Amy Gunderson and Margaret Kavanagh
[mashshare]

Crochet Stitch Charts: We’ll Demystify Them in under 10 Minutes!

Crochet stitch charts, or symbol charts, can look like weird hieroglyphs if you don't know how to read them. But thanks to Amy Gunderson's great explanation, you'll be able to decipher any stitch chart you come across! Get ready to learn the secret symbol language of crochet! ~MAK

Chart Chatter

Having a chart in conjunction with written instructions can sometimes be crucial to understanding the stitches involved and how they all fit together. If you’ve wanted to learn how to follow a chart but have been unsure where to start, you’re in the right place!

First, learn the symbols

The first step to understanding what’s going on with a chart is to know what the symbols mean. Charts will usually have a key alongside them to define each symbol. If you encounter a chart that doesn’t have a key, that's ok because crochet symbols are usually the same around the world. So, let’s take a look at the most commonly used crochet stitches and what their symbols look like.

crochet chart symbols

The symbols represent the actual structure of the stitches.

The first symbol, a filled-in dot that looks like a period, represents a slip stitch (sl st). If you see it in a chart, you will slip stitch into whatever stitch it is shown in or next to. Now, looking at the remaining symbols, you may notice something that will be very helpful in remembering what each means. They are visually representative of the construction of the stitches.

For example, notice the chain symbol which is shown as an oval? This is what a chain really does look like. A single crochet (sc) stitch is the shortest stitch, the half double crochet (hdc) is a little taller, double crochet (dc) taller yet, and so on.

Starting with the double crochet symbol, we see lines on the post of each stitch, which represent how many times you yarn over before inserting your hook to begin these stitches. And so, a triple crochet (tc) stitch has two of these little diagonal lines that represent yarning over twice before inserting the hook.

Next, chain it together

Now, take a look at this simple chart. Notice the beginning chain, which is in green at the bottom, and the rows that are numbered in red. In this chart, the colors of the rows alternate so you can easily differentiate them. However, this may not be a feature in every chart you see.

simple crochet chart

This is a simple pattern with a beginning chain and 4 rows of single crochet. Note the turning ch 1 at each row's start, which is indicated by the oval that looks like a chain link.

You start reading the pattern for the row from the side with the row number. For a chart worked flat in rows, such as this one, typically, half of the rows will be worked left to right, and half the rows worked right to left.

If written out, the pattern's text for this chart would look something like this:

Row 1:  Ch 10. Sc in second ch from hook and in each ch across, turn—9 sc.

Row 2:  Ch 1, sc in each sc across, turn.

Rows 3-4:  Repeat Row 2.

Plain single crochet can be worked over any number of stitches, we all know that. But, what about a stitch chart that has a pattern repeat?

Now, let's get more advanced

There’s a little more going on with this next chart, but don’t let it throw you! Like our single crochet chart, this one has row numbers telling you where to begin the row. It uses stitch symbols that you've already learned.

We can also see that it has a pattern repeat that requires a specific number of stitches – a multiple of 10 + 3 to be exact. When following the chart, imagine that the yellow rectangle has asterisks or brackets on either side of it. Once you complete the 10 stitches within the pattern repeat, you’ll back up and work those same 10 stitches all over again.

Now, if you want to challenge yourself to follow this chart, trying working it without looking at the written instruction below. To begin, ch 34, sc in the second ch from hook and in each ch across, turn—33 sc.

Then, follow Rows 1-4 of the chart. Don’t look at the caption or paragraphs below the picture, because the text for the chart is written out. Once you're done, check your work against the pattern text.

Complex crochet stitch chart

This crochet stitch chart shows, among other things: a 10-stitch repeat, (dc, ch 2, dc) worked into 1 hdc, and 7 dc worked into a ch-2 space.

Here is what the text for this chart would look like:

Row 1: Ch 2 (counts as 1st hdc), hdc in each st across, turn.

Row 2: Ch 3 (counts as 1st dc here and throughout), dc in next 2 hdc, *ch 3, skip 3 hdc, (dc, ch 2, dc) in next hdc, ch 3, skip 3 hdc, dc in next 3 hdc; repeat from * across to end, turn.

Row 3: Ch 3, dc in next 2 dc, ch 2, skip ch-3 space, skip 1 dc, 7 dc in ch-2 space, ch 2, skip 1 dc, skip ch-3 space, *dc in next 3 dc, ch 2, skip ch-3 space, skip 1 dc, 7 dc in ch-2 space, ch 2, skip 1 dc, skip ch-3 space; repeat from * across to last 3 dc, dc in last 3 dc, turn.

Row 4: Ch 3, dc in next 2 dc, *ch 1, dc in next 3 dc, (dc, ch 1, dc) in next dc, dc in next 3 dc, ch 1, dc in next 3 dc; repeat from * across to end.

How did you do?

A nice feature of this particular chart is that it's easy to see where to work the double crochet groups. At a glance, you can see that those 7-dc groups on Row 3 go right into the center space between 2 double crochet in the row below. You can also see that the 3-dc groups line up on top of each other.

Charting around

Finally, let’s take a look at a chart worked in the round. I’ve chosen the most traditional square motif pattern of them all, the granny square. This chart introduces a new symbol right in the center. The green spiral represents a magic ring.

granny square stitch chart

Obvious patterns emerge from stitch charts! Here you can see the beloved granny square!

Now, try following the stitch chart without looking at the instructions below. Remember to notice where each round begins and ends, and in what way it ends. The construction for some granny squares have the ends of rounds occurring at the center of a side, where this particular version has the ends occurring at a corner (my preferred method).

Here are the written instructions for this square:

Make a magic ring.

Round 1: Ch 3 (counts as 1st dc here and throughout), 2 dc in ring, [ch 2, 3 dc] 3 times in ring, ch 1, join with sc to top of beginning ch-3—12 dc, 4 corner ch-2 spaces.

Round 2: Ch 3, 2 dc in same space, *ch 1, (3 dc, ch 2, 3 dc) in corner space; repeat from * 2 more times, ch 1, 3 dc in same space as beginning 3 dc, ch 1, join with sc to top of beginning ch-3—24 dc, 4 ch-1 spaces, 4 corner ch-2 spaces.

Round 3: Ch 3, 2 dc in same space, *ch 1, 3 dc in next space, ch 1, (3 dc, ch 2, 3 dc) in corner space; repeat from * around 2 more times, ch 1, 3 dc in next space, ch 1, 3 dc in same space as beginning 3 dc, ch 1, join with sc to top of beginning ch-3—36 dc, 8 ch-2 spaces, 4 corner ch-2 spaces.

Rounds 4-6: Ch 3, 2 dc in same space, [*ch 1, 3 dc in next space; repeat from * across to last space before corner, ch 1, (3 dc, ch 2, 3 dc) in corner space] 3 times **ch 1, 3 dc in next space; repeat from ** across to last space before corner, ch 1, 3 dc in same space as beginning dc, ch 1, join with sc to top of beginning ch-3—72 dc, 20 ch-1 spaces, 4 corner spaces after Round 6.

Round 7: Ch 1, sc in same space, [*sc in each st and ch-1 space to corner space, (sc, ch 2, sc) in corner] 3times, sc in each st and ch-1 space to corner space, sc in same space as beginning sc, ch 2, join with sl st to beginning sc—100 sc, 4 corner spaces.

Now you're multilingual!

Our brains all work a little differently. Do you prefer and respond better to text instructions? Or are you now a fan of stitch charts? Or maybe you even like to have both options available!

For any of you who have struggled to decipher charts in the past, I hope this little article has provided clarity. Now get out there and make stuff!

~Amy Gunderson

A few words about us

This article, by Amy Gunderson, was originally published in an issue of Happily Hooked Crochet Magazine. If you aren't a subscriber, you're missing out! Visit our main website to learn more! The support in our Facebook group is phenomenal! There's nothing like it anywhere else.
By the way, many of us also like to have video instruction, in addition to printed patterns. Thanks to mediums like YouTube, learning new crochet stitches is as easy as clicking a play button. Be sure to check out our YouTube wizard, Sam! She'll walk you through stitch tutorials, yarn reviews, crochet tips and tricks, and much more.

Also, if you're looking for information about other types of crochet charts, check out this article and this one.

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Author Info

Amy Gunderson Bio Pic
Amy Gunderson
Yarn Director at | Website | + posts

Amy Gunderson lives in Reno, Nevada, where she works as the yarn director for Jimmy Beans Wool. She also does a variety of knit and crochet freelance design but isn't known for any particular technique because she loves them all. Amy's favorite people are her two dogs, Suzy and Charli, and feels super lucky to be able to take them to work with her.

Blog Manager & Columnist Coordinator at | + posts

I've been crocheting since my mother taught me as a little girl. I'm lucky to be working with Happily Hooked and I can't wait to share everything yarny and hooky with you! Yarn over, peeps! Yarn over!

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