Friday, September 14, 2012

Crochet Basics: Reading a Pattern Continued

(Photo taken of  page 68 of 24 Hour Crochet Projects by Rita Weiss)

This photo shows how a standard pattern will look. The first few things it will show is a list of materials you will need to complete the project. This will include the type and amount of yarn needed, hook sizes, and any additional materials such as buttons/ribbon/etc. While some patterns will list specific colors of yarn, unless you want your finished project to look exactly like the photo in the pattern, you can choose any color/combination of colors you wish.

The next section of your pattern will likely include any special instructions, stitches/patterns unique to the pattern, and the gauge you will need to work to for the pattern to come out properly. In most patterns (especially clothing items) gauge is VERY important. Most patterns will tell you to do a few stitches or rows and measure to make sure you are crocheting in the correct gauge. It will often read something like this:

Gauge = 5 sc per 1"

Or, in the case of this pattern: With larger hook size, First 2 rows = 2 1/4"

So, how does Gauge work? You follow your pattern for the first few rows and then use your ruler/measuring tape to measure either how many stitches are in the measurement listed, or how many rows. Since everyone crochets a little different (some are tight crocheters, some loose, and some right in the middle) gauge helps you determine if you are using the right hook size for you. If you have too few stitches/rows in your 2" you may want to use one hook size smaller than your pattern states. The same for if you have too many stitches in your 2" you may want to use one hook size larger.

Gauge is really important because you want your project to be the right size when it is finished. If you are working on a beautiful winter hat and you don't check your gauge, you might end up with a hat sized for a doll instead. ALWAYS MAKE SURE YOUR CHECK YOUR GAUGE! You will be much happier in the long run if you remember this step.

The next part is the pattern itself. Depending on what you are making, the pattern will be broken up into parts. If you are making a sweater, you will have instructions for each individual panel and the sleeves followed by instructions on how to put the parts together. It is important to do these parts in order as you will sometimes come across patterns that have you put the pieces together as you go.

As I said in the previous post, most patterns are straight forward and easy to read. Take this one for example:

 Rnd 4: Ch 1, sc in same ch as joining; * ch 3, sk next dc, sc in next dc; rep from * 16 times more; ch 3, join in first sc: 18 ch 3 sps.

Now, as this is the middle of the pattern, it might be a little hard to follow at first, but when you start from the beginning, you will know exactly what is going on. The man reason I chose to point out this part of the instructions is that it has almost every part of a pattern you will need to know about. So let's break it down:

"Rnd 4" A pattern will often start each step with either Rnd or Row depending on if you are working on a straight line or in a circle. As this is a pattern for a hat, it is worked in a circle. In most patterns, each Rnd/Row will be marked with a number making it easy to find where you are.

"*" Most patterns will use this symbol or one similar in their short hand way of writing. Most patterns will repeat along a row or round. The symbol is the patterns way of alerting you to a repeat pattern and helping you know where the repeat starts and ends.

"Ch1, sc in same..."  This is the main part of the pattern. Patterns are written in a special kind of shorthand so that the pattern can fit on just a few pages instead of needing a whole book to make one hat. When you are first learning, it can be difficult to remember what all the abbreviations mean. As you learn and become more used with the shorthand, you will start reading it as naturally as reading any other instructions.

"...join in first sc..." When working in a circle, after each round you will be instructed to either "join" or "Place a stitch marker"  Depending on the pattern, at the end of each round, you will join to the first stitch of that round or continue crocheting without joining. Either way, it is important to know where the first stitch of each round is for later.

"18 ch 3 sps" In many patterns, you will see something similar to this at the end of each row/rnd. This tells you how many stitches/pattern repeats are in that row/rnd. It is often a good idea to go back and count them every row or two to make sure you have the right amount. A little mistake along the way can often be big trouble later.

So, as you can see, when you break down the parts of a pattern, it becomes a little easier to follow. Most patterns will follow this same format whether they are American patterns or English patterns. The only exception to this format is often homemade patterns. If you get your patterns from free sites online, they will often be written as the crocheter went along. Often, these can be somewhat difficult to follow. However, if you put in the effort and keep in mind that there may be a few tweaks you have to make, many of these projects turn out beautiful.

In my next post, I will begin to demonstrate how to make a ch, (chain) sc, (single crochet) and dc. (double crochet) I hope to demonstrate this with still photos as well as a few videos. Other stitches will follow, but as these are the main stitches in most patterns, they are the most important to learn first.

See you next time,

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