How to Read a Crochet Pattern

If you’re new to the world of crochet, welcome!  It’s an exciting world, but hard to navigate without  knowing how to read a crochet pattern.

This is a beginner’s guide on how to read a crochet pattern.  It’s a walk-though of what to do from the time you pick up a crochet pattern until you cut that last piece of yarn.

I’t’s helpful to use a real pattern as a guide when learning how to read a crochet pattern.  This way, you’ll become familiar with crochet terminology and the typical style and format of a pattern.  Our “instructional guide” is a pattern for this cute crochet headband:

How to Read a Crochet Pattern - Crochet Headband Pattern

Sure you’re learning, but why not make something cute (and quick) instead of a boring old dishcloth?

This pattern has two sets of directions– one with abbreviated crochet terms and another with completely written out instructions for those beginners who are just learning how to read a crochet pattern.

To get started, you can download a free pattern for the crocheted headband:

Download Crochet Headband Pattern

This is what an average crochet pattern looks like.  As you can see, it consists of four parts:

1.  MATERIALS – Yarn, Crochet Hook(s), and Supplies you’ll need for the project.

For this headband, we need worsted weight yarn (regular weight), and a size H crochet hook.  The finishing needle is a simply a large needle used to “weave in the yarn ends” at the end of the pattern.

2.  GAUGE – The number of stitches per square inch.  For this specific  pattern, the gauge is 12 stitches = 4 inches.  This means when you’re crocheting with worsted weight yarn and an H hook 12 double crochet stitches should measure 4 inches.

If you have more stitches in a 4 inch block (ie. 14 or 15 stitches), it means your gauge is too tight.  You need to go up a hook size–to a I or a J hook– until you crochet exactly 12 stitches in 4 inches.

It’s good to check your gauge for every project, but when working on a project where gauge doesn’t matter too much (like for this headband pattern), as long as you’re close, you’ll be fine.  When making a garment, always – always check your gauge! 

3.  ABBREVIATIONS – A list of crochet abbreviations used in the pattern.  Most crochet designers use abbreviations to save space and make instructions easier to read.  It takes some getting used to, but try to train your brain to read “double crochet” whenever you see the abbreviation “dc”.  Don’t worry – it becomes second nature after a while!

Here is a short list of commonly used crochet abbreviations:

  • ch – Chain
  • sl st – Slip Stitch
  • sc – Single Crochet
  • hdc – Half-Double Crochet
  • dc – Double Crochet
  • tr – Triple (or Treble) Crochet
  • yo – Yarn over

4.  DIRECTIONS – The actual instructions of how to make the project.  You’ll notice slight variations between designers and companies, but crocheting is a universal language.  Don’t let the slight variations throw you off.

Start at the beginning, and work your way down following the pattern step-by-step.

99% of patterns start off with instructions to “Chain X number of stitches”.  In crocheting, chains are the foundational stitches of every crochet project.

After making a foundation chain, you will see instructions for either Rows or Rounds.  Patterns with “rows” means the piece is worked flat (like this headband), while patterns that say “rounds” are for items that are worked in the round (like a hat).  Knowing this difference in terminology between a row and a round gives you an initial idea of how your piece is going to work up.


Those are the basic instruction of how to read a crochet pattern.  When you’re evaluating a new pattern, try to identify the main parts  to understand what the designer is saying.  What is important?  Does it look appropriate for your skill level?  Are there special materials or new stitches you’ll need to use?

If you get stuck, you can always Google/ Youtube the part that’s giving unclear.  If you’d like a second set of eyes, feel free to e-mail me and I’d be more than happy to give you a hand.

Learning how to read a crochet pattern can be daunting when you first start out.  It gets easier, but pattern reading is such an important part of crocheting that it’s imperative for any serious crafter.  Patterns are how the crochet world talks.  If you want to make new things and communicate with other crocheteres, you’ll have to read patterns.  Yes, it’s awkward at the beginning, but trust me – it gets easier.  Give it a try – you’ll be crocheting like a pro in no time!

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