patterns and projects

Whether you’re about to embark on your first crochet venture, or take on a brand new creation, the LoveCrochet team have lovingly put together some expert tips on what to consider when taking on your next pattern.

Choosing a size | How to measure yourself: The basics | Reading a pattern | UK and US crochet terms | Understanding size in a pattern

Choosing the size

Commercially produced crochet patterns for garments will give instructions for most sizes.

However, selecting the right size depends on several factors, including how the garment will be worn, what it will be worn with, and personal preferences over a snug or loose fit.

Garment patterns will indicate whether or not there has been positive or negative ease taken into account for fit. Positive ease is where the garment has extra room already calculated into the sizings, and negative ease is where a garment is designed purposely to be close fitting.

How yourself: The basics

Measuring should be done in just underwear, to avoid oversizing. Ease can added as needed, working from the base measurements.

Bust/chest: Around the fullest part of the bust/chest.

Waist:Around the natural waistline, at the narrowest point of your middle just above your belly button.

Hips:Around the fullest part of the bottom.

Sleeve length:From the cuff to the under-arm.

Arm-hole depth:This is easier to measure from a pre-existing garment – holding the tape measure straight, or using a ruler, measure from the bottom of the underarm to the shoulder.

Reading a pattern

For beginners, crochet patterns may seem to be written in an incomprehensible code. In fact, the abbreviations and symbols used are simply a basic language which is surprisingly easy to learn and understand.

There are two types of crochet language: written abbreviations and stitch symbol diagrams.

Written patterns

This type of pattern is simply an abbreviated form of normal words and spellings. The table below decodes the most common terms.

Common crochet terms

AbbreviationFull term
blp/bloback loop only
BPback post
CCcontrast color
dcdouble crochet
dec (xx2tog)decrease(s)(d)(ing)
dtrdouble triple crochet
flp/flofront loop only
FPfront post
hdchalf double crochet
MCmain color
RSright side
scsingle crochet
sl stslip stitch
trtriple crochet
WSwrong side
yoyarn over the hook

UK/Australian and US crochet terms

There are some minor language differences in UK and US written patterns. It can be a little confusing at first, but as long as you take the one you learned first as your starting-point, then it’s easy to translate from one to the other. Most patterns will specify which terminology has been used to write the pattern – but you can tell instantly if you see a ‘sc’ – a single crochet is a US term. If you see a sc, the pattern is using US terms.

The table below gives some matching terms match across US and UK/Australian patterns.

Common crochet terms

US nameUK/Australian name
single crochetdouble crochet
double crochettreble (tr)
half double crochethalf treble (htr)
triple crochetdouble treble (dtr)
slip stitchsingle crochet

Stitch symbol diagrams

This type of pattern is an illustrative diagram, with each stitch represented by a stylised symbol. The diagrams may look complex, but they offer a range of advantages over traditional written instructions.

Because the whole pattern is laid out, with all stitches visible in relation to one another, it is easy to see how the pattern fits together and how it should look when finished.

It is easy to spot and highlight repeating patterns or particular stitch sequences.

It is easy to mark up the pattern to keep track of where you are when you need to take a break.

Crochet symbols are internationally recognised, so they can be read and written by anyone, regardless of their spoken language.

This chart explains the most commonly used crochet stitch symbols.

Like any new skill, learning to read crochet symbols takes a little time, patience and practice before it feels familiar and easy. Start with a good book, a website, or a crochet craft group and a few simple patterns to build up your knowledge gradually.

Understanding sizing in a pattern

The most important measurement to note in crocheted garment patterns is the intended finished size. This will be supplied as part of a diagram or schematic, illustrating the basic overall shape and dimensions of the finished piece. If you work to gauge and tension as per the pattern, you should achieve a near-perfect match to these measurements.

Understanding tension

Problems with tension and gauge can make or break projects, and they can be very frustrating for beginners. Being able to follow and match gauge instructions is one the most useful skills a crocheter can learn.

Tension or gauge refers to the number of stitches and rows per inch of worked pattern. All patterns are written with a specific tension requirement, and it is very important to match this as closely as possible in order to make the finished item in the intended size.

Imagine making two squares of crochet with the same yarn and the same number of rows and stitches, but one is worked very loosely on a large hook, while the other is made with very tight stitches and a small hook. It is easy to see that the two squares will differ quite drastically in size.

What may seem like a very small difference in gauge, of perhaps one stitch over a standard ten-centimetre sample, will multiply dramatically over the expanse of an item such as a full-sized adult garment. This can add a lot of unwanted extra width, length, or both.

Every crocheter has their own natural working tension, and it can help if you can identify your own tension – do you crochet tightly or loosely, or somewhere in between? Making test swatches always helps to understand your own gauge, and to identify simple solutions, such as moving up or down a hook size to get the correct working tension.

Remember: always follow the gauge on the pattern.

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