Hey guys, today I'm going to be writing about the basics of how to read a crochet pattern. I'll be covering different ways that patterns could be written, as well as explaining brackets & different variations of how shapes can be written. This post is basically meant to be a 'refresher' for people who already understand how to crochet, but may find themselves stuck on certain things they run into.
Basics & Brackets A good way to think of a crochet pattern is: reading a crochet pattern is basically reading a math equation. You are constantly adding or subtracting stitches to the rounds or rows, or multiplying parts of the lines, to get a total number of stitches. Just like in math equations, brackets are used to add or subtract numbers together, followed by multiplying the number in brackets to give you a total. Inc = two stitches in the same stitch. Since there is already a stitch in the round before, it is adding one to the total stitch count. (1 existing stitch in the previous round/row +1 new stitch = 2 stitches) Dec = pulling two stitches together to become one stitch, which subtracts one from the total stitch count. (2 existing stitches from the previous round/row -1 stitch = 1) x = number of times a line is repeated Why brackets are used: brackets are basically just used to save having to type the same thing out repeatedly, which also makes it much easier to read the pattern! In my examples, "fully written" is what a pattern would look like if it was written literally, stitch for stitch, without any brackets or multiplication symbols. It would be extremely hard to follow a pattern that is written literally, because the lines end up much longer.
When a line in the pattern is in brackets, followed by an "x" & number, that indicates how many times to repeat the part of the line written inside the brackets. If there are no brackets or "x" & number, you would repeat the line until you end up with the number at the end of the line in brackets.
The number in brackets at the end of the line is always the total stitch count. That means it is the total number of stitches you will end up with once the round/row is completed.
An example of increasing in a round: (3 sc, inc) x 6 (30) = (3 + 2) x 6 (30) = (5) x 6 (30) You would repeat the pattern of "3 sc, inc" 6 times to get a total stitch count of 30. 3 sc + inc (which is two stitches) will you give you 5 stitches. 5 x 6 will give you 30 stitches in total. If there are no brackets, the pattern would be the exact same. You would just follow it until your total stitch count adds up to the number in brackets at the end of the round: 3 sc, inc (30) = (3 sc, inc) x 6 (30) An example of decreasing in a round: (3 sc, dec) x 6 (24) = (3 + 1) x 6 (24) = (4) x 6 (24) You would repeat the pattern of "3 sc, dec" 6 times to get a total stitch count of 24. 3 sc + dec (which is pulling two stitches from the previous round into one stitch) will give you 4 stitches. 4 x 6 will you give you 24 stitches in total. If there are no brackets, the pattern would be the exact same. You would just follow it until your total stitch count adds up to the number in brackets at the end of the round: 3 sc, dec (24) = (3 sc, dec) x 6 (24)
Parts in brackets You may run into a pattern where certain parts of a line are in brackets but others are not. Generally, this is used when working in an oval shape or working with an "odd" shape. The part of the line written in brackets is always the part that's repeated. As an example: (sc, inc) x 2, 3 sc, (sc, inc) x 3, 4 sc, inc (24) The brackets here are used to shorten repeated parts in the line. Without the brackets, the line becomes much harder to read/follow. It would read as: sc, inc, sc, inc, 3 sc, sc, inc, sc, inc, sc, inc, 4 sc, inc (24)
No Brackets/Odd Shapes Some patterns may include "odd shapes" where increases and/or decreases are repeated. This kind of pattern is generally used for cheeks, noses, etc to give certain areas more defined shapes. As an example: 8 sc, inc x 4, 8 sc (24) Since there are no brackets, you would make 8 sc stitches, then increase 4 times in a row, and then make 8 sc stitches. You would not repeat "8 sc, inc" 4 times - if that were the case, it would be written as (8 sc, inc) x 4. Again, when the line is fully written, it becomes much harder to read/follow. It would actually read as: 8 sc, inc, inc, inc, inc, 8 sc (24)
Another example of no brackets would be: 13 sc, inc (45) = 13 sc, 2 sc (45) = 15 (45) Clearly without brackets, 15 sc stitches will not give you a total of 45 stitches. In this case, it is best to use a stitch marker & repeat the round until you get the total number of stitches in brackets at the end of the round.
In this specific example, the pattern would become: 13 sc, inc, 13 sc, inc, 13 sc, inc (45) So, you would need to repeat the pattern 3 times to get 45 stitches.
When working in a round, there are two ways to do it that both add up the same, but are a) written differently, and b) will give you different results.
As you can see, the light pink circle looks more like a hexagon than a circle, whereas the dark pink circle actually looks like a circle. The pattern for the light pink circle is: 1. magic ring 6 sc (6) 2. inc x 6 (12) 3. (sc, inc) x 6 (18) 4. (2 sc, inc) x 6 (24) 5. (3 sc, inc) x 6 (30) 6. (4 sc, inc) x 6 (36) The pattern for the dark pink circle is: 1. magic ring 6 sc (6) 2. inc x 6 (12) 3. (sc, inc) x 6 (18) 4. (sc, inc, sc) x 6 (24) 5. (3 sc, inc) x 6 (30) 6. (2 sc, inc, 2 sc) x 6 (36)
When both of the lines are fully written, they would become:
(4 sc, inc) x 6 (36) = 4 sc, inc, 4 sc, inc, 4 sc, inc, 4 sc, inc, 4 sc, inc, 4 sc, inc (36)
(2 sc, inc, 2 sc) x 6 (36) = 2 sc, inc, 4 sc, inc, 4 sc, inc, 4 sc, inc, 4 sc, inc, 4 sc, inc, 2 sc (36)
As you can see, they end up adding up to the exact same total stitch count.
Both shapes are made with only a slight variation in how the pattern is written. The only difference between the two is dividing the even numbers (example: 4 sc) in half (by 2) & placing them on each side of the increases ("4 sc, inc" would become "2 sc, inc, 2 sc" instead).
As rounds are repeated, the hexagon shape forms when the increases or decreases are stacked on top of each other. When the rounds are divided, this will stop the hexagon shape from forming & give you a circular shape instead. It is extremely handy to know how to do this - in my personal opinion, it makes your project look much cleaner to avoid the hexagon shape. Since it's more round, it will also be much easier to stuff rounder than the hexagon shape.
Front loops & back loops
When you look at the top of a stitch, you will see two loops:
Front loops are the loops that are closest to you. In amigurumi projects, they are generally used to make a portion of the piece "stick out" (for example: cheeks, a nose).
Back loops are the loops that are furthest from you. In projects, they are generally used to make a piece "sit flat" (for example: the bottom of a foot) or to leave the front loops 'exposed' on a piece, so you can attach another piece to it.
Sometimes a full round, or just a part of a round/row, is worked in the front loops or back loops. My best advice when a part of a round/row is worked in the front loop or back loop is: pay attention to where the commas are & how the line is written. This will save you a lot of time & frustration! As an example: 12 sc, in the front loop only: 6 sc, 12 sc (30) For this specific line, you would sc 12 & then work 6 sc in the front loop only & then sc 12. You may see it written as "12 sc, in the front loop only: 6 sc, through both loops: 12 sc" - that means is the exact same thing. "Both loops" or "single crocheted normally" just means to no longer work in the front loops or back loops. Final thoughts Hopefully this post helps to resolve a lot of confusion that folks run into while reading/following a pattern. If something genuinely does not add up, it is generally a good idea to contact the designer. However, there is a very high chance that most issues can be solved by just relearning the basics of reading a pattern.