The Most Misunderstood Thing about Knitting & Crochet Patterns

There’s one thing that can tie a knitter or crocheter in knots: confusing wording in a pattern. And the most misunderstood thing about knitting and crochet patterns is how pattern repeats are described.

There are some commonly accepted ways of describing repeated sections in a pattern. If you don’t understand this conventional “patternspeak”, you might be confused. But even if you understand it, sometimes the pattern writer doesn’t follow the conventions, leaving you to figure out what they mean.

The problem occurs in both knitting and crochet patterns. I’ll show examples of both.

When the Pattern Creates Confusion

Row 1 (RS): *K4, p6; rep from * a total of 5 times, k4.Here’s an instruction you might see in a pattern:

Row 1 (RS): *K4, p6; rep from * a total of 5 times, k4.

Row 1 (RS): Ch 3 (counts as dc), dc in next 4 sts, *sc in next st, dc in next 2 sts; rep from * a total of 5 times, dc in each st to end.

As an experienced crafter, I’ve got to say this wording drives me absolutely crazy. How many times am I supposed to “k4, p6”, or  “sc in next st, dc in next 2 sts”?

From experience, I think the pattern writer intends you to do the sequence of stitches—k4, p6 or sc in next st, dc in next 2 sts—a total of five times. But that’s not what the pattern says.

Using Brackets & Parentheses to Show Repeats

Brackets or parentheses can be used to group a sequence of stitches and to tell how many times to do that sequence, as they do in these examples:

Row 1 (RS): [K4, p6] 5 times, k4.

Row 1 (RS): (K4, p6) 5 times, k4.

Row 1 (RS): Ch 3 (counts as dc), dc in next 4 sts, [sc in next st, dc in next 2 sts] 5 times, dc in each st to end.

Row 1 (RS): Ch 3 (counts as dc), dc in next 4 sts, (sc in next st, dc in next 2 sts) 5 times, dc in each st to end.

Using Asterisks to Show Repeats

Asterisks are used to show a point of repeat, and are usually used together with “rep(eat) from * “to show the full repeat.

Row 1 (RS): *K4, p6; rep from * 4 times, k4.

Row 1 (RS): Ch 3 (counts as dc), dc in next 4 sts, *sc in next st, dc in next 2 sts; rep from * 4 times, dc in each st to end.

Here, the number of times to do that sequence seems to have gone down, but in reality this is the exact same instruction you’ve seen above. How can that be?

In these examples, you do the sequence of stitches once, then you repeat that sequence four more times, for a total of five times. You can’t repeat something you haven’t done before.

Another Point of Confusion

You can't repeat something you haven't done beforeSometimes you’ll see asterisks used this way:

Row 1 (RS): *K4, p6*; rep between * * 4 times, k4.

Row 1 (RS): *K4, p6*; work between * * 5 times, k4.

Row 1 (RS): Ch 3 (counts as dc), dc in next 4 sts, *sc in next st, dc in next 2 sts*; rep between * * 4 times, dc in each st to end.

Row 1 (RS): Ch 3 (counts as dc), dc in next 4 sts, *sc in next st, dc in next 2 sts*; work between * * 5 times, dc in each st to end.

As an experienced pattern writer and a tech editor, I steer clear of this construction. It offers the same opportunity for confusion as previous examples, and it adds more *’s than the eye can easily track.

However, if you do see this “between **s” construction, pay careful attention to the wording used to make sure you are following the repeats correctly.

The “Repeat” Paradox

Let’s go back to our original confusing instruction:

Row 1 (RS): *K4, p6; rep from * a total of 5 times, k4.

Row 1 (RS): Ch 3 (counts as dc), dc in next 4 sts, *sc in next st, dc in next 2 sts; rep from * a total of 5 times, dc in each st to end.

Can you see the contradictions? If you repeat the sequence of stitches a total of five times, you’ve done that sequence a total of six times. But if you do the sequence a total of five times, you’ve only repeated them four times.

You’ll have to use clues to figure out what the designer means to happen.

In the knitting example:

If you have 54 stitches on the needle, you can work the k4, p6 sequence five times, which will use 50 stitches, then knit the last 4 stitches, for a total of 54 stitches.

If you have 64 stitches, you’ll work the k4, p6 sequence once, then repeat it five times, then knit the last 4 stitches, using up all 64 stitches.

In the crochet example:

This one is harder to figure out, because the row ends with “dc in each dc to end”, which leaves the number of total stitches unknown. You will know how many stitches you have in the row. You’ll have a good idea of whether you are supposed to be working all the way across the row. Using this information, you will have to figure out what balances the stitch pattern on the row, and how many total repeats you can fit it, then go with that.

See? It’s not ideal wording.

A Solution

Row 1 (RS): Ch 3 (counts as dc), dc in next 4 sts, *sc in next st, dc in next 2 sts; rep from * 4 more times, dc in each st to end.There’s an easy wording solution that helps clear up all of this confusion, and that is using the word “more”:

Row 1 (RS): *K4, p6; rep from * 4 more times, k4.

Row 1 (RS): Ch 3 (counts as dc), dc in next 4 sts, *sc in next st, dc in next 2 sts; rep from * 4 more times, dc in each st to end.

See how easy that was? It reminds the crafter that they are doing the thing then repeating the thing a certain number of times.

Even if the word “more” is not included, now that you understand repeats you can head forth confident in your knowledge of how many times you’ll do those instructions.

Let’s spread the word that you can’t repeat something you haven’t done yet. It will clear up the confusion for everyone!

Flame Stitch Crochet Stitch Pattern

Show your colors with the Flame Stitch crochet stitch pattern! There are several variations of this stitch, but they are all great ways to use different yarn colors. Try it in vibrant hues, or more subtle gradient shades.

This pattern uses American crochet terminology. You’ll be using single crochet, double crochet, and long double crochet (also know as spike double crochet). Watch the video below for more details.

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You’ll need at least thee colors of yarn, in any weight, and a hook in an appropriate size for the yarn.  The yarn I’m using is Red Heart Chic Sheep by Marly Bird. I’m using a 5.5 mm Clover Amour crochet hook.

Flame Stitch

Flame Stitch stitch chart

Worked in three colors: A, B and C.

With A, chain a multiple of 4 + 2.

Set-Up Row 1 (WS): Working in back bumps of chains, sc in 2nd ch from hook, *ch 3, skip 3 ch, sc in next ch; rep from * across, changing to B on last st, turn.

Set-Up Row 2: Ch 3 (counts as dc throughout), *dc in next ch-space, skip 1 ch of foundation ch, dc in back bump of next foundation ch; dc in same ch-3 space**, ch 1; rep from * to last st, ending last rep at **, dc in last sc, turn.

Row 1 (WS): Ch 1, sc in first dc, ch 1, skip 1 dc, sc in next dc, *ch 3, skip (dc, ch 1, dc), sc in next dc; rep from * to last 2 sts, ch 1, skip 1 dc, sc in last st changing to C, turn.

Row 2: Ch 3, dc in next ch-1 space, *ch 1, skip 1 sc, dc in next ch-3 space, dc in next sc 2 rows below, enclosing the ch-3 and ch-1 spaces, dc in same ch-3 space; rep from * to last 3 sts, ch 1, skip 1 sc, dc in next ch-1 space, dc in last st, turn.

Row 3: Ch 1, sc in first dc, *ch 3, skip (dc, ch 1, dc), sc in next dc; rep from * across, changing to A on last st, turn.

Row 4: Ch 3, *dc in next ch-3 space, dc in next sc 2 rows below, dc in same ch-3 space; rep from * to last st, dc in last st, turn.

Repeat Rows 1-4, continuing in established A, B, C color sequence, for desired length. End with a RS row.

Last row (WS):  Ch 1, [sc in each dc and long dc, and long dc in sc 1 row below each ch-1 space] across. Fasten off. Cut other two colors.

Love this stitch? Want to see it in action? Want to learn more crochet techniques like this? The Skill-Builder Crochet Blanket pattern offers lots of opportunity to grow your crocheting skills. Written text with helpful notes, video tutorials and charts combine to make it easy to learn more than you ever knew.

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River Heights Shawl Crochet Pattern

River Heights Shawl closeup of one end

Crochet the River Heights Shawl to wear now and all summer long! Warm weather calls for a lightweight wrap that will keep the chill off in the air conditioning or on cooler evenings. In this generously sized yet feather-weight shawl, the stitch pattern grows, creating gentle sawtooth edgings on two of the three sides.

River Heights Shawl-wingspan

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The Yarn

I used Red Heart It’s a Wrap, a fingering weight 50% cotton/50% acrylic yarn. It comes in a single 1100 yd /1006 m cake and you’ll need most of the skein. The color pictured is Comedy, but there are more subtle colorways to choose from, if that’s more your style.

Please note, however, that there is a difference in weight and in length between It’s a Wrap and It’s a Wrap Rainbow. You can use It’s a Wrap Rainbow, but you’ll need to use a larger hook and fewer repeats of the stitch pattern. Your gauge and finished size will be different.

Although the pattern is designed for a color-changing yarn, you can substitute any of a similar fingering-weight yarn for a custom look. Make it with multiple colors, or in a single color. This design can handle it!

The Pattern

River Heights Shawl crochet pattern first page

Intermediate and advanced crocheters will enjoy making this carefree wrap. Beginning crocheters willing to stretch their skills will be happy to see how it takes them to the next level.

It uses only the most basic of crochet stitches: chain, single crochet and double crochet.

Both text and charted instructions guide you on your way. American crochet terminology is used throughout.

Photographer Kellie Nuss did a great job of demonstrating the drape of this shawl and the many ways you can wear it. I can’t wait to wear my River Heights Shawl now that the weather is warm. How about you?

River Heights Shawl closeup of one end
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For more crocheted shawls, see the Three Pines Shawl and the Eulerian Triangles Shawl.

Linked Treble Crochet Stitch Pattern

Linked treble crochet swatch

Crocheters, expand your stitch pattern knowledge with linked treble crochet! While regular treble crochet stitches are quite tall, with space between the posts, linked treble stitches are connected post-to-post, creating a solid fabric.

Linked stitches are sort of a cross between regular treble crochet and Tunisian crochet, worked with a regular crochet hook. Note that I’m using American crochet terminology here. UK crocheters will know this as linked double treble crochet.

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Grab some yarn and an appropriately-sized hook, and practice along with me. I’m using Marly Bird’s Chic Sheep yarn from Red Heart, with a Clover Amour crochet hook, size 5.5 mm.

Be sure to watch the video, where I demonstrate two different ways to work into the chain on the first stitch of the row. Choose your favorite.

Linked Treble Crochet

Beginning Linked Treble in progress
Beginning Linked Treble

Special Stitches
Beginning Linked Treble (Beg Ltr):
Ch 4 (does not count as a st), insert hook into 2nd ch from hook, yarn over and pull up a loop, insert hook into next ch, yarn over and pull up a loop, insert hook into st at base of ch-4, yarn over and pull up a loop (4 loops are on hook) [(yarn over, pull through 2 loops] 3 times.

Arrows showing path of hook
Arrows show the three places to put your hook in linked treble crochet

Linked Treble: Insert hook into upper horizontal bar of previous st, yarn over and pull up a loop, insert hook into lower horizontal bar of previous st, yarn over and pull up a loop, insert hook into next st, yarn over and pull up a loop (4 loops are on hook) [(yarn over, pull through 2 loops] 3 times.

Instructions

Chain any multiple.

Set-Up Row: Ch 1, sc in 2nd ch from hook and in each ch across, turn.

Row 1: Beginning Ltr, Ltr in each st across, turn.

Rep Row 1 for pattern.

Linked Trebles Stitch Chart

Abbreviations
Beg Ltr:
beginning linked treble crochet (see Special Stitches)
ch: chain
Ltr: linked treble crochet (see Special Stitches)
sc: single crochet

Hunters, Gatherers, Stabbers, Grabbers

Thoughts on Crocheters & Knitters
Guest Post by Tory Light

I live in the country of Yarn Nation, in the province of Knitting. My primary language is Knit.

Recently I left Knitting Town (my village) and flew across Yarn Nation to Crochet Land for a conference. Not a knitting conference with crochet on the side. No. Knitting. None. Everywhere I looked, crocheters were wielding blunt hooks, not pointy sticks.

And every crocheter was amazingly friendly to me, which was weird, because many knitters I’ve encountered are only superficially sociable to strangers, if they acknowledge them at all. By contrast, I made several genuine friends during that weekend of crochet, thanks in part to the event’s tradition of providing both a mentor and a buddy to newbies like me.

It got me wondering: Here I was, still inside the borders of Yarn Nation, but clearly this other tribe was not like mine back home. We all live in Yarn Nation, and we all make pretty things.

Are Crocheters all that different from Knitters?

anthropological dig
Are they going to find knitting needles or crochet hooks in that pit?

I felt like an Anthropologist leaving a culture of Hunters and entering a culture of Gatherers. Now in the guise of a participant observer doing fieldwork, I perceived at least two distinctly different “ethnic groups” within the overall culture of Yarn Nation. A whole dissertation could grow out of this topic, but I’ll focus just on tool use, a classic way to study civilizations. I’ll also point out some linguistic implications based on the names of our main tools, the knitting needles and the crochet hooks.

Let us leave aside historical differences and differences in the technical characteristics that distinguish crocheted textiles from knitted. Let us also leave aside demographic evidence that participation in crochet (versus knitting) skews more toward crafters with less disposable income, sculptors/artists, African-Americans, males, crafters in rural areas, prison inmates, crafters who can’t or don’t use 100% wool; and so on. (Google Trends search 1/3/19)

Tools That Stab and Tools That Grab

Let’s analyze only one thing—the use of one tool vs. another—to illustrate possible differences in each tribe’s social values. These differences might be as obvious as the contrast between tools that stab and tools that grab.

Consider the main tools that we yarn crafters use, and the words and images that we associate with them:

Needles.​ Or “knitting pins”, as some people still say. They have the same shape as sewing needles and pins, so it takes little imagination to see why they have the same name. If you sew, you know that sewing needles and pins are very sharp.

At least knitting needles won’t draw blood, so in that way they are closer to crochet hooks, but still, they are not allowed in prisons. (Martha Stewart’s famous poncho was crocheted.) Remember when TSA forbade them in your airplane carry-on? On second thought, knitting needles would make great weapons. More than one murder-mystery author has chosen this ploy. And there’s practically a whole arsenal in the hands of someone working with five double-points. Just imagine the potential of a circular needle as a garrote! ​

Knitting needles are for Hunters.

Auckland Museum [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]

Hooks.​ A hook is used to pull something toward you. A shepherd’s crook, the catchy part of a tune, advertising—all are hooks of one kind or another. Hooks—as in hook and eye—connect two parts of a garment. Hooks—as in coat hooks—are a handy support, keeping your belongings clean and off the ground. I’ll bet you yourself use a crochet hook if for no other reason than to catch a dropped stitch and help it back up.

Crochet hooks are for Gatherers.

There’s visual symbolism going on, too: Hooks are curved. A curve is soft. From our species’ earliest days, humans have associated curves with comfort and safety. Starting with our mothers’ bodies when we were babies, to environmental features such as rolling hills and rivers, curves signify security. Conversely, humans associate pointed objects with danger and fear. Claws, thorns, jagged mountains—you get the idea.

Make a Friend; There’s Room for All

So, fellow Knitters, I know that when you attend events with your friends and do not want to socialize with strangers, you do not intend to appear cliquish. When you snub those who do not work with pure wool, you do not intend to appear superior. But sometimes you come across in negative ways. Your tool of choice literally is the more aggressive one. Maybe it plays a role in the way you interact with other people.

And that’s OK: The world needs both Hunters and Gatherers.

But here’s the thing: we are not servants to our tools. We can rise above the primitive sticks in our hands. The next time you see a Crocheter or even another Knitter, take time to get acquainted. Make a new friend. As some of Yarn Nation’s wise “bistitchual” Elders like Edie Eckman, Rick Mondragon, and Myra Wood have shown us, it is possible to thrive in both cultures.

Heading home to Knitting Town after my inspiring visit to Crochet Land, I realized that there is another Yarn Nation village I must explore sometime. It’s in the “flyover” region between Knitting and Crochet. I’m curious about that tribe of crafters. You know who I mean: Tunisian, anyone?

About Tory

The opinions expressed above are those of guest blogger Tory Light.

I started knitting as a child; I post on Ravelry; I’ve been published in a few pattern magazines. I also have my Craft Yarn Council certification as a knitting teacher, so if you were once a beginner (and who wasn’t?), maybe you’ve had a class with me. I go to at least one big knitting event per year, soaking up as much education as I can. Basically, I am very familiar with those two pointy sticks—my street creds, if you will.

You can find Tory on Ravelry, Facebook, and Instagram.

A Note from Edie

Tory’s Crochet Land conference is more commonly known as Chain Link, the Crochet Guild of America’s annual conference. Although that conference is crochet-centric, you can find crochet and other Yarn Nation crafts at other conferences around the country.

As this post is published, I’m winging my way to California for Stitches West, a conference where all types of fiber arts are welcome. Check out my Workshop Schedule for upcoming venues where I’ll be teaching both crocheting and knitting.

Yarn Nation is a nation united!

5 Ways to Prevent Gaps at Beginning of Crochet Rows

There’s more than one way to prevent those ugly gaps at the beginning of crochet rows. I’ll explain what causes those annoying holes, and how to fix them.

Learn these methods, then choose the one that works best for you in each situation. Different yarns and stitch patterns will create different results, so the solution in one project might be different from the solution in a different project.

I’m using American crochet terminology.

Blame the Turning Chain

A turning chain usually starts a new row or round. Its purpose is to bring the hook up to the level of the new row. When the turning chain is used as a double crochet or a treble crochet, it sits in the location of that stitch, but it’s a lot skinnier than the stitch it’s standing in for.

A regular chain-3 turning chain leaves a gap in double crochet.

Also, the turning chain usually sits a bit to the side, rather than squarely on top of the stitch below it, causing a gap.

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#1: Use a Shorter Turning Chain

Instructions typically tell you to chain 3 for a double crochet or chain 4 for a treble crochet. Instead, chain one less. In other words, chain 2 for a double-crochet turn or chain 3 for a treble-crochet turn. You still count that turning chain as a stitch, so work the next “real” stitch into the next stitch of the row, and work the last stitch of the next row into the top of that shorter turning chain.

#2: Don’t Use the Turning Chain as a Stitch

Use a turning chain, but don’t count it as a stitch.

Use a regular turning chain (chain-2 or chain-3 for double crochet, chain-3 or chain-4 for treble crochet),  but put the first stitch of the row into the stitch at the base of the turning chain. Put the last stitch of the next row into the top of the last “real” stitch, ignoring the turning chain.

#3: Use a False Turning Chain

Pull the first loop of the row up to the level of the new row, then chain 1. Put the first stitch into the very first stitch of the row, and ignore the turning chain as you did with the method above.

#4: Use An Alternative Turning Chain

Alternate turning chain example
An alternate turning chain prevents a gap.

Without chaining, work a single crochet into the first stitch. Insert the hook into the left-most leg of the stitch you just made (or the right-most leg for left-handed crocheters), yarn over and pull up a loop, yarn over and pull through 2 loops. You’ve just put another single crochet into the left-most leg of the previous stitch.

For a double crochet row, you should now be up to the level of the double crochet stitch. Count this alternative turning chain as a stitch, and continue working across the row. When you come back to this stitch at the end of the next row, be sure to work into the top of it.

For a treble crochet row, put one more single crochet into the left-most (right-most) leg of the single crochet, for a total of 3 single crochets, before continuing with your treble crochets.

#5 Use Linked Stitches

This method links the turning chain directly to the first stitch. Count this linked stitch as a stitch, and be sure to work into the top of it when you get to it on the next row.

For double crochet, ch 2, insert the hook into the back bump of the 2nd chain from the hook, yarn over and pull up a loop, insert hook into stitch at base of chain, yarn over and pull up a loop. You now have 3 loops on your hook. (Yarn over, pull through 2 loops) 2 times to complete the double crochet.

For treble crochet, ch 3, insert the hook into the back bump of the 2nd chain from the hook, yarn over and pull up a loop, insert the hook into the back bump of the next chain, yarn over and pull up a loop, insert hook into stitch at base of chain, yarn over and pull up a loop. You now have 4 loops on your hook. (Yarn over, pull through 2 loops) 3 times to complete the treble crochet.

Other Solutions

If you are starting a new yarn, you can use a standing stitch in place of a turning chain. These 5 ways to prevent gaps at the beginning of crochet rows are by no means the only ones you have available to you, but they are the ones I use most often.

If you know a different method that works well for you, please share it in the comments below.