HOW TO READ A PATTERN - Patterns abbreviate stitch names and instructions, and utilize symbols including *, ( ), and [ ] to indicate repeats, stitch combinations, stitch sequence, total number of stitches, etc. Primarily, this ensures uniformity in commercial patterns, and lessons the space needed for the directions and basically is crochet shorthand. For a more extensive list, see the urls at the bottom.
STITCH ABBREVIATIONS, most common ... brief repeat of an earlier post, but do read on after the stitches for additional info:
ch = chain, sc = single crochet, dc = double crochet, hdc = half double,
tr = triple crochet and trc = triple crochet, sl st = slip stitch
dtr = double triple crochet and dtrc = double triple crochet
NOTE: When special or unusual stitches are used, both the abbreviation and instruction is usually included, sometimes illustrated.
A FEW SPECIAL STITCH COMBINATIONS:
cl = cluster (combining 2 or more stitches in one space/stitch, example: 3 dc in one stitch = cluster)
shell = a number of dc or tr worked into one stitch or space similar to cluster (specific directions given per pattern)
V stitch = 1dc-2ch-1dc or variation that when complete looks like a "V" (specific directions given per pattern)
ABBREVIATIONS FOR INSTRUCTIONS:
yo = yarn over (grab yarn) lp = loop sp = space st = stitch
dc2tog = crochet 2 stitches together (SAME AS: dec = decrease) inc = increase sk = skip
RS or (RS) indicates right side, or front, of work - useful to know when working a sweater, hat, etc. something with a distinct front/back, inside/outside, "right side" "wrong side."
Chain Multiples: For instance, chain multiples of 10 plus 8. The item can be as wide as you prefer...lets say 30 stitches plus 8, for a total of 38 (3 X 10, plus 8). Chain 10, then 10 more, then 10 more, ending with 8 more chains. This preset number of stitch segments accommodates the sequencing of stitches to be repeated over and over, plus 8 more to accommodate the right and left margins. Generally border stitches would be worked a tad differently than the over all pattern.
Work even: - Continue to crochet in pattern as already established without increasing or decreasing stitches. The same is meant by "Rows 4 through end: repeat row 3."
Ch 3, counts as first dc now and throughout. This means that to get the proper stitch height for this row or round, you must chain 3 in place of the first double crochet. Pay particular attention to instructions like this as they will not be repeated in subsequent rows or rounds as it should be understood that once stated, it applies to each row or round.
SYMBOLS: *, ( ), [ ] explained:
( ) = A group of stitches worked in sequence in the same place; or additional or clarifying information; or stitch count at the row or round end.
Examples: (3 dc, ch 2, 3 dc) in next corner sp - put this exact stitch combination into the space indicated (corner)
(sc, hdc, 3 dc, hdc, sc) in next st - put this exact stitch combination into the space indicated (next stitch)
(88 [94, 106] sc) - indicates multiple stitch counts for additional garment sizes or rows/rnds. For instance, you are crocheting a sweater. The directions include the sizes small, medium and large, with the pattern written for the small size, and additional stitch count for med and large included in brackets inside ( and ). Thus, if you are making small, follow the direction of 88 stitches. For med or large, work more stitches as indicated in the brackets inside the ( and ), either [94 or 106].
[ ] = instructions inside brackets must be repeated as many times as directed and may include an elaborate stitch combination; also indicates additional or clarifying information.
Examples: [dc in next dc, cl in next ch-1 sp] 5 times -- so, what you would do is: work 1 double crochet into the next double crochet of the previous row, work a cluster stitch into the next chain 1 space of the previous row, 1 time of 5
REPEAT, 2 of 5
REPEAT, 3 of 5
REPEAT, 4 of 5
REPEAT, 5 of 5 With the above example, one can see how long it would take to write out a pattern without symbols and abbreviations.
Ladies [10, 12, 14] indicates multiple finished garment sizes
Rows 1-10 [1-14, 1-18] indicates rows/rnds for multiple sizes
* or from * to * = repeat instructions following a single asterisk or between two single asterisks as directed, and seems fairly self-explanatory. Sometimes a pattern will use two ** as well.
Examples: Ch 1, sc in first sc, *ch 1, sk next ch-1 sp, sc in next sc, rep from * to last st, 1sc in last sc, turn.
*Sc in each of next 2 sts, 2 sc in next st, rep from * around
Ch 1, *(sc, dc, tr, dc, sc) in next ch-2 sp, ch 2, sc in next dc, ch 2, rep from * 6 times to end --- THIS ONE IS A PARTICULARLY GOOD EXAMPLE...TRY IT FOR YOURSELF AND WRITE IT OUT ON PAPER IN "LONG HAND" FOR BETTER UNDERSTANDING.
Here is another to write in long hand on paper; it is a little bit more complicated than the previous example: Ch 1, sc in same st, sc in each of next 22 sc, *[2 sc in next sc, sc in each of next 3 sc] twice, 2 sc in next sc*, sc in each of next 23 sc, rep between * once, join in beg sc.
Thus, a good approach to understanding the pattern is to break each row or round of instructions out into "long hand," until you become familiar with reading patterns.
An extensive crochet abbreviations list may be found at: http://www.craftyarncouncil.com/crochet.html
another good site is: http://www.nexstitch.com/a_read_crochet_patterns.html
Also, the internet is a prime source for other sites with pattern reading tips and tricks, much more extensive (and exhaustive) than I have listed here.