Crocheting Blog

Understanding Crochet Diagrams: The Key to Breaking the Code

You finally find the perfect crochet pattern. You look at the instructions and there it is: the dreaded diagram — an intimidating jumble of lines and shapes that make no sense at all. Fear not, my friends. With a few hints and a little practice you’ll be decoding diagrams faster that Tom Hanks in The DaVinci Code!

Crocheting granny squares using symbols and diagrams

What are crochet diagrams?

Simply put, a diagram is a chart, a schematic if you will, of a pattern made up of symbols that represent stitches. All you need to break the code is the symbol key — that’s it! And, thankfully, you don’t have to risk life and limb to find it.

In fact, most diagrams (which are also referred to as charts, depending on the designer), include a legend or key to show you what stitches the symbols represent. Once you break the code, you have a tool that opens a whole world of pattern possibilities.

Learn How to Read Crochet Charts

reading crochet diagrams

Learn how to read crochet diagrams and watch complex patterns become crystal clear right before your eyes — all while creating a chic cowl!Enroll Now »

Symbols – the international language of crochet

Diagrams are created using internationally recognized symbols that corresponded to each stitch and instruction. Understanding symbols means that you can crochet in any language!

Crochet symbols & directions chartChart via Dabbles & Babbles

Get the crochet symbols and directions chart here.

This graphic shows some of the most frequently used symbols with both their U.S. and U.K. definitions. If the diagram you’re using doesn't have a key, a chart like this one will help. This, along with your general knowledge of crochet, should provide all the information you need.

Take a look at the symbols. They kind of look like the stitches, don’t they? The dc symbol has one horizontal bar to show one yarn over, and the tr has two bars for two yarn overs. They give a logical approximation of stitch size, too. The dtr symbol is long and the sc symbol is short, just like the stitches are!

Reading diagrams

Now that the symbols are starting to make sense, let’s take a look at some of the different diagrams you might encounter.

Working in rows

Generally diagrams are used for edging, borders and for repeating stitch patterns. They are also used to demonstrate what different stitch combinations look like.

Easy crochet fan stitch diagram, pattern and sample

Diagram via Crochet Nirvana

• Diagrams are worked from the bottom up and are designed for right-handed crocheters unless otherwise noted.

• A solid arrow points the beginning direction. After the starting chain, you work in a zigzag motion back and forth up the pattern.

• The right side row (RS) number is placed on the right side of the diagram and you work that line right to left.

• The wrong side row (WS) number is placed on the left side of the diagram and you work that line left to right.

• Stitches should appear in columns so you can see what stitch to work into as you go up the pattern.

Simple crochet scallop edging diagram, pattern and sample

Diagram via Crochet Nirvana

• Pattern repeats are shown by either highlighting the stitches or with a bracket under the starting chain indicating the number of stitches. This is important when determining how long to make a starting chain. Don’t forget to add the number of turning (or raising) stitches to your total.

• If written instructions are included, this is shown at the beginning of the pattern as: Multiples of “x” plus “y”. (I thought I’d throw this in because it took me a long time to figure it out!)

• A bracket on the right side of the diagram indicates the number rows in the pattern repeat.

• A chain stitch that “hangs off” the end of the row is not counted. It simply raises the work to the next row.

• You do count a chain stitch that is directly over a stitch at the end of the row.

Working in the round

Motifs of different shapes (circles, octagons, flowers, hearts and even squares) are worked in the round and often shown in diagrams where the symbols represent the stitches.Traditional crochet granny square diagram

• Identify your starting point (generally the center) and follow the diagram working counter clockwise.

• Do not turn your work, unless the pattern tells you to.

• Rounds may be numbered or designated by alternating colors.

• Diagrams do not tell you if you work into a chain space or into the stitches. Refer to the written pattern if you have one, or on the wealth of knowledge that you have accumulated from previous projects!


Traditional crochet granny square pattern and sample

Diagram and pattern via Crochet Nirvana

Bringing it all together

Learning to decode crochet diagrams takes practice, but it’s a handy skill to have. Visual learners benefit from the clarity that they bring to patterns. Using a chart in conjunction with the written instructions provides optimal understanding of what the designer wants you to do. Being able to correctly follow the pattern helps ensure that your finished project is going to look fantastic! Remember how long it took you to find the perfect pattern? Now that you’ve broken the code, you’re ready to get started!

Learn How to Read Crochet Charts

reading crochet diagrams

Learn how to read crochet diagrams and watch complex patterns become crystal clear right before your eyes — all while creating a chic cowl!Enroll Now »

43 Comments

Brenda

Thank you very much for the explanation of the diagram. Not easy to learn when I have been doing crochet from written instructions for 40 years now. I bought a pattern online and downloaded and have no clue what to do however. I know that there are flowers in the pattern but there is nothing to say how to start it… only a round of dark dots that are shown to represent slip stitches. I am used to making a chain when doing crochet so I am really quite confused by it all. Does the slip stitch also represent chain stitch in diagrams? Have so many questions…I do regret buying the pattern now.
Thank you for any help.
Brenda

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Isabel

The solid black dots are your slip stitches, these usually have a x by them with a number. The x is to let you know that is where you slip stitch and the number let’s you know what round you are on the oval shipped symbols are your chains those numbers usually appear bolder to tell you how many chains you should have, I don’t want to confuse you so for now just start there. I have started a closed group on Facebook named crochet buddies.. You are welcomed to join. I will be posting tips, patterns and lots of other goodies on there as well. Tips on how to make your garment larger or smaller, how to read vintage patterns. Simply search for crochet buddies on facebook and send request. Also note that not all charts are printed the same way as written patterns but once you have learned the basics you will do fine.

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Sharon

Could you be specific about the facebook group “crochet buddies” you are you referring to? There are 10+ closed groups with that name. Thank you. 2/4/2016

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karen

Hi, just wondering if you can also tell me which ‘crochet buddies’ facebook group it is, there are several of them, can you please provide me with a link to it thank you muchly 🙂

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Suzanne

I would also like to know which Facebook group as there are several. Can you provide a link to the correct page?

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Mary

Does anyone know what the A.1, A.2, A.3 means on a UK crochet diagram? It is driving me nuts that I cannot figure it out. If you have a link to point me in the right direction with clear instructions, I’d very much appreciate it.

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Sue

A1, A2, A3 are usually the names given to different charts. DROPS often use various charts in a pattern at different points. So the directions may say “work A1 twice, then A2, A3, A2 and finally finish A1 twice.” You then refer to the various charts in the order given.

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tish rabie

Beautiful and easy

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Kim

what do lefties do??

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Diana C.

Kim — we lefties simply reverse the direction of the pattern by working it from left to right, even tho’ it’s written as if being crocheted from right to left. Patterns in the round are the same…read pattern steps counterclockwise as written for a Rightie, but crochet it clockwise as a Leftie would do it. If you find that a bit too confusing, you could always copy the pattern diagram onto a transparency and flip it over so it shows the pattern from a Leftie’s perspective!

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Laurie

Thanks so much for the tips! Never saw a crochet diagram before tonight, but I think I can figure it out now.

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Lisa

Can anyone please tell me what a “joining bar” is and how to crochet it? It is on the chart above but I can’t seem to find it anywhere else. TY

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Melanie

I have the same question. All I can find is something nebulous in an Irish Crochet tutorial, but I think it’s specific to that kind of work. If anyone has a good answer can you please help us?

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Shafanie Lai

Can I know what is front & back post? TQ

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Andrina

Let me try…when you look at the top of your crochet stitch, it should look like a V. One arm if the V is close to you–that’s the front post. The one farther from you is the back post. So if you are doing a front post, your hook will only go under that front part of the V instead of both as usual. Back post, it goes under the one farther from you. It makes,an interesting look! Hope that makes sense!

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Deb Poole

What you’re describing is the front loops. The post is the upright portion created by the crochet stitch directly beneath the v. When you go around the post you make a ridge with the v’s facing the opposite of the side you’re working in. When you work in the loops you create a smaller ridge with the part of the loop you’re not stitching into becoming that ridge.

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aysha shubnum

I want to learn how to draw the diagram of a crochet pattern before working with the crochet hook and the yarn,can anybody help me plz!?

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Isabel

If you wish to join my facebook group please send a request and you will be added. I am under crochet buddies. I will show how to do this.

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Mary Carter

My pattern, starting with row 10, has three tiny black dots. What do they mean? Do I slip stitch 3 stitches or reverse and go the opposite directions. Please help me I am stumped.

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Isabel

Usually this means slip stitch three times, what does your symbol for a chain look like? Is it an open oval?sometimes the dots represent chains. If you could send a photo to my facebook group I would be happy to help, send a request to be added to the group it’s under crochet buddies. These charts are like written patterns their not all the same, I hope that helps

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Yadira

I have the complete opposite, I learned reading patters and need help reading the written patterns… Please help, does anyone know how I can learn to read patterns?

Reply
Isabel

Do not fear my friend, learning to read a pattern can be overwhelming so let’s start with something simple. Lets say your pattern says chain 130, row 1 dc in 4th ch from hk *dc in next 4 ch (some patterns will say stitch ) in this case I used chains because that is what you’re working off of., 2 dc in next ch * repeat from* to* ending with 1 dc in last four dc. This is how you would read it, You will be doing a dc in the fourth chain from your hook, then you will do a dc in each of the next 4 ch then in your next ch you will do 2 dc, after that you repeat from the * one dc in each of next 4 dc then 2dc in next chain until you reach the end of your row, you will finish with a dc in each of the last four chains. The number 130 is just a number I threw out there and shouldn’t make a difference since it is dc’s. The asterisks are put there to remind you to do that over and over until you have reached the end.I hope this helped. I have a closed group on Facebook under crochet buddies. Just send request. I will be posting tips, patterns , free crochet pattern websites and many more things. Feel free to join. I hope that answered some of your question, don’t want to overwhelm you.

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Winifred Bezuidenhout

Hi, I would like to join your crochet buddies facebook page but don’t know which one.

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Andrina

My in the round pattern says NS–no stitch. Am I just supposed to skip all of that area? I fear that it will draw my pattern in too much, instead of increasing like it’s meant to. I thought of filling in with a slip stitch to prevent that. Can anyone explain how to work this? This is,a UK pattern so I don’t know that they are,quite the same as my regular American ones. Thx!

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siti sarah

Saya suku but corochet book

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Alice S

Hi, I love your site with the classes. I know how to ready crochet diagram, don’t know how to read the regular instructions (American way), and I’m having difficulty finding diagram patterns since most American magazines & books have written instructions & not diagram. Do you recommend any magazine or site that i can get diagram patterns???
Thank you for your time
Alice S.

Reply
Isabel

There are some books and magazines that come with both the written intrusions and charts. Also there is a place called etsy.com and they sell magazines that have both the charts and written. They are called magic crochet. Also there is a website called mypicot.com this lady has beautiful patterns. Most of them have the written pattern as well as the chart. You will need to download Adobe reader to download them and she gives a link. Another tip, under google search type in crochet patterns with charts and written instructions. Hope this was helpful.

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Carol Ann

Thank you Isabel for your referring ppl to mypicot.com. I am new to crochet and enjoy finding uniquely beautiful stitch patterns. The tutorials will also be very helpful. I only wish I had more time to devote to crochet.

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Marg

Some charts I look at seem to have very long starting chains…and they are tiny…..seems like a lot of counting. Any tip for getting the counts right…fairly quickly? Thanks!

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Delecia

Marg,
If I have a long count, I keep a lot of markers close by. As I chain, I will mark every 20 st. So if I’m chaining 240, I mark every 20th st. Then I only have to count the markers if I get lost and I don’t have to start at the beginning and count sts. Hope that helps. Stitch markers are my best friend in crochet.

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Ruth

Help a stranded sister please! 😥 I found this awesome page with loads of free patterns http://www.garnstudio.com/pattern.php?id=4713&cid=17#pattern_content and I’m trying to make this slipper boot without success. I have no idea how to interpret the pattern drawing. It’s supposed to be worked from the bottom right going left, in the round, but I don’t get it. 😥😥 I have the toe area done but that’s it. If anyone can write out the interpretation of the pattern drawing, you’d be my hero. Thank you.

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Michelle rhodes

Hi. Just downloaded and translated a pattern from portugese and it says make 2 high points at each high point of previous round then says make one high point in first high point of previous round and 2 highlights the next high point. What are high points and highlights?

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RoyG

I am having an awful time with a crochet diagram which is fine to red except at one point it has chain 5, then dc down to join on to a per-cocrehtted round flower, chain 5 and then dc to join the next point on the round, then chain 5 again NOW they have a treble crochet and from it two dc spitting down to join one each to a point on the first flower and then a lower point on the second flower. This makes perfect sense but how the dickens do you split in mid air a treble crohet without a stitch to insert into into two dc which you then join to the two flower edges. I cannot understand how to do this. It looks fine in the photograph of the dress but on the diagram nothing is explained and I have never seen this on any other diagram pattern. Can anyone help me?

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Tina Hares

I love the charts thay are so mutch easyer

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Linda Kennedy

I find the diagrams are not a problem in reading/ following. ut where i get confused is how to put the pieces together . what i mean is how many stitches to do length/ width etc

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Martha Grosskreutz

so my question is where do you find the diagram patterns? i used to use magic crochet magazines but since they stopped printing them I am at a loss for patterns

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Esmi

Try ravelry.com. Click on Patterns at the top of that page and click “Use the pattern browser & advanced search” just below the search box. You will get a very advanced search page with tons and tons of search filters on the left side of the page. Look for a section titled
Attributes, select Pattern Instructions and put a checkmark on “chart”.
If you also check the “free patterns only” filter near the top you should still have thousands of patterns to choose from!!

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Sharon

Hi can somebody tell me what this means please. Work 16 rows straight. Thank you

Reply
Esmi

Since it’s not asking you to work those rows in pattern, it most likely means you need to do 16 rows of plain single crochet rows .

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Tracy

What does A.2a (=8 DC) 13-14-15 times in width?

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