Tasha Margette and Margaret Kavanagh

Graphs: A step by step guide

Understanding how to work with graphs can seem intimidating at first, yet once you learn the basics, you'll be shocked at how easy it really is. We'll explain what you can make, what stitches to use, how graphs differ from charts, how to read them, and how to finish your graph projects. Let's get started!

How to Read and Use a Graph

What can I make using a graph?

Graphs are useful when you want to create a graphic, and it involves colorwork. In other words, if it involves changing yarn colors often within rows, rather than at the beginning or end of rows.

You can use items you've made with graphs to create smaller squares for potholders or to piece together (like in our Big Boy Blanket). Or you can use graphs to create a large blanket or throw. The blanket in the image below is called a graphgan, combining graph with afghan.

Portrait of my parents, by RaeGraphs are fabulous for creating images.
This afghan was done in single by Rae Redford Beyer.

The graph in our header image is by Tasha, from Stardust Gold Crochet (and the original author of this post), and her followers have used it to create beautiful items, like the blanket shown below.

rainbow unicorn crochet graph blanket

This blanket was made from graphs created by the post's author, Tasha Margette.
Be sure to visit her site for excellent information and tools to help you with your next project!

But items from graphs don't have to be square. They come in handy for sweaters, wall hangings, pillows, rugs, coasters, and so much more! There's no hidden secret to reading graphs, and we'll explain how to do it! Furthermore, once you learn how to read graphs, you can create many different projects with them.

What stitches can I use?

To start, we recommend beginning your graph journey using single because it allows you to concentrate on the design, rather than on the stitch. Once you're familiar with the way graphs work, you can experiment with some of these other great graphing stitches and techniques.

Here are some common stitches used in crocheting with graphs:

  • Single crochet
  • Half double
  • Double
  • Corner-to-corner (c2c) (each block of stitches is called a stitch in this method)
  • Mini c2c (same here, each block is called a stitch)
  • Waffle stitch
  • Tunisian Crochet
  • Puff Stitch

In this post, we will use single as an example, but you can use your choice.

Graphs vs. Charts

Graphs and charts are very different from one another.  Let's talk about each.

crochet chart vs crochet graph


Graphs come in handy for colorwork techniques, which include changing colors from stitch to stitch. Graphs are also great for filet crochet.

A graph is very similar to those used in cross-stitch or Perler bead patterns. They are typically an image of your piece with a grid overlay to help you count squares.


On the other hand, crochet charts use crochet stitch symbols to illustrate how a project is worked. You use charts to instruct you on which stitches to use in the design of a item. It's a pattern in symbol form — sign language, in a way.

How to Read a Graph

Now, let's walk through how to start your project and how to read a graph. Here are some basics, and we'll follow with more specific instructions in a bit.

  • First, like most projects, you create a starting chain and back along it. So, you start by chaining the number of stitches shown in the bottom row of your graph, plus one. Next, you single in the second chain from the hook, and in each chain. This becomes Row 1.
  • Read your graph from the bottom right-hand corner and work the design up to the upper left-hand corner.
  • Each square is one stitch. (We're using single, but it differs depending on your project.)
  • All odd rows start from the right and work to the left.
  • All even rows start from the left and work to the right.

Now, let's take a look at what a graph actually looks like and how to work with it.

Happily Hooked Smile graph pattern

Right-click and select “Save Image As” or press and hold (on mobile)
to save the image above for printing.

How to Use Your Graph

Using the graph in the image above, and using single for this project, these are the steps you would follow:

Row 1: Start at the bottom of the chart and read from right to left. Work 5 single for each large grid (the green lines) for a total of 50 stitches. (So, to prepare for this piece, chain 51, and then single in the second chain from the hook. Single in the rest of the chains. You'll have a total of 50 sc.) Turn your work. Chain 1.

Row 2: The next row, second from the bottom, reads from left to right. Single 50 in your first color. Turn your work. Chain 1.

Row 3: Reads from right to left. Single 50 in your first color. Turn your work. Chain 1.

Rows 4 – 8: Continue up the graph. For each row: Single 50 in your first color. Turn your work. Chain 1.

Row 9: Reads from right to left. The first color change starts on Row 9 in the 20th stitch. So, single 19 in your first color. Switch to your second color and single 11 stitches. Switch back to the first color and finish the row by working 20 single. Turn. Chain 1.

Rows 10-x: Work the rest of the graph in the same way, alternating colors for your stitches as the chart indicates. Continue until you're finished with the graph at Row 45.

Tips for Working with a Graph

A graph, when you initially see it, may not seem to offer much information. You can customize it to make it easier for you to follow while you're working on your project. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Print out your chart if you want to easily mark it up.
  • Draw arrows to show the direction of the rows.
  • While you're working, draw lines through rows you complete.

For your first few projects, (and for some complicated ones) you may even want to count up the squares per row and create your own instructions for the pattern. Here is an example of the first few rows of this graph:

Row 1: With Color A, chain 51, sc in the second chain from hook and in the rest of the chain. (50 sc) Turn. Ch 1.

Rows 2-8: With A, sc across. (50 sc) Turn. Ch 1.

Row 9: 19 sc A, 11 sc B, 20 sc A. (50 sc) Turn. Ch 1.

Row 10: 18 sc A, 15 sc B, 17 sc A. (50 sc) Turn. Ch 1.

Farmhouse Trivet Set hotpads

This adorable and quirky hotpad set uses graphs. It's by Jessica Fishman
and available on Ravelry (or already in your library, if you're a Happily Hooked Lifetime Member).

What's next?

While there are many techniques for creating tapestry pieces, now that you know how to read a graph, you've got a great headstart. Some of the most common uses for smaller tapestry items are potholders, like the adorable Farmhouse Trivet set from Pattern Pack Pro issue #70 (July 2020), or wall hangings. As you saw at the start of this article, graphagans use graphs as design tools, but you could use graphs to create rugs, a design on a sweater, items with animal print (think giraffe or zebra!), Fair Isle prints, or just about anything with colorwork. We used a graph to create the awesome Coffee & Friends Afghan from Happily Hooked issue #82 (January 2021).

Coffee and Friends Afghan

This amazing Coffee & Friends Afghan pattern is by our own Tracee Fromm.
She uses a graph for the design and half double for the main stitch.
You can find it on Ravelry (or already in your library, if you're a Happily Hooked Lifetime Member).

A few colorwork resources for you

While you learn how to work with graphs, be sure to visit a few areas around the Happily Hooked universe for help. We have a ton of great resources to help you develop your skills. (Even more, if you're a member.)

Check out these great videos from Sam on our YouTube channel. The first one is amazing and answered so many questions for me! While you're doing colorwork, you're obviously working with multiple colors. If you want your project to look great from both sides, you have to hide your yarn ends. In this video, Sam explains just how to do it. (Make these videos full-size if you need to see them larger.)

In this video, Sam introduces us to bobbins! As she says, they will change your life! Instead of working with giant balls or skeins when you only need a little bit of yarn, you can use bobbins!

And, in THIS video, you can join Sam in starting an actual crochet-a-long (CAL) using a chart very similar to the chart we used in this post! She will be creating a pillow from it and she's doing it in mini corner-to-corner! It uses the graph a bit differently because of the way you create the stitches. You actually work the graph diagonally from corner to corner (hence the name of the technique). So, it will expand on your graph-reading skills! If you ever wanted to learn mini c2c, it's a great way to see it in action.


We hope you enjoyed learning to read a graph today! Have a great time putting your newfound skills to use!

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Author Info

Tasha Margette
Website | + posts

Inspiration is everywhere. I love to create crochet inspired by nature, retro, rainbows, classic crochet, modern, boho, pop culture, and more...my style is eclectic. Something for everyone.

Every pattern expresses a style, an emotion, and a feeling of comfort, joy, and most of all I have fun creating something to leave the world a little more beautiful than it was before.

Blog Manager & Columnist Coordinator at Happily Hooked | + 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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