Cracking the Crochet Abbreviation “Code”
So you saw a free pattern for something super cool you want to make, looked at the directions, and then promptly said “what the what?” All patterns begin with what materials you need (yarn type, size of hook, etc.) as well as the recommended gauge. (We will learn more about how to gauge a project later when we work more advanced projects). The pattern may also have notes and tips. Then, the directions. Only, they are written in a code. Deciphering the code easier than you think. Crochet language is basically just abbreviations of the stitches that are called for.
Ch= chain, SC= single crochet, DC =Double Crochet, HDC= Half Double Crochet and so on. As you learn and practice each new stitch, remember its name and abbreviation. After a while you will get used to the terms. You can also do what I do and watch tutorial videos and refer to handy dandy stitch abbreviation guides to help you remember like this one:
Other things to watch out for
- Terms. Is the pattern written in UK terms or US terms? Most of the patterns you work will likely be in US terms. But, if you found a pattern online, it could be written in UK terms. The reason this matters is that the US and the UK use different names for the same stitches. Use a stitch conversion chart like this one:
- Turning chains. This one will get ya everytime. You end up with the wrong number of stitches and then the edges get all crooked. Still happens to me all the time. Do you count the turning chain as a stitch or don’t you? Unless otherwise stated in the pattern, do what is called for for the stitch you are working. Each stitch has its own set of rules regarding the turning chain. Example 1: You are working rows of single crochet (sc). With sc, the ch 1 at the beginning of the row is never counted as a stitch and therefore does not get worked into during subsequent rows. We say “never” here because it is the rule of thumb until the pattern states otherwise. Example 2: You are working rows of double crochet (dc). The beginning ch 2 always counts as a stitch and therefore gets worked into during subsequent rows. This is why it is very important to master your basic stitches before tackling a project. But remember: pattern always trumps stitch rules.
- Repeats. 2 ways:
- Asterisk*. An asterisk symbol in crochet pattern means repeat from the * the specified number of times. Example 3: 2 sc, *sc in next 2 stitches, 2 sc in next stitch* 3 times. This means you work through the stitches within the * once. Then 3 more times for a total of 4 times.
- Parentheses () in a pattern means to work the directions in parentheses the number of times specified total. Example 4: 2 sc, (sc in next 2 stitches, 2 sc in next stitch) two times. This means you should work 2 sc. Then 1 sc, 1 sc, and 2sc. Then 1 sc, 1 sc, and 2sc.
- Numbers in parentheses at the end of a row or round. This (24) means you should have a total of 24 stitches at the end of the row or round. Remember: for single crochet (sc) you count the little v’s on top. For taller stitches, count the post–the part of the stitch that looks like a twisty column.
Note On Free Patterns: You can find a plethora of wonderful free patterns online, and within that, patterns that are by “amateur” designers or that are untested. These patterns are more likely to use asterisk and parentheses interchangeably or in a confusing way. So if we look back at Example 3, the designer could actually mean for you to do sc in the next 2 stitches, 2 sc in next stitch 3 times, not 4 times. Hopefully at the end of each row they will also include a number like (26) telling you that you should have 26 stitches total at the end of the row or round. In confusing cases, you just need to try it both ways to see which way achieves the correct number of total stitches at the end of each row or round. You may also see use of  brackets, –dashes or // slashes in place of *asterisk or () parenthesis.
An Introduction to Crochet Diagrams
Here’s an example crochet diagram for a granny square:
From Petals & Picots’ pillow pattern
Another more visual way of reading a pattern is through use of diagrams like the one above. Crochet diagrams are charts made up of symbols that represent stitches. Designers use symbols to better capture and illustrate their ideas. Diagrams can also help where the pattern was written in a different language or terms and help the crocheter better visualize what the designer intended.
I personally haven’t advanced far enough to be able to crochet something from just looking at a diagram. For me, I don’t feel like diagrams help me much. If I see diagrams, I mostly ignore them and stick to the written pattern.
Others, however, do find diagrams make more sense.
Here is a really nice symbols guide that also has abbreviation terms at the bottom: