I teach crochet classes at a lys, and this morning, one of my new, beginner students, asked me to show her how to read a crochet pattern. I had showed her how to chain, single crochet, and double crochet, and she wanted to know more. Another student who was working from a pattern, offered to let me use her pattern as an example, so that she could learn some things, too. As I was going over some of the beginning information, I thought it would be helpful to talk about some of it here, because I get questions about reading patterns all the time.
First of all, I suggest reading the pattern all the way through, before you start crocheting. Mark places where you have questions.
Then, here are the usual parts of the pattern:
SIZES. These are usually written like this: XS(S, M, L, XL) But what does that mean? What measurement is an XS? You'll need to look at the numbers next to these letters. They might look like this: 32"(36", 40", 44"), and be under the heading: FINISHED MEASUREMENTS.
What does that mean? Well, it means the measurements of the finished garment. Not your body measurements, but the GARMENT measurements. So if you had a chest size of 32" and you want to make a sweater with "positive ease", your finished measurement might be 36" or 40", or however much "ease" you want. Which leads to - what is "ease"? "Ease" is the amount of room you have between you and the garment. "Positive ease" is roomy - bigger than your body measurement. Some patterns, however, require "negative ease" - smaller than your body measurement. These garments could be meant to be worn tight, or they could be very lacy and loosely crocheted, so that they would stretch quite a bit. If you need to be concerned about "negative ease", very often it will be mentioned somewhere at the beginning of a pattern - the Notes section, probably.
Okay, we know the garment comes in 4 sizes, and we have to choose which size to make. All of the directions from here on will have choices for different sizes. You might have a direction that says: Ch 25(41, 57, 73). If you were making the XS (extra small) size, you would chain 25. If you were making the L (large) size, you would chain 57. It's a good idea to go through the pattern and highlight the directions for the size that you want to make.
Somewhere, after FINISHED MEASUREMENTS, there will be a section for MATERIALS. (It may be separated from the directions.) This section covers yarn, hook size or sizes, and anything extra that you may need.
I'll talk about yarns and hooks in another post - there is a lot to say about each!
The next part is usually GAUGE. This is measured, usually over 4", but sometimes over another inch measure - it depends on the stitch pattern and how long it is. A simple gauge description is: 16 sc and 8 rows = 4".
But what if you have a pattern stitch. Then this would be how it is designated: 4 pattern repeats and 4 rows = 4".
Sometimes, patterns don't give you the row gauge, just the stitch gauge. And remember, this is figured using the hook size that was in the MATERIALS section along with the yarn that was listed there.
Now, this is all just simple math, but my student asked me "What is gauge?" So, I'm asking you. What is gauge?
I'm going to talk about it in my next post! Think about it until then, and if you think you have an answer, post a comment, please!
The next part of a pattern is usually the stitches used, and any special stitch pattern. In this section, the abbreviations for the stitches and stitch pattern are given. We used abbreviations so that we don't have to write out the stitches each and every time. "Dc" is a lot easier and quicker to write than "double crochet". And it saves space - really important in print!
Then, there are the NOTES. This is a section that will tell you things that you need to know about the pattern. Perhaps that it is worked in the round, or side to side. There may be a note about crocheting the pieces in the correct order, and then connecting them. There is all kinds of information in the notes - don't forget to read them!
So - I've taken you through the first part of reading a pattern. I'll be continuing this, with the answer to the question: What is gauge? And I'll talk about hooks and yarns. Then, I'll go through the typical pattern, line by line.
'Til next time!