How to Read a Pattern

This is a section-by-section guide to how to read a pattern.  Most patterns are written in a similar format, so that it’s easy to scan one before you purchase the pattern, purchase the materials, and get started.

I recommend reading through the pattern before you start.  I know that I, at least, often start a project, look at the second instruction, say, “That just doesn’t make sense!” and modify… just to find out that that step is needed for the later instructions to work right.  The key is to be sure you know (at least sort of) how the object is made.

Descriptionis very straightforward: it’s a description of what the object should look like and often a simple explanation of the method in making it.  The description usually comes first, and is often accompanied by a photo or sketch of the object.

Materials/Tools/Equipment (and other such names) is where the designer tells you what you need to make the project.  This includes the yarn, the size of hook, and any extras you need (for example, on an amigurumi you may need plastic eyes).  Don’t be afraid to substitute yarn, or change the hook size!  The next section will account for that.

Gauge is important in most patterns.  Here it will say something like “10 rows with 10 stitches in dc = 4 inches.”  Make a swatch with more rows and stitches than called for.  If you have trouble counting stitches, put a stitch marker in place so that you know what area is “10 rows by 10 stitches” or whatever is called for.  Then measure.  If your swatch is too small (ie, 10×10 is smaller than 4″), go up a hook size and try again.  If it’s too big, go down a hook size and try again.  (I like to frog them and reuse the yarn for swatching, if I need to redo it.)

Some patterns will say, “Gauge is not important to this pattern,” or something to that effect.  Even so, you may want to crochet a few rows just to make sure the recommended hook doesn’t come out too tight or too loose.  (And of course, reuse that yarn!)

Special Stitches/Stitches Needed lists the stitches that are defined by the designer.  This is sort of like a pattern within a pattern, because the stitch will have a set of instructions by it. 

Let’s make up a stitch for an example of this:
Woobly Stitch (ws): dc in next sp, ch3, sk next sp, sc, ch 1
So whenever the pattern says, “ws 5,” you repeat this pattern 5 times.  This saves space in the actual instructions that follow.
As I’m writing this with my supplies nowhere near me, I can’t tell you what this stitch looks like.  😉

Pattern is where the actual instructions for the pattern are.  A pattern can be written in instructions or in a diagram.  For more information on these methods, see the Shorthand page.

Errata may be available for a pattern.  These are modifications/corrections to the pattern made after the pattern was published.  Most patterns bought on paper–magazine, book, etc.–will have written on them somewhere the place where you can check for errata.  Patterns published online will either be updated to include the corrections or have a link to the corrections on a separate page/file.  Always check for errata when you are about to start a pattern!  It’s no fun to have spent a week making something just to find out that in the third row, it’s “sc 10, sc inc” instead of “*sc, sc inc* 10 times.”  (Using a hypothetical pattern, but hopefully you understand my meaning.  In the corrected version, you only increase by one stitch; in the other, you increase by 10, and my have the wrong number of stitches for your row.)


This page is in progress, but I expect to finish it up sometime today or this weekend.

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