Updated: Jul 1, 2020
Have you seen a crochet pattern?? It looks like gibberish at first glance! Some nice pictures sometimes, and numbers everywhere, sometimes even a chart. Well I'll help you break it down a bit.
First thing you need to know: all patterns are different. Most have similar features, but even among my own patterns, there are differences.
One key note: long patters don't mean hard or complicated patterns! One of my longest patterns was the Sweetheart Shawl which, in my opinion, is less complicated than the Snapdragon Shawl. I just didn't have many repeated rows, so it ended up long.
Also, there are written patterns, and there are charted patterns. This is about written patterns, though I do love charts too.
Ok, so to start there are different sections of the pattern:
Lets talk about each of these.
This is the list of anything you could possibly need. Usually it has the yardage you need (super important for purchasing enough yarn, especially if you need more than one type of yarn), the hook size recommended (important that you note it is recommended not required), and any other additional pieces you may need. This is especially important if there are special pieces, like safety eyes for amigurumi, straps or rivets for bags, or any other things you might need to get at the craft store.
This is the list of abbreviations used and the stitches you need to know. Sometimes designers will link a tutorial for unusual stitches. When you read a pattern, this section is your key to the gibberish - it will help you translate the hdc, sc, sl st, etc. into words and stitches! If you know your abbreviations, you'll be good to go when you're reading the pattern; if you don't, write the translations on a sticky and keep it with you while you're reading through the pattern.
Gauge is a super important thing to know about, though honestly, I didn't used it for years. Gauge tells you the amount of stitches and rows you need per a certain amount of length. I prefer to get gauge with a 4" x 4" swatch as it's more accurate than 1" or 2" gauge. Depending on the design, the gauge will likely be different. It can be all hdc (half double crochet) back and forth, it can switch between stitches each row (sc then dc), and it can be a flat gauge or in the round. Pay attention to what the designer dictates.
Gauge is most important for garments or things you want to be a certain size. Washcloths for example might by less important to get gauge than a form fitting sweater. Gauge is more important than the recommended hook size. If you meet gauge with a different hook than is recommended, you're more likely to get the measurements you plan for than if you use the recommended hook. You can also use this to your advantage. If a top is an inch too tight for you, you can play with hook size to make the top a tad larger to fit you.
Garments patterns have measurements, as do most other items. It's important to choose the correct size for you (or whoever it's for). There have been so so so many times I chose the wrong size and the thing was too big or small.
Alright, we made it. Finally about to start the pattern!
Depending on the thing your making, the designer, the size, etc., the pattern will vary. It's often broken up into parts to make it easier to follow (hopefully). I've tried visualizing patterns as I read through them, but for me it makes more sense to just do the thing and start the pattern. I do highly recommend reading through the structure of the pattern first so you have an idea of how everything is connected.
Not all patterns have this, but many do. This is often where the disclaimers and copyright information is (do not distribute or alter this pattern in any way...). It's also often where the hashtags live!
Who cares about hashtags though right? Well, designers and small business owners do. They are one of the biggest ways we connect to new people, and if you post pictures of your finished work, it lets your audience find the designer. It's all about lifting each other up, and giving credit!
(This is the lovely Kendra, @balanced.skein, a tester for my Cross my Heart Tank)
How are you feeling? Ready to read a pattern? Sometimes the best thing is just to throw yourself into it and just do it. More practice will make it much easier.
And as with everything, if you have questions, reach out! Schedule some time, email me, DM me, we'll do it together.