip stitch the next cluster (in parenthesis) of stitches is: chain 4, 5 treble crochets (IN THE SAME STITCH AS THE SLIP STITCH,) then chain 4 and single crochet in the next chain 2 space. Repeat this cluster of stitches all the way around the circle. The last single crochet is your ending spot where you can fasten off your yarn and weave in all your ends.

Lastly, these instructions include information on finishing which reads:

     Finishing: You can use the flower as is and sew to a hat, purse or garment. You can
                     also attach a pin back and use as a brooch. If you use 100% wool, you can     
                     felt the flower before using. The flower will shrink about ½ to 1” in size.

The finishing instructions here are very simple. For some patterns, such as purse patterns, garments or afghans, the finishing instructions will tell you how to put your item together. Be sure to read through these instructions before you start to assembly your project.

That's it! I know it seems like a lot, but that's because we went through each line and each stitch. I hope this is helpful in teaching you how to read a pattern. 

Lastly, if you ever have trouble with a pattern, there are a number of sources you can try. You can google a stitch, look it up on YouTube, post a question to a forum or contact the pattern author. You can also leave a comment here or email me at with your question. I don't claim to be an expert, but I can read most patterns and would be happy to help. 

Happy Crocheting!!!

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