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Reading Patterns
update © 2004, 2012 Sandra Petit, http://www.crochetcabana.com

One of the things a beginning crocheter often has problems with is reading a pattern. It can be confusing, almost like reading a different language.

Here is a good article on reading patterns at Annie's Attic written by Brenda Stratton. I also recently found a video by excellent crocheter, Beth Ham. It's long but gives a lot of useful info.

Sometimes a designer will make a notation on the pattern as to the skill level needed to complete the pattern. The designer of the pattern, of course, determines what skill level he or she chooses to put on it, if any. I normally don't put skill levels on my patterns though I have on a few of them. This is particularly because it means different things to different people. What you feel is easy might be hard to someone else. You might also remember that being ABLE to do something and wanting to do it or wanting to take the time to mess with it are not the same thing. You might have the skill to do it, but it may not be something you are interested in doing.

Crochet designer Bendy Carter (author of Crochet on the Edge) recently posted her opinion of the various skill levels. Since I agree with her ideas, I have obtained permission to repost them here. This is not anything official, but just a guideline as seen by a couple of crocheters. CYCA has a different guideline noted on their web site, which you might want to take as "official". They are okay as far as they go, but I think Bendy's is more comprehensive and really gives a better idea to the average crocheter, who maybe doesn't make a lot of clothes which require shaping.

I left the abbreviations in, as I think you need to learn those if you don't know them already!

    Skill Levels
    ©2007 Bendy Carter
    shared with permission Jan. 2007

    Someone who is just learning to crochet.
    Can do ch, sc, dc.
    Can dec at the end of a row by leaving a st unworked.
    Can inc at the beg or end of a row by working 2 sts.

    Advanced Beginner:
    Someone who can do things listed under Beginner.
    Can do hdc, tr, sl st.
    Can use a combination of the learned sts in a rep pat.
    Can change colors at the beg and end of a row.
    Can sl st across to form dec at beg of row.
    Can follow a written or graph pattern that uses known sts in a repetitive form with the help of an abbreviation key.

    Someone who can do things listed under Advanced Beginner.
    Can do MOST of the following in basic form (not all, just most, as a suggestion say 9 or more of the following 17 listed):
    post stitches, filet, tunisian, double ended hook, hairpin lace, broomstick lace, shells, popcorns, clusters, pineapples, roll stitch, surface ch st, loop st, connected st, cross st, spike st, reverse sc, etc.
    Can crochet in circles, in square rnds, as well as back and forth.
    Can change colors in the middle of a row.
    Can work dec sts at the beg and end of a row.
    Can follow a written or graph pattern that uses known sts in a repetitive form.

    Someone who can do fancy versions of the stitches listed inIntermediate. For instance; can form cables using post stitches,
    can knit and purl in tunisian, can do lacets and patterns in filet,etc.
    Can do numerous color changes.
    Can do inc and dec sts to create detailed shaping.
    Can follow a pattern to work an unusual or intricate st not seenbefore.
    Can follow a pattern that does not use a repetitive st.

You may not immediately recognize some of the terms used in the different levels. Many are explained further in the dictionary at this site and some are even featured in videos at my YouTube channel.

Here a list of symbols and abbreviations commonly used in patterns. If you are an experienced crocheter, you may only need to be reminded of what the abbreviation means. I also have definitions of these abbreviations and more in the Crochet Dictionary on this site. There are a few abbreviations that are not actually used in patterns, but you may read on a crochet forum. I will list them here to help you out:

frog - rip your work back due to error or discontent
jayg - join as you go
mam - mile a minute
PHD - projects half done
UFO - unfinished object
WIP - work in progress

If you find abbreviations give you trouble when trying to read a pattern, continue reading for a way to get rid of them for patterns you have (or can get) into your computer. Remember that if you type in a pattern that is copyrighted, you may not share that pattern with anyone else. It is for your personal use only.

    Firstly, the pattern must be in your computer somewhere or you have to type it in. Open your word processor. Copy and paste the text of your pattern into your word processor if it is not already there. If it is already saved, then open that file.

    At the top of your screen are your commands - File, Edit etc. Under Edit is a command called "Replace". There is one that will just find and there is one that will both find an item and then replace it with something else. When that box opens, in the box to the right of "find" type in one of the abbreviations in your pattern, for example ch. In the "replace" section, type in chain. (Keep in mind that if there is an instance where you need "chains" with an "s", this will not put the "s" in.) You may also want to check the little box that says "match case" if your program has that. This is so that it doesn't just look for words. In other words, it would look for space-ch-space. Some patterns will not have a space between ch-3 for example.

    Then click on the box to the right that says "Find next". Here's where you have to be careful. You see, "ch" may appear in your pattern as part of a word, and not an abbreviation. The program will highlight every "ch" it finds. If the one that is highlighted is an abbreviation that you want to change, you just click on "replace". DO NOT click on "replace all" unless you are POSITIVE that "ch" only appears in your pattern as an abbreviation. For example, it may find "ch" in "satchel". If you replace the "ch" your word will read "satchainel", which would be wrong.

    When you are finished with ch, just delete it from your "find" box and type in the next one you want to do. It may take a while if you have a long pattern but eventually you will have a pattern written in "real English" that you can work with ease.

    Keep in mind that this works the other way too. If you have a pattern written in long hand and you want abbreviations, just follow the procedure backwards.

Happy crocheting!

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Crochet Cabana uses American crochet terminology.
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Copyright 1997 - 2016 by Sandra Petit. All rights reserved.

Crochet Cabana created October 1997 (domain name purchased March 2001)
Crochet Cabana’s Crafty Corral begun November 7, 2004.
The Crochet Cabana Blog begun May 2010.
Site update November 18, 2012.