Understanding Crochet Pattern Repeats
The large majority of crochet designs include some kind of repetition. We repeat stitches and rows and anything in between. The repetitive motions of crochet is without a doubt one of it’s more soothing qualities, at least for me. However, in terms of crochet pattern repeats it’s usually the component that causes us the most stress and sometimes, throwing in the towel for good.
Understanding repeats is step six of our Master Crochet Patterns segment. I’ve set out on this long journey to help you learn to read crochet patterns because I know how finally “getting it” will make you feel. We couldn’t learn everything there is to know about patterns in one episode so I’m breaking it down into seven. Yes, I need that much time to explain it in a way that will finally make sense to you. I’m calling it the Master Crochet Patterns segment and it is a wonderful way to jump start the B.hooked Podcast.
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
I know so many of you struggle reading patterns and that can limit your creativity, success and overall enjoyment of crocheting. Patterns are a huge part of what we do and we must learn to be fluent in this language. Crochet diagrams are no exception. The more you crochet, the more you will come into contact with them.
In today’s podcast, we’re going to explore the mystical world of crochet pattern repeats. We’ll break through the clutter of repeats that are swimming around in your head and identify three common themes. When you know how to handle each “theme” of repeat, you can work through any repeat your pattern throws at you.
Now if you haven’t done so already, click on that play button at the top of the page to listen to me share everything I know about pattern repeats![divider]
Examples are the best way to learn about crochet pattern repeats. Here’s a handful of examples to explain each of the sections covered in this episode.
Repeats with Brackets
[skip next Dc, Ch 2, 3 Dc in next] 2 times.
Here you would skip a double crochet, chain two and make three double crochet in the next stitch; skip a double crochet, chain two and make three double crochet in the next stitch. Do you see how we repeated the stitches within the brackets twice?
[skip one stitch, 2 Dc, Ch 1, skip one stitch, 2 Dc in next] 3 times.
In this example we will skip one stitch, make two double crochets, chain one and skip one stitch and then two double crochet in the next stitch; skip one stitch, make two double crochets, chain one and skip one stitch and then two double crochet in the next stitch; skip one stitch, make two double crochets, chain one and skip one stitch and then two double crochet in the next stitch;
Repeats with Parenthesis
(2 dc, ch 2, 2 dc)
In this example, you will work two double crochets, chain two and two more double crochets all in the same stitch. One could argue that this isn’t a repeat at all, and they would be right. Groups of stitches in parentheses aren’t actually repeated but rather worked simultaneously together. However, you will sometimes see parentheses used in place of brackets with a repeat number immediately following. In these cases you will have to determine what their meaning is based on the information in front of you.
(ch 1, skip next st, sc in next st) 3 times
You determine that this is a repeat because “3 times” immediately follows the stitches in parentheses. So your repeat would look something like this: chain one, skip a stitch and single crochet in the next stitch; chain one, skip a stitch and single crochet in the next stitch; chain one, skip a stitch and single crochet in the next stitch. We repeated the same sequence within the parentheses a total of three times.
Repeats with Asterisks
*3 dc, ch 1, skip next st.
Here we can see that the pattern repeat starts with three double crochets because that is the instruction immediately following the asterisk. Working sequentially, we should make three double crochets, chain one and skip one stitch. Then our pattern starts over; three double crochets, chain one and skip one stitch. It’s important that we work the stitches exactly in the order as they appear in the repeat.
*Ch 1, skip next st, sc in next st.*
In this example we see an asterisk at the beginning of the repeat and the end. Some people get confused by more asterisks but this method is much easier to work with once you know the meaning behind it. The asterisk at the end of the repeat flags the last stitch of the repeat. This is how you know you should start over with the first stitch of the repeat. So in this example, our first stitch in the repeat is the chain one. Then we skip the next stitch and single crochet in the next stitch and repeat; chain one, skip the next stitch, single crochet in the next. That’s not too bad right?
*Ch 1, skip next st, sc in next st ** work a puff st in next st. Repeat from * across, ending last rep at **
Here we have a few more instructions. We have our first asterisk at chain one flagging our first stitch in the repeat but then we see that double asterisk. Remember a double asterisk is used to point out where in the stitch repeat you should end because it is different than the usual ending place. Let’s follow the instructions one step at a time. Chain one, skip the next stitch and single crochet in the next stitch. Then work a puff stitch in the next stitch and repeat from the top. Chain one, skip the next stitch and single crochet in the next stitch. Then work a puff stitch in the next stitch. The instructions tell us to repeat this until we reach the end of the row. I know that the puff stitch is the last stitch in the repeat because it comes immediately before the “repeat from” cue. This will always be the case. Remember the double asterisk is marking the last stitch in the repeat at the end of the row. So we will end with a single crochet in the last stitch of the row.
Class #1 Row Repeats
*Sk next ch. 2 Dc in next ch. Repeat from * across.
When you see a row repeat cue, the first thing you should do is find the asterisk. Here we see it immediately before the word “skip”. Draw a line under the instructions, beginning with “Sk” and ending with “ch”. Everything that is underlined is now your main focus. This is the pattern repeat you are to carry out across your row. Take out a sheet of paper and write out the repeat in words that are easier to read. Your example will now look like this:
Skip next chain. Make two double crochet in next chain.
When carrying out this section, hook in hand, you will work each stitch sequentially as you wrote them. When you reach your last stitch (double crochet in next chain in this example) you will start over by skipping the next chain.
*Dc 2 in next st. Dc in each of next 2 sts*. Rep from * to * around.
We know by reading this repeat that we are working in a round rather than a row. This doesn’t affect how we handle the repeat but it’s good to get in the habit of noticing these details. Here we see the rep from * to * cue so we only need to focus on what’s in between those asterisks. Like we did before, underline the sequence of stitches first then write them out.
Make two double crochets in next stitch. Double crochet in each of the next two stitches.
Now when we go to crochet this sequence, we’ll simply read our notes rather than the pattern. Follow your sequence until you reach the end and immediately start over with the first instruction. You’ll begin the next repeated sequence in the very next stitch in this case. If you are to skip any stitches, it will appear in your repeat sequence.
Row 4: Ch 3 and turn your work. Sk first ch-1 sp. *Hdc in next 3 st. Ch 1. Sk next st. Repeat from * across.
This time we’ve added in the rest of the “clutter” you will see with every row. Use the asterisk at the beginning of the repeat to serve as a beginning flag and use the words “repeat from * across” to serve as the end flag. Now underline the sequence of stitches within. When you rewrite your repeat, it will look like this:
Half double crochet in the next three stitches. Chain one and skip the next stitch.
When we crochet row four in this example, we don’t want to forget the instructions before the repeat. Always follow the instructions before the repeat sequentially, in this case, chain three and turn your work, skip the first chain one space. Then proceed with the repeat. Follow it sequentially until you reach the last instruction, to skip the next stitch. Immediately start from the beginning of the repeat and half double crochet in the next three stitches.
Row 3 (Color C): Join color C and ch 3. Tc in the first st. *dc in next 2 sts, hdc in next 2 sts, sc in next 3 sts, hdc in next 2 sts, dc in next 2 sts, tc in next 3 sts. Repeat from * across. End with a tc in the last 2 sts.
One step at a time. We see the “repeat from * across” cue so we know it is a row repeat. The first thing we should do is locate the first asterisk. In this example, it is immediately before “dc in next 2”. Now underline the repeat stitch sequence, from the asterisk until we see the “repeat from” cue and finally, write it out:
Double crochet in the next two stitches. Half double crochet in the next two stitches. Single crochet in the next three stitches. Half double crochet in the next two stitches. Double crochet in the next two stitches. Treble crochet in the next three stitches.
It’s not so bad when we take this approach, right? Now you will follow each instruction in order as you read it, beginning with joining color c, making three chains and a treble crochet in the first stitch. Continue with your repeat just as you have it written, making sure to start from the beginning of your repeat after each set.
I threw you one more curve ball in this example. Let me draw your attention to the last sentence of the example, “end with a tc in the last 2 sts”. Once you have repeated your sequence over and over and you have reached the end of the row, instead of ending with a treble crochet in the “next three stitches”, this extra piece of information is telling you that the last two stitches will be treble crochets, not three.
Class #2 Stitch Pattern Repeats
We will see a stitch pattern repeat appear one of three ways. A stitch pattern may be designated by brackets:
[ch 1, sk next st, sc in next st] 2 times
Or parentheses may be used instead of brackets:
(ch 1, sk next st, sc in next st) 2 times
Occasionally you will see asterisks used to flag a stitch pattern repeat:
*ch 1, sk next st, scin next st. Repeat from * 2 times.
Once you’ve identified the repeat and underlined the sequence, you should write it out in words that you can read more easily. Remove the abbreviations and fill the gaps. Set yourself up for success here. Your example will now look something like this:
Chain one, skip the next stitch and single crochet in the next stitch. Chain one, skip the next stitch and single crochet in the next stitch.
That’s all for this repeat! We wrote it out twice and now when we come to this section of the pattern, all we need to do is read what we wrote. We can focus more on crocheting and less on deciphering the pattern.
(1 sc in next ch-1 sp. Ch 1. Skip next sc) 4 times
This time we’re using parentheses for the repeat. No problem. Underline the sequence within the parentheses and grab you sheet of paper and start writing:
One single crochet in the next chain one gap space. Chain one and skip the next single crochet. One single crochet in the next chain one gap space. Chain one and skip the next single crochet.One single crochet in the next chain one gap space. Chain one and skip the next single crochet.One single crochet in the next chain one gap space. Chain one and skip the next single crochet.
It’s wordy this way, yes, but now we can simply read our repeat and crochet it as we see it crossing out each sentence as we finish.
Row 1: Dc in 4th ch from hook, dc in next 3 ch, [dc2tog] 3 times, dc in last 3 ch
This one looks different, right? We aren’t used to seeing only one stitch enclosed in brackets for a repeat but you will occasionally see this. Here we only need to treat it exactly the same. We’ve identified that it is a stitch pattern using brackets. Great. Underline the sequence within the brackets and write it out:
Double crochet two together; double crochet two together; double crochet two together.
It’s never a bad idea to write out the entire row of instructions, that way you can easily read your instructions as you crochet it. This example would then look like:
Row 1: Double crochet in the fourth chain from the hook. Double crochet in the next three chains. Double crochet two together. Double crochet two together. Double crochet two together. Double crochet in the last three chains.
Are you seeing the importance of rewriting the pattern in your own words? It’s so much easier to follow along with this way.
1st Row (RS): 1 sc in 2nd ch from hook. Ch 1. Skip next 3 ch. [(Hdc, ch 2, hdc) sk next st] three times.
Oh dear. This one has brackets and parentheses all in one. It looks confusing, yes, but let’s take it one step at a time. Here we can reason that the parentheses are indicating a set of stitches that are to be worked in the same stitch. We can deduce this because we also have brackets telling us to repeat. Underline the stitch sequence within the parentheses first and then draw a line below that, this time including the sequence within the brackets. Grab your paper and write it so it makes sense:
(Half double crochet, chain two, half double crochet) in same stitch. Skip the next stitch. (Half double crochet, chain two, half double crochet) in same stitch. Skip the next stitch. (Half double crochet, chain two, half double crochet) in same stitch. Skip the next stitch.
You may also choose to add the instructions prior to the repeated sequence.
Row 2: Ch 3. *(1 dc in next ch-1 sp. Ch 1) 2 times. (Puff st. Ch 2. Puff st) in next ch 2- sp. (Ch 1. 1 dc in next ch-1 sp) 2 times. Rep from * across.
Here we see multiple stitch repeats and even the row repeat. This is real life stuff. As always, let’s take it one step at a time.
First underline your stitch pattern repeats. There are two, where the words “2 times” immediately follows the parenthesis. Next notice that there is one other set of parentheses, this time where a specific number does not follow. This means these stitches will be worked in the same stitch. It’s a good idea to circle this section. Lastly, the row repeat. It says the words “rep from * across” telling us that everything from the asterisk will be repeated in sequence until we reach the end of our row.
Now that we have a better understanding of what is being asked of us, we need to write it down in a way that makes sense and is easier to follow. Your row will now look something like this:
Row 2: Chain 3. One double crochet in next chain one space, chain one. One double crochet in next chain one space, chain one. (Puff stitch, chain two, puff stitch) all in same chain two space. Chain one. One double crochet in the next chain one space. Chain one. One double crochet in the next chain one space. Now repeat everything except the initial chain three until I have reached the end of the row.
Class #3 Repetitious Row Repeats
You will find a repetitious repeat written one of three different ways, all of which are very common. The first is to have it written within the row heading. Here’s an example:
Rows 4-10: Ch 1. Sc in first st. *ch 1, skip one st, sc in next st. Repeat across row.
Did you notice how the row heading says “rows 4-10”? This is how you know you’re dealing with a repetitious pattern repeat. It’s incredibly easy from this point, just crochet rows 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 with the stitch pattern indicated.
This is what I would write:
Row 4: Chain one. Single crochet in the first stitch. Chain one and skip one stitch. Single crochet in the next stitch and repeat across row.
Row 5: Repeat row 4
Row 6: Repeat row 4
Row 7: Repeat row 4
And so on. While working your pattern, you can then cross out the rows as you complete them and eliminate the need to count or risk miscounting.
The second way you will see a repetitious pattern repeat is even more straightforward than the first. When you are working with a pattern that utilizes the same instructions for select rows, you will see it written:
Row 14: As 3rd row.
In this instance, all you need to do is skip back to the third row in the pattern and follow the instructions as they are written. This, however, can get overwhelming to keep track of it you are working on a lengthy pattern. What I recommend here is similar to before: rewrite the pattern in your own words and organize these repeats ahead of time so you don’t have to figure it out as you go.
In your notes, make sure you have a heading for all rows in your pattern, whether you need to fully rewrite them or not. As you read your pattern before you begin, take note of these types of repeats and translate them into your notes. You can rewrite it just as it appears above or you can do what I do and write:
Row 14 = 3
Do whatever works for you.
The last way you will see a repetitious pattern repeat involves more than one row or round. It’s equally as straightforward as the others but more difficult to keep track of, especially without keeping notes. Here is an example:
5th to 10th Rows: Rep 3rd and 4th rows 3 times more
You can easily get caught up in the wording here. The addition of the words “ 3 times more”, cause more confusion than necessary. Let’s focus on handling this step by step. First, grab your piece of paper and a pencil. Jot down Row 5, Row 6, Row 7, Row 8, Row 9 and Row 10 all on separate lines.
The instructions tell us to “repeat 3rd and 4th rows”. This means that for rows 5 through 10 we are going to alternate the 3rd row and 4th row. Write it down like this:
Row 5: 3rd row
Row 6: 4th row
Row 7: 3rd row
Row 8: 4th row
Row 9: 3rd row
Row 10: 4th row
It’s much easier to keep track of while you’re crocheting if you have this information spelled out in front of you. Are you wondering about that last piece of information, “3 times more”? In this example, think of the 3rd and 4th rows as a group. Now look at the rows spelled out just above this paragraph. How many times do you see a group of 3rd and 4th rows? Row 5 and 6 is one. Row 7 and 8 is two and row 9 and 10 is three. This is where the “3 times more” comes from.
Master Crochet Patterns, what was once conceptualized as a book and now a podcast series, has been a passion project of mine for the last six months. I want nothing more than to use my unique approach to teaching to help you learn how to read crochet patterns.
Over the next few weeks I’m going to provide you with another approach to learning how to read crochet patterns. Your success begins with this series. If you haven’t done so already, find the play button at the beginning of this post and give it a listen. Take some time to allow the information to digest, put it to use and tell me how it went. I’m here for you so please don’t hesitate to leave a question in the comments below. Don’t miss next week’s episode where we’ll learn all about the dreaded “R” word – Repeats – and how they aren’t so dreaded after all.
Thanks for Listening!
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