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How to Read a Crochet Pattern Part 1

How to Read a Crochet Pattern Part 1

Gwen Bautista |

This is the first post of a multi-part series on How to Read a Crochet Pattern.  In this post, we discuss what you can expect to find in a Mary Maxim pattern.  We, at Mary Maxim, continue to strive for excellence in design.  When you purchase a kit or a pattern from Mary Maxim, you know that each design is carefully imagined, written and proofed, with you in mind. how to read a crochet pattern . .

Crochet as a Language

Just like every other language, written crochet patterns have evolved over time. Years ago, the fiber arts were taught as a part of school curriculum. Crochet techniques were incorporated as a tool to teach math and as a very practical life skill for students to learn. At that time many instructions we currently write into our patterns would have been left out, as it was assumed to be common knowledge.  Yarn has also changed, so if you are recreating a vintage piece there may be a need for adjustments either in the pattern or yarn.  For that reason, beginning crocheters should choose newer patterns until they are more comfortable with basic techniques. You can find and purchase thousands of patterns from our extensive catalog here at You can also see the approximate date it was published under the "More Information" tab.

The Craft Yarn Council Guideline

The Craft Yarn Council  (CYC) publishes guidelines for designing and writing knit and crochet patterns this is a wonderful resource for crafters. The guidelines include stitch guides for knit and crochet, yarn grading, and garment sizing.  We write and design based on these guidelines but you may find some variances from designer to designer. All of our patterns are written to be easily read and understood, and written in the same way each time. Mary Maxim patterns are often a favorite because of our tradition of excellence in design and reputation as expert pattern makers. Visit the Craft Yarn Council's website to view their published guides under the "Standards" dropdown. CYC logo

The Pattern At A Glance

crotchet dishclothes

The very first thing you will see on a Mary Maxim pattern is the pattern name and number.  This pattern is named Crochet Dishcloths and is numbered as FP9951.  You can locate patterns and kits by searching the name or number on our website. Next, notice that the pattern is graded as an Intermediate level pattern.  Patterns are graded as Basic, Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced.  You will then see a sample of the finished item as a reference.

Shopping List

shopping list 1.pngOn current Mary Maxim patterns, you will see a Shopping List.  This is where you find the yarn and hook information required to complete the pattern.  Your shopping list may also include items required but not included in a Mary Maxim kit or items that are included but are non-yarn items like buttons. When we list the yarn we give the name, weight, and amount of yarn per ball in yardage and in meters. Notice the yarn weight is written out and shown on the yarn ball graphic. This image also appears on most yarn labels. Then the amounts of yarn required to complete the project are given per color or size to be worked.  The number of balls or skeins given usually include an additional 10-20% over and above what is needed to avoid shortages. So if you need to find a yarn substitute, the weight of the yarn and yardage is an important starting point. On many of our vintage patterns, a shopping list was not included as they were only sold as kits. If you are crocheting a vintage Mary Maxim pattern and you need help with a yarn substitution please contact us.  Our project assistance team is available Monday through Friday, 9am-4pm Eastern time at (800) 962-9504. Pay close attention to the size of the hook listed in the Shopping List.  Hook size is often listed in both American and metric sizes. These hook sizes are always suggested hooks and you may need to adjust your hook size (use a different size hook) to achieve gauge depending on how tightly or loosely you crochet.

Size Information

Size Information.png Next, you will see the finished size information for your project.  For garment designs, it is helpful to note general sizing is based on the CYC guidelines.  The sizing of the design listed in patterns may vary from designer to designer.  Finished sizing is based on if you worked to the gauge given on the pattern.  Your gauge being accurate is a determining factor for your completed project being the correct size.

Gauge Information

gauge.png When making anything, the amount of yarn and finished size is all based on gauge.  If gauge is not achieved, you may run out of yarn and the finished size may be either too big or too small.  It's very frustrating to put hours into a project and find the item does not fit the person it was intended for or you run out of yarn. Gauge information is listed on our patterns next.  In this section of the pattern, you will find the gauge required to complete the project based on the finished size given.  For big projects such as garments and afghans, it's strongly recommended to make a gauge swatch before you begin.  Since the crochet dishcloth pattern is our sample project for Part 2 of this series, we will be pausing after a few rows of the pattern to measure our work and determine if we've met gauge. We have a fantastic blog post written about gauge here if you would like more information.

Stitch Guide

Stitch guide.pngBefore you dive into reading patterns you should know a few basic stitches. Make sure to stop by and subscribe to our YouTube channel for video stitch tutorials.  On every Mary Maxim pattern, you will find a version of our current Stitch Guide.  This guide gives you basic abbreviations and names of each stitch found in the pattern.  You may also find special stitch combinations with instructions on how to complete the stitch as well as notes about the pattern. notes.png

Pattern Instructions

Instructions.pngIn the instructions area of the pattern, you will find complete directions in a row by row or round by round manner on how to complete the project.  You may also find pictures and illustrations to further demonstrate the techniques used in crocheting the pattern. In the second part of this series, you will learn how to better understand the abbreviations and to read repeat sections of the pattern as we break down the instructions row by row.

Watch this video on reading a Mary Maxim Pattern

Stay Tuned for Part 2

In the next part of our series, we will work the striped dishcloth row by row.  Make sure to download the Free Dishcloth pattern from our website and order Mary Maxim Dishcloth Cotton so you can follow along. You can look to the Shopping List in this pattern for everything you'll need to complete the Free Crochet Dishcloth Pattern. Part 2.jpg

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Happy Crafting!

1 comment

[…] in the pattern with some guidance to complete the project.  You may find it helpful to review Part 1 before moving forward on this […]

How to Read a Crochet Pattern - Part 2,

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