I’m gonna be straight with you. This probably won’t be the most interesting blog you ever read. But it’s an important one nonetheless.
I’ve written before about how to read and write a quality crochet pattern which talked in general terms about the construction of a pattern and what to look out for. But in this article, I want to get into the specifics of how to follow instructions in a Dora Does pattern.
My aim is to explain how I write my crochet patterns and, especially if you’re newer to working with written patterns, and how you should read and interpret them.
In the publishing business, this is known as a style sheet. I’m not going to reduce it to a list of abbreviations though as I want you to understand why things are written in a certain way. I think this a much more efficient way to learn – I’m a “why not just what” kinda person!
There are so many different ways you can convey the same instructions in crochet, with small nuances making big differences. So I wanted to put it somewhere on record what I mean in my instructions.
My writing style has changed over the years and I’m working through some of my older patterns to check they are all in alignment with how I write now.
Below I outline my personal crochet writing style, though you can email firstname.lastname@example.org if something confuses you. I am always interested in getting feedback and improving the clarity of my patterns.
A lot of my patterns have more preamble than pattern in them. I often feel a bit odd about this, but then I remember that the point of it is to make following the actual pattern easy.
Below I outline all the sections I include in my patterns and explain a little about why they are there. This is an elaboration of the explanation I gave in my more general post about reading crochet patterns.
After that, I’ll move on to the pattern content, or ‘crochet language’ as I call it!
These are akin to the basic rules of the pattern and outline the assumptions that I’m making when I’m writing .
This may include points like “turning chains do not count as stitches” or “instructions written between [square] brackets should be repeated the number of times indicated”.
This section includes general notes as well as construction information, such as “this sweater is worked top down in rounds”.
I tend to use this section in place of allocating an beginner / intermediate / advanced category. A beginner can work even the most complex pattern if they are patient enough!!
Instead, this section tells you what the pattern requires in terms of techniques.
Beyond the basics, I always explain stitch descriptions in full, so you don’t necessarily need to have these skills before you start the pattern.
It’s all a learning process – and you can do it!!
This will include what I used to make the item or items pictured.
Hook sizes are stated in millimetres and yarn quantities in meters and grams.
I tend to use yarn weight category names such as 4ply, double knit, aran or worsted rather than numbers.
Guidance about substitutions may be given, but you can also read my thoughts on choosing yarn in this post.
Any other notions you might need, like tapestry needle, stitch markers or buttons will be noted here too.
Sizing & Finished Measurements
This section gives details of the approximate finished size of the item, based on the yarn, hook and gauge I have worked with.
I use centimetres for my measurements because I find this more accurate and easier to work to.
For something like a garment, this part of the pattern is going to be a lot more extensive. I may also talk about how the garment should fit and what else you might want to consider. Where appropriate, I may give guidance on adjustments here too.
Typically my adult garment patterns will be written in 7 sizes so this section will have a table with a few different measurements (such as bust, length, underarm etc.).
I will often also include a more detailed schematic at the end of the pattern.
This table will also, in my PDF patterns, be colour coded with each size represented by a different colour. This will help you follow the right instructions for the size you’re making. More about reading patterns written for multiple sizes later on!
Stitches and Abbreviations
This will be a list of the abbreviations I’m going to use for the stitches and terms throughout the pattern.
I use US Standard Crochet terms for the majority of my patterns. The abbreviations list will give the UK equivalent in brackets after the US term.
Sometimes I will offer a second PDF written in UK terms. This usually only happens if the pattern was originally written for a UK publisher or yarn company who prefer UK crochet terms.
Here I will outline any ‘special’ stitches I use in the pattern.
What constitutes a ‘special stitch’ is open to debate, but I tend to explain anything which isn’t one of the basic crochet stitches (single, half double, double, treble etc.).
For free patterns on the blog, I may link to a tutorial for the stitch. In my PDF patterns I will always write it out, even if I also link to a more detailed tutorial. I try to ensure my PDF patterns are self-contained in this respect.
In some cases I may include a photo tutorial within the pattern if I feel it’s necessary or adds value.
This will explain if there is a repeating stitch pattern used throughout the project on which the gauge is based. It might be something like moss stitch or it might be more detailed, including stitch and row instructions.
You can read more about gauge statements in this post.
Generally I will give my gauge as the number of stitches and rows in a 10cm square area of the crocheted fabric. This may be a single stitch or the pattern repeat (given above) and will include the size of hook I used to achieve it.
Gauge is usually given based on unblocked fabric unless otherwise specified.
All the information you have learned so far is important to allow the pattern to be written as concisely as possible. I explain as much as I can before I start, rather than having to do so in the pattern itself.
Below, I’ll explain what I mean in some of my basic instructions, stitch counts, how I deal with repeats and how to follow patterns for multiple sizes.
Pattern writing style
Below is an example of a simple round instruction which you might see in one of my patterns. I’ll go through it and explain what each section means.
Round 3: Ch2, 1dc in first st, 2dc in next st, *1dc, 2dc; rep from * to end, ss to top of first st, turn. 30 sts
So this would be an instruction for the 3rd round in a circular pattern.
You would chain 2 to start the round. I abbreviate this to Ch2 rather than 2ch because that is how I say it. It just flows for me. For all other stitches I write the number before the stitch (e.g. 2dc).
I rarely count turning or starting chains as stitches, so the first stitch here would be worked in the same space as the ch2. It would be clarified both in the pattern notes and the first time it appears in the pattern. In the example above, Round 1 may say something like:
Ch2 (does not count as a st here or throughout), 1dc…
1dc in first st: This is pretty self explanatory I hope. I want you to work 1 double crochet in the first stitch of the round. I put a digit before all the basic stitch instructions even if it’s a singular stitch like in this case. It just helps avoid any doubt.
2dc in the next st: Here I want you to to work 2 double crochet in the same stitch (the one after the first st).
I’ll address repeats in a moment but you’ll see that in the example at the top, I have shortened the instruction after the asterisk to “1dc, 2dc”. This means work 1dc in the next available stitch and 2dc in the one after that.
Unless I specify otherwise, stitches should be worked in consecutive stitches.
Note that with the stitch instruction, there is no space between the number and the stitch instruction. When I’m telling you where to put the stitch, there will be a space.
For example “2dc in next 2 dc” means works 2dc in each of the next 2 stitches (which will be double crochets).
ss to top of first st: This instruction is asking you to join the round. I join to the top of the first stitch rather than into the starting chain as I think this gives a neater look and tends to stop the seam from wandering.
If you turn, remember to skip this slip stitch when you start the next round as otherwise you’ll end up with extra stitches!
At the end of the row or round I will add a number. This will indicate how many stitches there should be in that round.
I will give this number only where the stitch count changes or you are starting a new section. There’s no point adding it for it’s own sake as it just creates clutter.
Generally I include chain spaces in the stitch count but this will be clarified in the pattern.
Working multiple stitches into the same place
I use (round brackets) to indicate where you should make multiple stitches into the same stitch.
For example; “(3dc, ch1, 3dc) in ch1-sp” is asking you to work all the instructions in the brackets into the same chain 1 space. You might see this example used to explain working the corner of a granny square.
I use * asterisks or [square] brackets to indicate repeats.
The * instruction is usually used when you repeat the same instruction to the end of a row or section, as demonstrated in the initial example.
This method is particularly useful when the pattern covers multiple sizes. It means I don’t have to write out, and you don’t have to read, separate instructions for each size.
Square brackets like [these] are uses to indicate repeats of specific chunks of an instruction within a row or round. I use these with specific numbers of repeats.
Ch2, 1dc first 10 sts, 3dc in next st sk 2 sts, 1sc, [sk 2 sts, 5dc, sk 2 sts, 1sc] 3 times, sk 2 sts, 3dc in next st, 1dc in next 10 sts.
The part in the square brackets is essentially a shell stitch and I’m asking you to make 3 In the centre of a row of double crochet. This is useful when there is no symmetric pattern repeat across a row.
I avoid instructions like “repeat 3 times” because it’s never clear whether that includes the first time you worked it. Just writing “[x instruction] 3 times” is more definite.
Wrong side and Right Side
In the first row instruction of a pattern or section, you may see WS or RS written in brackets. This refers to the wrong or right side of the pattern. Sometimes this is referred to as the private or public side.
In patterns made in one piece where the fabric is the same on both sides, this is less important, as it is only a relative term.
This feature really comes into play when you are joining pieces together or where there is a distinct side the pattern wants facing outwards.
Increases and Decreases
These are normally represented by working multiple stitches into one stitch (for an increase) and by skipping stitches or working stitches together (for a decrease).
However, I wanted to call them out as sometimes, for ease of reading, I will add the abbreviation ‘inc’ or ‘dec ‘in brackets at the start of a row to signal that that row will contain an increase or deacrease.
The stitch count will also reflect this but I find it useful to add the additional cue in the pattern, in case the maker has gone onto autopilot a little (we all do it!).
How to read a pattern written for multiple sizes
Given that I write a lot of garment patterns, I wanted to clarify how I work instructions for 7 sizes into one pattern. I don’t mind telling you that it’s not always easy!
There are some cases where I tend to split parts of the instructions out because it is the most sensible and readable way to do it.
There are two main things you need to be aware of with multi-sized (graded) patterns. The variation in the stitch count and the variation in the row count. It’s the latter that I find throws people off course, which is why I want to mention it explicitly.
Instructions for different sizes are written in increasing order, with the smallest size first and larger sizes following in brackets, i.e. “ Work XS (S, M, L, 1X, 2X, 3X) sts”.
So you may see something like this:
Row 1 (WS): Ch1 (does not count as st throughout), 1sc in the next 25(28, 31, 35, 38, 42, 45) sts, sc2tog, turn. 26(29, 32, 36, 39, 43, 46) sts
In this example the first stitch number (25) is the instruction for the extra small size, the next (28) for small, then medium (31) and large (35) and so on. The stitch count at the end of the row gives the number for each size in the same format.
The same principle applies for row or round repeats where you may see something like this:
Rounds 5 – 10(11, 12, 12, 13, 14, 15): Rep Round 4
In this example, you’ve worked the same rounds for each size up to Round 4. Now I’m asking you to repeat (rep) Round 4 a different number of times for each size.
So for M and L for example, I’m asking you to rep Round 4 up to round 12, for 3X, you should repeat it to round 15.
If you had already deviated in round counts by size then you might see the instruction look more like this.
Rounds 5(6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11) – 10(12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22): Ch1, 1sc in each st to end, ss to top of first st to join, turn
I try to keep these repeats minimal if I can because it can start to get tricky to see, but sometimes it’s necessary to write this way.
As I mentioned in the sizing section, in my PDF patterns, I colour code instructions for each size to make it easier to ‘see’ the instruction you’re meant to follow. This is a manual and time consuming job but I get such great feedback about it that I think it’s worth the effort.
I try to be mindful about using colours which are still readable for visually impaired people, but if I ever get feedback that this is problematic then I will review it.
If you are working from a hard copy of the pattern, you may want to go through and highlight or circle the relevant colour for your chosen size.
The image above shows a good chunk of all that we have discussed here (though it’s printed in black and white so you can’t see the colour coding!).
With colourwork, sometimes it makes more sense to to give instructions in the form of charts. A (free) pattern like the Chakra shawl uses this for the colourwork sections so you can see what I mean.
These charts also come with a few notes on how to follow them.
Colourwork charts tend to all use the same stitch so they are grid based and differ from stitch diagrams where the different stitches are all drawn out.
At the moment, I don’t have the technical skills to create formal stitch pattern diagrams, though it’s on my list to learn! If I do include a stitch diagram in my pattern, it will likely be hand drawn.
It will however always contain a key, rather than assuming you know what the stitch symbols are
The difference between left and right handed crocheters
The key difference is that left and right handed crocheters will make patterns which are a mirror image of each other. A left hander will work in rounds clockwise and in rows from left to right, where right handers will do the reverse.
For the most part this will not impact the finished result. There are some exceptions in which this matters and in these cases I will give separate instructions if appropriate.
To prevent confusion, I try to avoid using terms like left and right shoulder because then I need to reverse for the opposite hand and it just ends up being confusing for everyone involved! Instead I use terms like first and second. I hope that the way I write my patterns makes this seamless.
I’ve added this section in because I am left handed so it’s something I’m aware of. You may also find that, if you’re right handed then in some cases the image you see may be a mirror image of what you have created. Do not be put off by this!
I also offer my video tutorials in left and right handed format.
Sharing your work
I love to see all your finished makes so I have started to include a few instructions at the end of my patterns on how you can share your work with me on social media. This may include a suggested hashtag for instagram for example.
It’s obviously completely optional!
I hope that you have found this a useful overview of how to interpret and follow crochet patterns from Dora Does.
I do understand it can be a little overwhelming when you first start reading crochet patterns and I hope this demystifies some of that!
If there’s anything you come across that doesn’t make sense to you then please do get in touch. I expect there may be areas I have missed here so will add to and update this post as they arise!