Reading Written Crochet Instructions

Crochet instructions are written in a shortened form, using Standard abbreviations & Symbol diagrams.
Every abbreviations and symbol in the diagram represents a specific stitch as it appears from the right side of the work.
Diagrams with symbols that represent the stitches are often given along with the written instructions, or sometimes the diagrams stand alone. Text and charts can complement each other. It is a matter of personal preference which method to use.

Reading written pattern instructions is relatively easy once you get used to the abbreviations, symbols and terms.
For example, instead of saying double crochet stitch throughout a pattern, the instructions abbreviate this stitch as dc.

If a pattern says: ch 1, sk 1, 1 dc in next st
This is a much shorter way to say: chain 1, skip 1 stitch, work 1 double crochet in the next stitch

The punctuation marks are your traffic signals, showing you when to pause.

Most crochet stitches and instructions are written using a standard set of abbreviations. See Crochet Stitches, Symbols & Abbreviations page for more info.

This is an example for a written instructions to create a motif:

Rnd 1:
ch 1, 3sc into ring, *two more times, join with dc to first sc. (4 spaces)

Rnd 2:
[ch 3, dc2tog, (ch 3, dc3tog) two times] into space made by joining dc, *[dc3tog, (ch3, dc3tog) two times] into next ch-3 space; rep from* two more times, join with slip st to first cluster.

Rnd 3:
ch 1, sc in same stitch, *3 sc in next ch-3 space, sc in next stitch, Picot-3, 3 sc in next ch-3 space, sc in next 2 stitches; repeat from * around, omitting last sc, join to first sc. Fasten off.

In addition to the abbreviations crochet patterns often include symbols to signal repeated text, special instructions and clarifying information.

Asterisk *
Indicate a point of repeat.
 An instruction could be written: *ch 1, sk 1, 1 dc in next st; repeat from * 3 more times.
Note that you work from the asterisk to the semicolon once,  then you repeat it three more times, so that the group of stitches is worked a total of four times.

Double Asterisk **
Indicate a final incomplete repeat.
 An instruction could be written: *ch 1, dc in next st, ch 3, dc**, dc in next st; repeat from * around, ending last repeat at **

Parentheses ( )
- Parentheses are used to clarify or reinforce information
For example: Ch 3 (counts as 1 dc).
For example: (25 sc)
That may be used at the end of a row to tell you how many total stitches you should have in that row.

- Set off stitches that are worked as a group; may be used for explanatory text
For example: (sc, 2 dc, sc) in next dc.

In this example, put all four stitches into the next double crochet stitch.
- Parentheses are also used to tell you which side of the work you should be on
For example: (WS) or (RS)
In this example, Wrong Side of work or Right Side of work.

- Parentheses enclose the variations you must apply to the different sizes
For example: size 2 (4, 6, 8).
A pattern may include directions for different sizes. Throughout the instructions, wherever you must choose for the correct size, the choices will be written like this: ch 34 (36, 38, 40)

Brackets [ ]
- Sets off instructions that are to be repeated within a pattern
example: [dc, sk 2 ch, sc] across
Follow all directions inside brackets as many times as indicated before moving on

- Used with parentheses, when there are two groups of instructions nested within each other.
For example: [ch2, (sc, ch 1, sc) in next dc] two times.
In this case, follow the instructions between the brackets twice. To be specific: "ch 2, (sc, ch 1, sc) in next dc, ch 2, (sc, ch 1, sc) in next dc"

For example: [(dc3tog, ch 3) two times, dc3 tog] in next ch-3 space.
In this case,follow the instructions between the brackets once, working all stitches into the same ch-3 space. To be specific: "in the next ch-3 space work (dc3tog, ch 3, dc3tog, ch 3, dc3tog)"

Additional Terminology
Terms do not denote a fixed arrangement of stitches. Exactly what they mean may be different for each pattern. The procedure is therefore always spelled out at the beginning of each set of instructions and is valid only for that set, unless stated otherwise.

There are several terms used in crochet instructions which are listed below:

Back loop: Refers to the loop farthest from you on the previous row.

Chain space: To create a space by making a chain between stitches. To stitch in a chain space, pass the hook through the loop of the chain space and complete the stitch.

Cluster: two, or more, stitches, often started in different places, made leaving the last loop of each temporarily on the hook until finally one loop is drawn through them all, joining them together into one stitch at their top.

Foundation chain: The beginning chain of your project.

Front Loop: Refers to the loop nearest you on the previous row.

Gauge: Refers to the number of stitches per inch vertically and number of rows per inch horizontally using a specific yarn and stitch. If the number of rows and/or stitches is fewer than indicated for the project's gauge, your hook is too large. Crochet another swatch with a smaller size hook. If the number of rows and stitches is more than indicated in the swatch, switch to a larger hook. Always use a hook that produces the correct gauge.

Join: Refers to the slip stitch used to join two stitches as indicated in the pattern.

Left Front: Refers to the part of the garments that will be worn on the left side.

Left-Hand Side: Refers to the side nearest your left hand as you are working.

Picot: a run of chain stitches normally brought back on itself and fixed into a decorative loop with a slip stitch.

Post: The vertical part of a completed stitch, more evident in double and triple crochet stitches.

Right Front: Refers to the part of a garment that will be worn on the right side.

Right-Hand Side: Refers to the side nearest your right hand as you are working.

Round: A horizontal line of stitches in which the work spirals and there is no step up to the next level. This is found only on round spiraling crochet work.

Row: A horizontal line of stitches in which a level is completed and there is a step up to the next level. This can be a flat piece worked back and forth or a round piece in which each round is completed before a step up to the next row.

Step up: To chain one or more stitches at the end of a row in order to position the yarn and hook at the level of a new row. For single crochet you chain one, for double crochet you chain three. This is also called the turning chain. In crochet directions, it is sometimes listed at the end of a row and sometimes at the beginning of the row. 

Shell: A group of stitches worked into the same stitch or place.

Tail: The loose end of the yarn.

Turning/starting chain: Another name for "Step up".

Turn: Refers to turning the crochet piece over to the reverse side to begin a new row.

Weave in end: To pass through the last loop of yarn with a tapestry needle, then stitch the tail into the crochet work for about 2 inches so it's hidden. Stitch back and forth, locking the yarn in place so it won't loosen. Clip the tail close to the crochet work.

Work Even: Refers to working in the same fashion without increasing or decreasing until the piece measures the indicated size, or for the number of rows or stitches indicated.

Yarn over: To wrap the yarn around the hook from back to front.