Learning to Read Crochet Charts

After our last post on learning to read knitting charts, we had several crocheters ask us if we could do a similar primer for reading crochet charts. In today's post, we'll cover the basics of charted crochet patterns so that you can comprehend and follow them with ease!

What are Crochet Charts?

Crochet charts, quite like knitting charts, are graphic representations of patterns. They often save time and space as opposed to providing full written directions, and for some they are easier to follow than long rows of text instructions.

Crochet charts appear quite different from knitting charts, because often crochet charts are depicted in symbols that look like crude representations of the stitches. Therefore, they are organized less in grid format, and look more like a 2-dimensional representation of what you will be creating in crochet stitches. Here are a few important things to keep in mind when working with charts:

The Craft Yarn Council has adopted a standardized set of symbols to be used in crochet charts. Familiarizing yourself with these will help you in using charts. We love this chart created by Dabbles and Babbles which summarized the most frequently used symbols (and includes both US and UK terminology!)
And here is an example of a crochet chart (courtesy of Red Heart):

Working the Charts

So how do you begin working from a charted pattern?

When working flat (back and forth), crochet charts are worked in rows (numbered as above), from right to left, and from bottom to top (much like knitting charts). Repeats in the chart are bracketed, and color changes are indicated by the letter above. In the introduction to the pattern, the colors associated with those letters will be defined.

When crochet charts are worked in the round, they start at the center and work outward in a counterclockwise manner. If you’re working in the round, your chart may look more like this (chart courtesy of Bluprint):
As you can see, the arrow indicates the starting point, and the rows are numbered on the upper right diagonal, moving outward. You will begin to work counter clockwise continuing through the rounds as you do so.

A quick note: if you are left-handed, you’ll need to reverse the charts. You can do so by mentally flipping the image or you can physically mirror the image using graphic software. You may find this Ultimate Guide to Left-Handed Crochet useful in learning to adapt patterns for your use. When working a pattern in the round, you’ll be working clockwise instead of counterclockwise.

Tips for Working With Charts
As we recommended in our last post, the easiest way to learn to work from charts is to select a pattern that has both written instructions AND charted instructions. That way, as you’re reading the chart, you can compare the symbols in the chart against the written instructions (hint: they should match!).

If you’re most comfortable working with paper charts, our Pattern Holders (shown above) are magnetic boards that come with sturdy magnets to hold your pattern in place, along with an extra long magnet to keep track of your rows. You can also use one of our Row Counter Rings to track your progress and keep you from losing your place!

If you’re looking for more tips on learning to read crochet charts, we like this video from Marly Bird!

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