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Unlock the Magic of Crochet Charts: Your Step-by-Step to using a Visual Stitch Guide

A lace shawl printed pattern with a glimpse of chart visible on one page plus yarn and beads in the foreground
Shells on the Beach Shawl has a chart accompanying written instructions

Crochet charts offer a visual way to follow patterns. I’ve heard many crocheters say they don’t know where to start with charts, so let’s look at how to use them. It’s worth learning as it literally opens a world of new pattern possibilities; you could find yourself working from patterns created by Japanese, French, Brazilian and Russian speaking designers for example, without needing to learn anything beyond a few symbols!

What Are Crochet Charts?

Crochet charts are visual representations of crochet patterns. They use symbols and shapes to represent different crochet stitches and show the order in which to work them. They are a universal language for crocheters around the world as the symbols are fairly consistent; they transcend language barriers so anyone can follow a pattern.

Take a look at the crochet samples below and imagine tracing over them through thin paper, sketching simple lines over each stitch and a loop or dot where you see a chain. Now add a pointer to show which way you work each row or round and that's pretty much a crochet chart you've made!

dark blue silk mohair swatches of an octagonal motif with corner eyelets, a flat piece with diagonally set eyelets and a flat piece with a star eyelet pattern
Swatches for the Candyfloss Cape Pattern

Crochet charts have several advantages over traditional written patterns:

  • Clarity: Charts provide a clear visual guide, making it easier to understand complex stitch patterns and motifs.

  • International Compatibility: Since crochet charts use symbols, they can be understood by crocheters worldwide, regardless of their own language. Perhaps best of all there's no sudden panic about whether you might have worked up a UK terms pattern thinking it was in US terms and now the piece you've made is all stiff and far too small and vice versa of course.

  • Faster Stitch Recognition: With practice, crocheters can identify and execute stitches more quickly

  • Space-Saving: Charts condense information into a compact format, which is especially useful for intricate patterns.

There are some disadvantages too:

  • It can be less clear where to work a stitch, e.g. whether to work into a chain or chain space or for designs where stitches overlap rows.

  • Motif charts and asymmetric charts especially, should ideally be flipped for left handed crafters. Take a look at my post with ideas for left handed crocheters for more details on how this works.

Getting Started with Crochet Charts

Here's a crochet chart for a simple stitch pattern and its key (in US terms). See if you can picture how the piece will look and then scroll down to see it worked up below:

crochet chart with  stitch pattern in US dc and ch with key identifying meaning of each symbol used
Crochet chart for stitch pattern worked flat

Here are some tips to help you understand the chart:

Learn the Key Symbols: familiarise yourself with the standard crochet chart symbols. Each symbol represents a different stitch, such as single crochet, double crochet, chains, and more and may have an extension at the base that show where to work it, e.g. into front loop, around back post etc. The Craft Yarn Council has an online guide:

Check the Chart Key: each chart comes with a key explaining what each symbol represents. Read this before starting your project to ensure you know which stitches are to be used and which corresponds with each symbol.

Start with simple charts: if you're new to crochet charts, start with simple patterns with just a few basic stitches and gradually work your way up to more complex designs.

Here's how the stitches in the chart above look when we've finished working them. Does it look how you expected it to when you looked at the chart?

Orange cotton yarn and wooden ergonomic hook in use to make a filet crochet pattern of alternating rows of plain US dc and US dc and chain eyelets
The resulting stitch pattern

Crocheting with Charts: Step-by-Step

Would you like to try working from a chart? Why not try making a simple coaster by working the chart above in worsted/aran cotton yarn and and repeating rows 3 and 4 once more to see how a chart for working flat works. Then you might like to try the chart below to make a simple flower. You could add it to a pin to make a brooch or stitch it on a plain crochet item to give it a fancy look. Use any yarn you like with a hook size smaller than the yarn band suggests to stop your flower drooping. Again, you can see the picture of the finished flower below.

Crochet chart for working a flower in the round with 5 7-chain petals joined to the centre with UK dc/US sc
Flower motif chart


x UK dc/US sc

0 chain

. slip stitch

The dark arrow shows the start and direction of work and the light arrow shows where to finish and fasten off for a crocheter holding the hook with the right hand.

Those holding the hook in their left hand would use a mirrored version with the dark arrow swung in the opposite direction and all slip stitches and arrows at the other side of the top centre petal. You can find a left handed version of this chart in my post with ideas for left handed crocheters 

Here's how to work from your chart effectively:

1. Begin where you see a small black arrowhead; typically at the bottom of a chart for working into a foundation chain or centre with a ring or loop centre, e.g. magic ring, 4 chain loop.

2. Start working in the direction the arrow points. In motif charts like those for flowers and granny squares, you’ll usually read the chart exactly as you work and when working flat, you’ll read the chart in one direction for your foundation chain (left to right for a right handed chart); back in the other direction for odd numbered rows; and switch back again for even numbered rows.  Don't forget to add the turning chains in row 1 to your foundation chain! I do that every so often and then wonder why I don't have enough stitches.

Often, the row number is at the start of each row or round but if not, look for the turning chains to see which end is the start of the row when working flat or in motif charts, look for the dot symbol, which shows a slip stitch to close one round and start the next.

3. Check frequently: count stitches and rows to make sure your project matches the chart. This will help catch errors early and make sure you don’t spend a lot of time unpicking.

4. Use pattern photos to check that your work looks right. This can be helpful if ever you’re unsure about whether you’re interpreting the stitch chart correctly.

5. Practice Makes Perfect

Don't be discouraged if you find crochet charts challenging at first. Like any skill, practice is essential. Start with simple charts with written instructions also available for when you get  stuck and gradually work your way up to more complex standalone charts.

Here's the flower. Does yours look the same? Let me know in the comments below.

An orange flower, crocheted in the round with 5 7-chain petals joined to the centre with UK dc/US sc
The resulting flower

Crochet Charts: A World of Possibilities

Once you've mastered the art of reading crochet charts, a world of endless creative possibilities opens up to you. You can create beautiful blankets, intricate doilies, stunning garments, and much more. With practice, you'll find that crochet charts become perfect maps for your crafting journey. If you've caught the bug, here are some of my patterns that are available with all or part of the design charted. Just click to find out how to get each one.

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This is helpful. I've not used crochet charts. I do prefer knitting charts to written instructions, so I suspect with practice, I'd feel similarly for crochet charts.

Mar 03
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Yes, I think a visual can be really handy when you have a pattern that isn't an easy repeat to memorise and you just need to glance over every now and then to check it.

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