Have you ever used a chart to follow a stitch pattern? Do you look at a crochet chart and feel intimidated because you’re unsure of what it all means? 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!
Learn the symbolism
The first step in understanding what’s going on with a chart is to know what all of 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, it should still be very possible to follow it as crochet symbols are almost always the same around the world. Let’s take a look at the most commonly used crochet stitches and what their symbols look like.
The first symbol, a filled-in little dot that looks like a period, represents a slip stitch. If you see it in a chart, you will slip stitch into whatever stitch it is shown in or next to. 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) is the shortest stitch, the half double crochet (hdc) is a little taller, double crochet (dc) taller yet, and so on. Beginning with the double crochet symbol, we see the lines on the post of each stitch which represent how many times you yarn over before inserting your hook to begin these stitches. A triple crochet has two of these little diagonal lines that represent yarning over twice before inserting the hook.
Link it together
As a warm-up, 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.
The colors of the rows themselves alternate in order to easily differentiate them. This may or may not be a feature in the chart you’re following. Always start a row from the side where the row number is. For a chart worked flat in rows such as this one, half of the rows will be worked left to right, and half the rows worked right to left.
The text for this chart would look something like this:
Row 1: 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. What about a stitch chart that has a pattern repeat?
Take it up a notch
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 from which direction to begin the row. It uses stitch symbols that we 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.
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—33 sc.
Then follow Rows 1-4 of the chart. Don’t look at the paragraph below, because the text for the chart is written out.
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.
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? One of the nice features of this particular chart is that it makes it very easy to see where to work the groups of dc. At a glance, you can see that those 7-dc groups on Row 3 will go right into the center space between 2 dc from the row below. It is also apparent that there are groups of 3 double crochet that line up on top of one another.
Bring it 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.
Again, as a fun exercise, 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 instruction 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.
There, you’re multilingual!
Our brains all work a little differently. Some of us prefer and respond better to text instructions, some of us are drawn to stitch charts, and many of us 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 some clarity. Now get out there and make stuff!
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, and 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.