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Taking The Pain Out Of Reading Patterns – Pattern Structure

Welcome to Part Two of my series on taking the pain out of pattern reading. Last week we covered Crochet Abbreviations.    In case you missed it last week, there are four topics I am covering in this series.
  1. know what all those abbreviations are
  2. how patterns are structured
  3. what the symbols mean
  4. how to break down the pattern into understandable chunks

Today we are talking about Crochet Pattern Structure.

What is Pattern Structure?

Let’s talk a little bit about how patterns are laid out. Before I do that, I should mention that there is a bit of an industry standard for writing patterns. Books, Magazines and MOST professional designers will follow the industry standards for pattern writing. It’s a long time tried and true formula that gives us a common denominator so that crocheters like you can pick up a pattern and understand how it works. HOWEVER, with the current climate of bloggers and newbie designers who are discovering they can create income from a blog, all bets are off when it comes to how a pattern is written. Many create their own structure, and I know that even the simplest of patterns can cause the most experienced crocheters to pull their hair out because of the way it is written.  I will be touching on this subject on a future post. So, when you are looking at a pattern there are several areas that are important.

  1. The Beginning Matter
  2. The Directions
  3. Closing Matter

Let’s talk about these points in-depth:

The Beginning Matter

The beginning matter starts at the title and ends right before the directions start. This section can include a whole lot of different items but the basics are as follows in the order I list them in my patterns. Other designers may order them differently.

  1. The Title – This is what the designer calls the pattern.
  2. Romance Text – Romance text is the written description of the pattern. It talks mostly about the pattern features an how its made or how to wear it. Or both!
  3. Pattern Skill Level – Not every designer uses this, but normally it tells you based on the CYC standards what level of crocheter you should be.
  4. Abbreviations – This is a list of all of the abbreviations you will see in the pattern. I talked about crochet abbreviations in-depth here.
  5. Finished Size – Depending on the type of project it is, you will see finished measurements. For items that tend to only have ONE size like a blanket or scarf, you will see the finished dimensions such as  36 inches wide by 54 inches long. For a garment or any other project that comes in multiple sizes, you will have all of them spelled out.
  6. Materials Needed – This is where you will find the yarn, hook size(s) and even notions you will need. One caveat: the hook sizes are usually what the designer used.  This is listed as a guide or starting point. Just because the designer used a particular hook size, that doesn’t mean that you need to use it. Depending on if you are a tight or loose crocheter, you might need to go up or down hook sizes to get the gauge correctly.
  7. Gauge – To me, this is the MOST important part. This tells you how many stitches and rows you will need per inch / 4 inches / 10 cm. Sometimes it is written as “17 dc = 4 inches/ 10 cm”.  Other times it may be written such as 3 patt rep = 4 inches / 10 cm. We usually use 4 inches / 10 cm as our standard but sometimes you might need to work it in 3 inches or 5 inches. It depends on the pattern.  I will be writing a stand-alone post about gauge in the future.
  8. Any Special Stitches – If there are specialty stitches such as bobbles, shells or anything else that isn’t a standard stitch, the abbreviations and instructions will be listed in this portion of the pattern.
  9. Any Special Notes about the pattern – This isn’t always needed in a pattern, but its the spot where the designer tells you about some things that might be different from what might be considered standard.  For example, I often list here “do not turn work unless otherwise stated.”

Other designers may have other things that they place in their Beginning Matter.  And many may not use all the pieces I do. But what I have here are what I consider the important things that need to be listed BEFORE you get started with the pattern.

The Directions

The Directions section is exactly what it sounds like!  This is where you get into how to create the pattern. In this section, you will get the instructions in a row by row or round by round basis.  If, as in the case of a garment, there is more than one piece you need to make, each piece will be listed separately usually in the order the designer thinks works best. However, again, this is just a guide.  I know many people who start with the sleeves of a garment because not only are they smaller pieces, but they can act as a gauge swatch too. You need to read through the entire pattern before you get started, but I think that if you are working a pattern that you have never done before, you need to read through this section 2-3 times and note where you may have an issue later on.  If you can, try to get answers to your questions before you start.

The Closing Matter

This part of the pattern is usually overlooked but it actually has a lot of important information.

  1. Finishing – I include the finishing section in the Closing Matter. The reason being that I don’t want to think about the finishing until all of the pieces are made. Finishing includes how to block your piece(s), when to weave in the ends, how to assemble and seam, and sometimes the little extras like adding buttons, pom-poms or tassels.
  2. Schematics and Stitch Charts – Schematics help you see the sizing visually. They also help with the shape for blocking purposes. Stitch charts are the stitches used in the pattern in a visual format.  I am a designer that uses both stitch charts and the written word in all my patterns. Many of my customers are visual and need to see the pattern in a picture-like format. I think having both actually helps everyone. You can go back and forth when unsure about what the pattern is telling you. And always, the stitch charts will have a key so you know which stitch is which.
  3. Acknowledgments – Most professional designers will include a list of all the people who help with the pattern. This includes tech editors, stitchers, photographer, and in my case, I have a graphic designer who lays out all of my patterns. Usually in this section, there will also be information about where to get help from the designer and the designer’s website.
  4. Where to Subscribe – I think this is the most overlooked section of the pattern. Many designers have newsletters and they like to have a subscription link in the pattern so their customers can receive notification about new patterns. If you have never noticed that before, you might want to take a look. And if you enjoyed a pattern from a designer and want to know more about them and their work, please do subscribe!  Many of them give discounts to subscribers that no one else gets. (I do!) plus it is a way to support your favorite designers.

I hope that you learned a little bit about why patterns are written the way they are!

Do you have any patterns that might have alternative information that you would like to share?  Leave me a comment below!


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