Learn to crochet
Here's just the help you need when trying to decipher crochet diagrams and written instructions, as well as detailed instructions for constructing of these topics have links to other relevant topics, too—so be sure to explore!
Choose a technique:
2. * Yarn over and draw yarn through, pulling up a loop.
3. Yarn over and pull yarn through only the first two loops on the hook.
4. Yarn over and pull yarn through the last two loops on the hook.
5. One double crochet made. Yarn over, insert hook into next stitch; repeat from * in step 2.
Below: LW4005 Organizer Pouch Crochet Pattern
1. Yarn over and insert the hook into the work (third chain from hook on the starting chain).
2. * Yarn over and draw through pulling up a loop.
3. Yarn over again and pull yarn through all three loops on the hook.
4. One half-double crochet made. Yarn over, insert hook into next stitch; repeat from * in step 2.
Below: LW4779 Easy Shadows Cowl Crochet Pattern
Almost all crochet begins with a foundation chain, which is a series of chain stitches beginning with a slip knot. You then work the first row of other stitches into the chain to start making crochet fabric. The foundation chain is also called a base chain or starting chain.
When working into the starting chain, you may work under one or two strands of chain loops as shown in the illustration. Either of these methods forms an even, firm bottom edge.
Some people like to work into the "bump" on the back of the chain. This forms an even, stretchy bottom edge that is ideal for garments. It also produces an edge that looks more similar to the final edge of your project, making it useful for projects where both ends are exposed, such as scarves.
Whichever method of working into the foundation you choose, be consistent. Work all the pieces of a project in the same manner.
Below: LW4779 Easy Shadows Cowl Crochet Pattern
Any combination of stitches may be joined into a cluster by leaving the last loop of each stitch on the hook until they are worked off together at the end. Working stitches together in this way can also be a method of decreasing.
Be sure to read the instructions carefully to see how and where the hook should be inserted for each "leg" of the cluster. The "legs" can be worked over adjacent stithces, or stitches can be skipped in between the "legs".
Three Double Crochet Cluster
(Work over adjacent number of stitches specified in instruction.)
1. Work a double crochet into each of the next three stitches, holding the last loop of each double crochet on the hook.
2. Yarn over and pull the yarn through all four loops on the hook.
Below: LW4887 Flower Cloche Crochet Pattern
Five Double Crochet Bobble
1. Work five double crochet into one stitch, leaving the last loop of each on the hook. Yarn over and pull yarn through all six loops on the hook.
2. Bobbles made with more double crochet stitches or with heavy yarn can be closed and secured with an extra chain stitch. The pattern will specify if this is necessary.
Below: LW4183 Just Like Mom Cowl Crochet Pattern
To increase the width of a basic crochet fabric, 2 or more stitches have to be worked into 1 stitch at the point specified in the project instructions.
There is no specific abbreviation for a crochet increase. Patterns will usually give instructions similar to "2 sc in the next sc", to indicate you will work two single crochet stitches in the next single crochet stitch, and thereby increase.
Single Crochet Increase
1. Work a single crochet into the specified stitch.
2. Work a second single crochet into the same stitch.
Double Crochet Increase
Work a double crochet increase in the same way you work a single crochet increase.
Below: LW4811 Daisy Garden Blanket Crochet Pattern
The project instructions will specify if you are to work into the front or back loop of the stitch in the row below. Unless otherwise stated, always work under two strands of the top of the stitch in the row below.
Below: LW5046 Charming Camo Cowl Crochet Pattern
To make a flat crocheted fabric worked in rows, you must begin with a starting chain. The length of the starting chain is the number of stitches needed for the first row of fabric plus the number of chains needed to get to the correct height of the first stitch used in the first row.
When working in rows, right-handers work from right to left and left-handers work from left to right, turning the work at the end of each row.
One or more chains are worked at the beginning of each row (or joined round) to bring the hook up to the height of the first stitch in the row. The number of chains used for turning (called a turning chain in patterns) will depend upon the height of the stitch they are to match.
single crochet = 1 chain
half double crochet = 2 chains
double crochet = 3 chains
treble crochet = 4 chains
When working half double crochet or other longer stitches, the turning chain usually counts as the first stitch (the project instructions will let you know if the turning chains are not considered a stitch). When one chain is worked at the beginning of a row starting with a single crochet stitch, it is usually for height only and is made in addition to the first stitch.
Below: LW4773 Cabled Hat with Pompom Free Crochet Pattern
Gauge is the number of stitches and rows per inch (or centimeter) in a pattern. If the gauge does not match the gauge given in a pattern, the item you're making will not end up the correct size.
A gauge swatch is a small sample of your pattern that you make before starting the main item. It allows you to measure the gauge, so you can make sure that you will not run out of yarn and the finished item will be the size you want it to be. Not matching gauge isn't as important for something like a dishcloth or a bag, but for garments and accessories the wrong gauge could mean the finished item is too small to put on or fit for giant.
How to Crochet a Gauge Swatch
When crocheting a gauge swatch, always work with the same yarn you're using for the main item. Chain enough stitches for your swatch to be 5-6 inches [12.5-15.25 cm] across, and crochet enough rows to make a square. Work in the same pattern that the gauge calls for. If different gauges are given for different stitch patterns, make sure you make a swatch for each stitch pattern. If no pattern is given for the gauge, work in whatever the main stitch for the item is. If the pattern calls for multiple sizes of hooks, use the size mentioned in the gauge.
Sometimes the gauge is given in pattern repeats. For example, for a ripple pattern, the gauge may say that from one point to another point of the ripple is 5" [12.5 cm].
For patterns made of individual pieces, the gauge might be given as the size of a finished piece. For example, a throw made of squares might give the gauge as the finished size of a square.
Other times, instead of a gauge, there may just be a note that the gauge is not important for the project. If you're making a Scrubby dishcloth for example, it doesn't matter if the finished item is exactly the correct size, or uses slightly more of the ball of Scrubby.
How to Measure a Gauge Swatch
After completing your gauge swatch, place it on a flat, hard surface with good lighting. Use a ruler or gauge measuring device like the Susan Bates® Knit-Chek or Susan Bates® Gauge Grabbers to count the number of rows and stitches in the number of inches given in the pattern gauge. The best practice is to count over 4", but some gauges call for 2" or 1", especially if the yarn is very thin. The gauge swatch should be larger than the area you need to measure, so you can just use the interior stitches to measure your gauge. Remember, half-stitches count too!
What if my gauge doesn’t match the pattern gauge?
Unless you crochet with the exact same tension as the designer, your gauge won’t exactly match up with the pattern gauge using the same yarn and hook or needle size. This is normal! To make your gauge match, choose a different hook size.
If you have more stitches and rows per inch than the pattern calls for, use a larger size hook.
If you have fewer stitches and rows per inch than the pattern calls for, use a smaller size hook.
Example: Love-to-Wear Sweater
For this sweater, the gauge is 15 dc = 4” [10 cm] and 12 rows = 4” [10 cm] in single crochet and double crochet pattern. Consider size Medium, which has a finished bust measurement of 40”. If you have 14 stitches in 4” [10 cm], instead of the 15 called for by the pattern, you will end up with a finished sweater with a bust measurement of almost 43” – much too big! Conversely, if you have 16 stitches in 4” [10 cm], you will have a finished sweater measuring 37 1/2” – way too tight!
Uses for Gauge Swatch
Treat your gauge swatch the way you would treat your finished item: block it and wash it to make sure you know how to take care of your work when it is complete. You may find that wants to stretch some when washed, for example, and you must carefully lay it flat to dry.
When you’ve finished your item and don’t need the gauge swatch anymore, recycle it! Combine it with other swatches to make pillows, bags, afghans….whatever you can envision! Make sure you only use it in projects with similar yarns, so the care instructions will be the same throughout all parts of the project.
To fasten off the yarn permanently, cut the yarn leaving an 8" end (longer if you need to sew pieces together). Pull the end of the yarn through the loop on the hook and pull gently to tighten.
Below: LW3276 By the Sea Throw Crochet Pattern
Popcorns are groups of complete stitches usually worked into the space place, folded and closed at the top. They can be worked in half double crochet, double crochet, treble crochet, or longer stitches. An extra chain can be worked to close and secure the top of the popcorn.
Five Double Crochet Popcorn
1. Work five double crochet into one stitch. Remove the hook from the working loop and insert it from font to back into the top of the first double crochet in the group.
2. Pick up the working loop on the last stitch made and pull this loop through the first stitch to close the popcorn. If the instructions specify it, work one chain to close and secure the popcorn.
Below: LW2998 Forever Flowers Crochet Pattern
After you fasten off, you will want to finish your crochet project to create a polished appearance. The time and care it takes to knit a project will be wasted if the finishing is sloopy; good finishing is the difference between "homemade" and "hand-made". Finishing methods depend largely on the end purpose of the project (pillow, afghan, garment) and the yarn you use to create the piece.
Almost all crochet projects will require the ends of the yarn to be woven in securely so the project will not come undone. There are multiple methods depending on the project type and the yarn used.
Depending on the yarn, you may need to block your work. Unless otherwise instructed in the pattern, you should always weave in your ends before you block, and block before you assemble the finished item. Blocking is less necessary with man-made fibers than with natural fibers.
Projects that were made in pieces will need to be assembled. For example, you may attach the sleeves on a sweater or add a a flower applique to a hat. While the assembly can be done as you make the project on some patterns, on others you will need to attach the pieces together at the end either through sewing or crocheting them together.
Other finishing steps that may be taken include adding borders, adding buttons or ties, or working embroidery on the piece.
Below: LW4616 April Showers Throw Free Crochet Pattern
There are multiple ways to attach crocheted pieces together. You may need to attach pieces of a sweater, for example, or attach blocks together to make a throw.
The three common ways to attach crochet pieces are sewn seams, crocheted seams, and Join-As-You-Go techniques. You can go to the Ultimte Guide to Join-As-You-Go Crochet to learn more about those techniques.
Assembling a project has two components: placing the pieces together so they are correctly lined up, and attaching them. Patterns may give instructions on the suggested way to attach pieces together, but often will not give detailed notes on lining them up.
If you are attaching pieces that are the same size and stitch count, you can line up the stitches so they are in pairs, and then attach each stitch to its paired stitch. If you are attaching pieces that are slightly different, such as a flat piece and a curved piece, or the end of a piece to the side of another piece, you may want to pin the pieces together before you start so they line up neatly. Pinning pieces is also recommended for larger pieces. Pinning helps keep on side from being stretched out or the seam from being uneven.
A pattern may call for a particular method of attaching pieces together, or it may just say to attach them or to sew them. Use whichever method you are comfortable with and that gives you a seam you are happy with. You may want the seam to be invisible, or you may decide you like it as a design feature and want it to be obvious. Using the same color yarn as the project is made in will help the seam to be invisible. Generally projects are sewn together using the same yarn they were made with. If a yarn is very bulky or textured, use a finer, smooth yarn in a matching color to attach them.
In this video Marly Bird shows you three ways to sew crochet seams with variations of crochet mattress stitch.
Another way to seam crochet is to whipstitch pieces together. This technique is especially suited for attaching the ends of two pieces together. Place the pieces edge to edge with the wrong sides facing up, and go from one side to the other side repeatedly, always in the same direction. Working in the front loop of one side and the back loop of the other side, as shown in the picture, will help make the seam more invisible.
Below: LW4629 Squared Side Throw Free Crochet Pattern
Diagrams are read exactly as the crochet is worked. Each stitch is represented by a symbol that has been drawn to resemble its crocheted equivalent. The position of the symbol shows where the stitch should be placed and worked.
Stitch symbols are drawn and laid out as realistically as possible, but there are times when they have to be distorted for the sake of clarity. For example, stitches may look extra long to show clearly where they are to be placed, but you should not try to match the chart by making elongated stitches. Crochet each stitch as you normally would.
The number of strokes crossing the stems of stitches longer than a half double crochet represents the number of times the yarn is wrapped over the hook before the hook is inserted into the work.
Right Side and Wrong Side Rows
Where the work is turned after each row, only alternate rows are worked with the right side of the work facing. These "right side rows" are printed in black on stitch diagrams and read from right to left. Wrong side rows are printed in a different color (usually blue) and read from left to right. Row numbers are shown at the side of the diagrams at the beginning of the row.
Patterns worked in rounds have right side rows facing on every round—alternate rounds are printed in blue and black.
Diagram source: Craft Yarn Council's www.YarnStandards.com
Download the Sidewalk Shawl pattern to see a written pattern and its matching diagram, then use the video below if you need any help understanding it.
Below: LW4705 Sidewalk Shawl Free Crochet Pattern
Before picking up the hook and yarn, sit down and read through the pattern you will be using. Patterns are written in a language of their own, and this will help you become familiar with special stitches and abbreviations. Although not all publications use the same abbreviations, the terminology will become familiar with a read-through.
In the middle of the PDF is the photo of the project, the name of the pattern, and a short description of the pattern. The information starts in the column to the left of the photo, skips over the photo, and continues in the column to the right of the photo.
In the top of the left-hand column, there will be a number identifying the pattern. You can search for these numbers on the website to find patterns, or reference them if you contact Consumer Services with a question.
Under the pattern number is a bar telling the skill level of the project, following a standardized system. Next follows the type of pattern, such as knitting or crochet, and then the designer.
After the introductionary information is the list of the supplies you will need to make the pattern. These supplies include the yarn line, colors used in to make the project in the picture, and amount of each color, as well as the hook size or sizes and any other materials you will need. You can always change the color used in a pattern to another color that works better for you or your recipient.
After the supplies section will be the gauge. You can read our guide to learn more about what gauge is and how to find it. Sometimes the section just says that gauge is not important. Craft projects will not list a gauge, because it does not apply.
Next will be the size of the project. Occasionally the size depends entirely on how you make it, such as for many craft projects, and so will be left off. Projects that have only a single size, such as a throw or a scarf, will just list the dimensions of the finished item. If a project can have multiple sizes and multiple measurements, they will all be listed in order.
If a pattern has multiple sizes, there will be a note with the measurements that tell you how the instructions are written. For example, for the Cabled Hat with Pompom, there is a note by the instructions that says "Directions are for size Small; changes for sizes Medium and Large are in parentheses." When you look next to the note, you will see that the sizing is listed as "Hat measures 18 (20, 22)” [45.5 (51, 56) cm] circumference at brim." In this case, the small fits a head that is 18" or 45.5 cm around, the medium fits a head that is 20" or 51 cm around, and the large fits a head that is 22" or 56 cm around.
The note next to the measurements also applies to the written pattern itself. The pattern has sections for just one size, such as "Size Small only". Towards the end of the pattern, there are notes to "sc in next 5 (6, 7) sts". This means you will work single crochets in the next 5 stitches if you are making a size small, the next 6 stitches if you are making a size meduim, and the next 7 stitches if you are making the size large.
In Red Heart patterns, the common abbreviations used in a particular pattern are listed at the end of that pattern. Less-common abbreviations are explained at the top of the pattern, before you get started making the project. Special stitches are also explained at the top of the pattern, such as a stitch pattern used in the project. Read our guide to learn more about pattern repeats and multiples.
Below: LW4699 Seaside Pillow Free Crochet Pattern
Within a row and within a pattern you may repeat stitches several times. These are written in repeats to make the pattern easier to read. If you find it difficult to follow along a pattern written this way, you can always take another piece of paper and write out every repeat yourself.
One common method is to have an asterisk * somewhere in the row, and then instructions to repeat from the *. For example, you may have a row that is *sc, dc; repeat from * to end of row. In this case, you will single crochet once, double crochet once, single crochet once, double crochet once, and so on until you reach the end of the row. A similar version is *sc, dc; repeat from * to 3 stitches from end. In this case you will single crochet once, double crochet once, single crochet once, double crochet once until there are 3 stitches left unworked. The pattern would then tell you what to do with the 3 stitches at the end.
You may also have parentheses ( ) and/or brackets [ ] in a row. If both are used, parentheses are within brackets. For example, (sc in next 2 sts, dc in next 3 stitches) twice, then sc across would have you single crochet in each of the next two stitches, double crochet in each of the following three stitches, single crochet in each of the next two stitches, double crochet in each of the following three stitches, before you single crochet the rest of the stitches in the row. [Sc in next 2 sts, (dc in next 3 stitches, sc in next 2 stitches) twice] three times would have you single crochet in each of the next two stitches, double crochet in each of the next three stitches, single crochet in each of the next two stitches, double crochet in each of the next three stitches, single crochet in each of the next two stitches, single crochet in each of the next two stitches, double crochet in each of the next three stitches, single crochet in each of the next two stitches, double crochet in each of the next three stitches, single crochet in each of the next two stitches, single crochet in each of the next two stitches, double crochet in each of the next three stitches, single crochet in each of the next two stitches, double crochet in each of the next three stitches, and single crochet in each of the next two stitches. Can you see why these are abbreviated?
On many crochet projects there is one pattern that is repeated multiple times.
Pattern repeats are usually done over a specific number of stitches and a specific number of rows. The stitch patterns are may be given at the start of a pattern, or you may see it because you repeat the same row or rows of the pattern multiple times.
For example, in Dynamite Eyeglass Case, you are just asked to repeat Round 2 for certain rounds and to repeat Round 5 for other rounds.
Complex patterns, including some cable patterns, will have you switch between stitch patterns within the same row.
Many pattern repeats tell you how many stitches they require to work. These repeats are call multiples. Multiples are useful if you like the pattern stitch from one pattern and want to use it on another project, or if you want to adapt a pattern to change its size. For example, you may like the pattern stitch on a sweater, and want to use it to make a scarf, or you may want to take a ripple throw and make it into a bedspread for a king-size bed. Knowing the pattern multiple allows you to figure out how many chains you need to make another project with that stitch pattern.
Some stitch patterns will just say that they are worked over an even number of stitches or over an odd number of stitches. To use one of these stitch patterns on another project, you would just need an even number of stitches or an odd number of stitches, following what the pattern says.
Other stitch patterns will give you a specific number of stitches that it takes to work the stitch pattern. In this case, you will need to chain the number of stitches needed for the stitch pattern times a whole number, and then add the amount you need for your turning chain. If the stitch pattern is worked over 9 stitches, for example, you can chain 18 (from 9 x 2), 27 (from 9 x 3), 81 (from 9 x 9) and so on, and then add the number for your turning chain. Sometimes the multiple for a pattern is given as one number plus another number. For example, it may need a multiple of 10 + 2. This means that it will require 10 stitches (or 20 stitches, or 30 stitches, etc.) plus an additional 2 stitches. You would then add the amount for your turning chain to this number.
Below: LW5356 Let's Relax Throw Free Crochet Pattern
Most motifs are not worked in rows but are worked in rounds from the center out. Unless otherwise stated in the pattern instructions, do not turn the work between rounds but continue with the same side facing and treat this as the right side of the fabric. The center ring is usually formed by a number of chains joined together with a slip stitch to form a ring.
1. Insert the hook into the first chain made.
2. Make a slip stitch to join the chains into a ring.
3. At the beginning of each round, one or more chain(s) can be worked to match the height of the following stitches—this is equal to a turning chain. When working in double crochet, three starting chains are required.
4. The stitches of the first round are worked by inserting the hook into the empty circle space at the center of the ring. Sometimes the first round is worked into the first chain—the pattern will specify how to form the first round.
5. When each round is complete, insert the hook into the top of the chain or stitch at the beginning of the round and make a slip stitch to close the round.
6. When working the second and subsequent rounds, unless otherwise stated, insert the hook under the two top loops of the stitches in the previous round.
After joining the final round with a slip stitch, fasten off by cutting the yarn and drawing the end through. Pull gently to tighten and form a knot.
Below: LW4931 Lucky Ladybug Throw Crochet Pattern
Shells and groups consist of several complete stitches worked in to the same place. They can be worked as part of a stitch pattern or as a method of increasing. Groups and shells can be worked in half double crochet, double crochet, treble crochet, or longer stitches.
Five double crochet shell: work five double crochet stitches into one stitch
Some shells have two double crochet stitches, a chain, and then two more double crochet stitches. Some have only three double crochet stitches. The pattern instructions will specify the number and type of stitches for the shell.
Below: LW4984 Buttoned Lace Cardigan Crochet Pattern
Single crochet is the most common basic crochet stitch that will result in fabric. It is abbreviated sc.
2. Yarn over again and pull the yarn through both loops on the hook.
3. One single crochet made. Insert hook into next stitch; repeat from * in step 1.
Below: LW4560 Kittens and Puppies for Sale Pillows Crochet Pattern
Double treble (dtr), triple treble (ttr) and quadruple treble (qte), etc., are made by wrapping the yarn over three, four or five times, etc. at the beginning and finishing as for a treble crochet, pulling yarn through two loops on the hook at a time until two loops remain on hook, and then pulling yarn through remaining two loops.