How To Find a Pattern Repeat

pattern repeat

First things first

In order to find a pattern repeat, we must first identify exactly what I’m talking about. Sure, it’s easy to spot the repeat in a pattern that is well written – you just look for the *. This would be a rather boring blog post but we’ll talk a little about that later.

I’m going to teach you how to spot a pattern repeat when things are “less than perfect”.

Learning how to find a pattern repeat is especially useful when you need to make modifications to the sizing. Let’s say you find an amazing stitch pattern that is written for a baby blanket and you want to make it into a throw size? How would you go about doing that? This question comes up all the time so it is clearly something that is important to you. There are other reasons where knowing how to find a pattern repeat is helpful, but we’ll focus on finding the repeat for the purpose of adjusting size. It is the foundation of the topic and when you understand it, you’ll be able to make all kinds of modifications to your patterns!

What Is a Pattern Repeat?

Put simply, a pattern repeat exists in two ways:

  1. stitches within a row or round
  2. rows or rounds that build the pattern

Many patterns will have both but in terms of spotting the repeat for the sake of adjusting size, we really need to understand number one – how the stitches in each row form a pattern repeat. Specifically, the number of stitches that make up that repeat.

Every row will have a sequence of stitches repeated.

So how do you find the repeat? The approach depends on what type of pattern we are using – written or diagram.


How to find a pattern repeat in a diagram

What I have here is a simple diagram for a foundation row. When trying to find a repeat with a diagram for the purpose of altering the size you must focus on the foundation chain and first row.

This example makes it pretty easy to spot the repeat – how many “humps” do you see?

Four, right?

You just spotted the repeat!

In order to turn this into more useful information, we need to do some counting. Altering the size of a pattern is going to involve a little bit of mathematics but don’t worry, it’s pretty easy stuff. Here’s what we would do in this example:

  1. Notice what the first stitch is – a single crochet
  2. Observe what stitch is right next to it – a half double crochet (I’m reading the diagram right to left)

I’ve highlighted them here.

Now you have your “flag stitches”. They will flag the beginning of every repeat. Circle them so they are easier to see!

Now that we’ve identified the beginning of every repeat, we can count how many stitches are in each repeat. Start with our first stitch, the single crochet on the far right. That’s stitch number one. Count over until you reach the next highlighted single crochet.

  1. single crochet
  2. half double crochet
  3. double crochet
  4. treble crochet
  5. double crochet
  6. half double crochet
  7. single crochet
  8. slip stitch

We won’t count the single crochet of the next repeat because we have identified it as the first stitch, not the last.

So what we’ve learned from this exercise is that there are 8 stitches in our pattern repeat. Awesome!

That’s all there is to finding a pattern repeat with a diagram. It’s quite a bit easier than doing so with a written instruction. Let’s see how we would do that – find a repeat with written instruction – and then we’ll talk about how we would go about increasing or decreasing the size of the project based on the information we’ve found.


How to find a pattern repeat in written instructions

I mentioned this method is a little more difficult than finding a pattern repeat from a diagram but maybe I should have said that it’s more work – not more difficult. Would you agree that spotting the repeat was really easy with the diagram? I’m glad we’re on the same page there. I draw out a diagram when trying to find a pattern repeat from written instructions because it makes things more visual–a language I know we all speak. There’s the extra step: drawing the diagram.

This doesn’t have to be a scary thing for those of you who loath diagrams (I know there are many of you out there!) If you can draw a stick figure, you can draw a diagram. If you’re unfamiliar with the diagram symbols, we need to introduce you to them.

Crochet Diagram Symbols

On the page linked above, you will find the most common symbols. It will be perfect for you to be able to draw out your stitch pattern. Just click the link above that says “Crochet Diagram Symbols” and print it. You can always use it for reference later.

Once you’re familiar with the symbols you’ll need to use, let’s tackle our written instructions. When trying to find a repeat with written instructions for the purpose of altering the size you must focus on the first row. Sound familiar? It should. The methods of finding a pattern repeat for diagram and written instructions are basically the same! Here is what you need to do:

  1. Get a scrap piece of paper (refer to your crochet diagram symbols if you need)
  2. Focus your attention on the first row – you can ignore the foundation chain and the starting chains at the start of the first row.
  3. Draw out each stitch, from right to left, on your scrap paper.

You will likely run into the “repeat from *” text. Most patterns have this in order to cut back on the sheer volume of text that is sometimes needed. If you see this, find the * and highlight the text that immediately follows, up to the “repeat from” cue. This is your repeat.

Draw the stitches within your repeat and count them.

Example pattern: Row 1: Ch 3. Dc in next three chains. *Ch 1, skip one stitch. Dc in next three chains. Repeat from * to end of row. 

Row 1: Ch 3. Dc in next three chains. *Ch 1, skip one stitch. Dc in next three chains. Repeat from * to end of row.  (the text in green is the pattern repeat)

This is what I drew as a result. 

We could draw out more repeats and highlight the first two stitches like we did for the diagram but it wouldn’t be unnecessary. We have all the information we need right here!

Count the stitches you have drawn from your text. In my example above, we have four stitches in our pattern repeat.

At this point we are on the same page regardless of what pattern you’re trying to modify – we know how many stitches are in the pattern repeat. Now what?


How to use a pattern repeat to increase or decrease the size of a row.

The quick and easy answer to this is multiplication. The not so obvious answer is measuring. Once you’ve determined whether you need to increase or decrease the instructions, you’ll need to get a few supplies. We must make a quick swatch to take some measurements.

Step 1: Crochet a swatch of your pattern repeat using the yarn and hook you intend for your project. Don’t worry about foundation chains and all that, just crochet the first row that has your repeat at least three times. The purpose isn’t to make it mathematically perfect. The purpose here is to measure how wide that repeat is with the yarn you intend to use. Crochet it and measure it.

Step 2: Divide the total length you want by the length of the pattern repeat from your swatch.

Example – 48″ wide afghan, 4″ repeat

48/4 = 12

Step 3: Multiply the number of stitches in your repeat by the answer from step 2.

Example – 8 stitches in repeat, “12” from step 2

8 x 12 = 96

The answer from step three – 96 – is the number of chains you will need to crochet your pattern at the length that you want. The mathematics doesn’t always work out so beautifully, but we aren’t balancing financials; it’s okay if we round up or down.

I’ve written a more in depth post on how to figure out how many chains to crochet. I recommend you check it out if you want even more information on this topic. The goal for this post was to address the “holes” in that initial post – how to find the repeat number depending on the type of instructions you have.

How Many Chains to Crochet?

Remember, I’m here for you! If you have any questions at all about what we’ve covered here, please leave me a comment and myself (and probably other amazing people) will chime in and help you.


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