How to Read a Crochet Pattern
In order to follow crochet instructions, you should know how to make the basic stitches and be familiar with basic procedures for making crochet fabric. You should also be familiar with the abbreviations for basic crochet stitches.
The pattern will list the materials necessary for the project, including the size of the crochet hook used to meet the designer's gauge. Gauge refers to the number of stitches and rows in a given area. When following a pattern for a garment or other article, the instructions will include a specified gauge. If you do not crochet fabric with the same number of stitches and rows as indicated, your work will not be the same size as the measurements given. To ensure that you achieve the correct gauge, work a large sample or swatch before starting to crochet the actual project. The hook size stated in the pattern is a suggested hook size only. You must use whichever hook gives you the correct gauge. If you have fewer stitches and rows than the specified gauge, you are working too loosely and need to try a smaller crochet hook. If you have more stitches and rows than the specified gauge, you are working too tightly and need to try a larger crochet hook. If you cannot meet gauge by changing hook sizes, sometimes changing hook types (bamboo, wood, aluminum, plastic) may help.
In the written instructions, the stitches that should be repeated are contained within brackets [ ] or follow an asterisk *. These stitches are repeated across the row or round the required number of times. On charted crochet diagrams, the stitches that have to be repeated can be easily visualized. The extra stitches not included in the pattern repeat are there to balance the row or make it symmetrical and are only worked once. Turning chains are only worked at the beginning of each row.
If you are confused by a particular set of instructions, you may find it helpful to write out the instructions without abbreviations, writing out each individual pattern repeat. You may also find it helpful to use a repositionable note to cover the instructions above and below the step you are working on so that your eye doesn't stray and pick up with another set of similar instructions in a different step of the pattern.