How to Read Crochet Charts

I don’t know about you, but I used to be scared of crochet charts. I’m not kidding. I stuck to my written pattern and avoided those weird looking symbols at all costs. If that’s you today, don’t worry. So many crocheters avoid charts. In reality, though, if you take only 10 minutes to learn how charts work, you can save yourself so much time in the future! I’m serious, charts are my LIFE now! I’ll use a chart over a written pattern any day, and you can too!

How to Read Crochet Charts

Why You Should Use Charts

Ready to find out why you should learn charts? Read on to find out why they are helpful, and then follow the tutorial that will help you understand them in no time! TRUST ME—they are really not that hard!

1. Charts Help You Visualize

That’s right. Charts can help you see what the finished result of the pattern will be. I know you’re probably thinking that that’s what pictures are for. Many times, however, it is harder to see the exact stitches in a picture. Charts give you a detailed representation of all the stitches you’ll be using for the pattern.

2. Charts Confirm the Written Pattern

There’s another benefit to using charts. Written patterns are really easy to mess up. Sometimes there will be flat out errors I’ll find in the patterns I make. Other times it is simply an issue of clarity—for example, the wording might be confusing. However, with that chart by your side, you can confirm and clarify exactly what the written pattern is trying to say.

3. Charts Help You Design

For all you designers out there—you know how sometimes you’ll have an idea for a pattern in your head, but you’re not sure if it will work?

Enter charts, once again. Before you start crocheting, try making a chart to visualize your idea. It has saved me a ton of time when I make the chart before starting.

By the way, designers, side note: if you’re wondering how to make your own charts, I use a software called Crochet Charts by Stitchworks Software. It is completely free, and it has a ton of stitches already built in. All you have to do is arrange them for your design!

How To Read Crochet Charts/Diagrams

Ready to dive into learning charts? Trust me, you will not regret this! Charts are one technique that every crocheter should know.

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Crochet Chart Symbols

Simply put, crochet charts are are a symbol representing a stitch. That’s it. They are simply a visual representation of the actual crochet pattern. Learning the symbols is just like learning the abbreviations in a written pattern. Trust me—it is NOT hard.

To make it even easier, each symbol actually LOOKS like the stitch it represents! Let’s look at some of the basic symbols below.

Basic Stitches


The symbols below show a series of 4 chains. So if you saw this on a chart, it would be the written equivalent of “Ch 4.” Not too hard, right?

crochet charts

Single Crochet

Here is a symbol for a single crochet. See how it is small and looks similar to the regular sc stitch?

crochet charts

Now lets see these two stitches combined—how they would actually look in a chart.

Can you guess how the chart below would be written out? It would be something like this: “Ch 5, sc in 2nd ch from hook and in next 3 ch.”

crochet charts

See, I told you this wouldn’t be hard! It’s just a matter of knowing which symbol goes with which stitch. Now let me show you the next stitches up.

Below, from left to right, we have: half double crochet (hdc), double crochet (dc), triple crochet (tr), and double triple (dtr). Now: do not get scared on me here. This is still easy, trust me.

crochet charts

You’re probably thinking that its easy to tell which one is which when they’re stacked next to each other like that—but in a chart, it’s a whole different story! Don’t worry! There are actually 2 easy ways to tell them apart.

First, their height. Obviously, the hdc is the smallest, and dtr in tallest.

Second: see those little notches in the center of each stitch? They’re the key to all this! They stand for how many yarn overs are in the stitch. When you make a dc stitch, you yarn over once. Tr, you yarn over twice. Dtr, 3 times. In a sense, this is actually EASIER than a written pattern! All you have to do is look at those notches.

Now, you’ve probably noticed that the hdc is the exception to this rule. It has no notch, but you still yarn over once. You’ll just have to get used to that one—but for all the others, the notches are the key!

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Combining Simple Stitches

Now you now the basics of reading charts.You know the symbols for regular stitches. The next step is to learn how these symbols are combined! Don’t worry, it doesn’t get harder from here. Most symbols that would be considered “hard” are just a combination of the simple stitches you learned above!

Look at the picture below. On the far left, we have stitch that would read: ch 3, 3 dc in one st.

The next symbol is a 5 dc shell, worked simply by doing 5 dc in one stitch. The third one is another type of shell. It is worked by doing 2 dc, ch 1, 2 dc in one stitch.

Lastly, we have a 3 dc cluster. Here’s how this one is worked: *YO, insert hook in indicated st, YO, pull up a loop. YO, pull through 2 loops. Rep from * 2 times. Pull through last 4 loops on hook.

crochet charts

The cluster is probably the hardest stitch we’ve looked at so far. But even that is not due to the symbol itself, but just because the stitch is a little more difficult!

There are a lot more symbols out there—but whenever you do a pattern, it will explain all of its symbols. It’s not like you’ll just be left to figure them out on your own. If you’d like, you can check out the Craft Yarn Council’s chart guide. They have a helpful list of symbols you can refer to, and a link to download it as a PDF.

And remember, if a pattern uses a symbol that’s not in this list, they will probably include instructions for completing it. So there is no reason to fear! You can do this!

Think you’re ready to try a pattern that uses a chart? My Royalty Scarf Pattern is completely free, and it has a full chart to accompany the written pattern! Click here to try this pattern!

Crochet Chart Software

Maybe you already know about reading crochet charts, but you want to make your own now. There are not a lot of crochet chart softwares out there, but there are thankfully a few.

Here are the two I recommend:

  1. Stitch Works Software. This is great if you need to make charts with a LOT of different symbols. It is also a program that downloads directly to your computer, so you can work offline.
  2. Stitch Fiddle. This one is great specifically for color work diagrams. It is still good for charts like shown in this article, but it doesn’t have as many stitch diagrams.

I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial. If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would love to help! Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Pinterest for lots more inspiration!

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Happy Crocheting!

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  1. Thank you so much for such understandable instructions! I finally get it! Thank you again so much!

  2. Hi Rachel…it looks easy and gougeous too. I’m going to try and make one…still a bit raw with this crochet. I’ll let you know how it went. Thanks for teaching us…it helps to read something you can learn and practise at the same time. AML…Erna

  3. Thank you, I’ve been so scared stressing on and trying to learn to read the patterns. Thank you for explaining it in such a way that “normal” people can understand them

  4. Absolutely wonderful explanations. I’ve been trying my darndest to understand a crochet chart and never could I “get it”. You explained it perfectly!!! Thank you thank you a thousand times thank you.

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