Patterns are like another language of their own. If you don't know how to decipher this crafty shorthand it can be really difficult to crack the code and replicate the items you've been fawning over.
Oh, this picture? My face when I have to learn something and it isn't working out.
When reading a pattern, the legend will be the most important piece of the pattern to help you through the process. Most patterns have this on the first or second page of the pattern, listing the abbreviations used. (I work in US terms, so I will be writing this entire post in US terms as well.) Anyway, this is where the designer will tell you what abbreviations THEY use for each stitch. Sometimes this can differ apart from the basics. It is important to note these as sometimes repetitive intricacies and details are given a different term or abbreviation to simplify the overall understanding of the pattern.
dc - double crochet
Or for the repetitive intricacies:
picot - chain 5, slip stitch into the stitch you started in.
Patterns tend to start with a chain (ch) or magic ring (MR). With chains and any other stitch, a number will be by it in some form or another ( dc x 4, 4dc, dc4, etc). There may be some abbreviations that don't even mean a stitch at all but to tell you how many to skip, where to place it, or even how many repetitions. Wording this is really hard, but as I said previously, crochet patterns are just shorthand. Once you know what each thing means, everything becomes so much easier.
That said, always be sure to read notes and materials before you start! Gauge (an important piece of information that I will describe in another post), yardage (how much yarn you will need), hook suggestions, hardware, stitch markers, etc will be listed and anything weird that may do in the pattern that differs from others. Something as simple as chaining before you start any row and that not counting as a stitch can change up the end product.
But I Can Free hand, Why Should I Bother?
There are some projects where free handing will only get you so far. Free handing is an amazing skill to have, but so is reading patterns. Intricate laces are much harder to freehand, or copy from a photo. Some shapes you need JUST the right count to make it work. This doesn't mean to stop free handing. But as a free handing artisan, maybe learn to read patterns for the sake of furthering your skill! There is so much information out there, it seems a shame to not utilize it!
To help you get started, I have made a small legend of some basic stitches to help you in your pattern reading endeavors. You can print this out and paper clip it to a pattern for a consistent reference or just keep it near a device, or on a device nearby, whatever works for you! If you are trying to read a pattern and are running into issues you can always ask the crew and someone will help! You may only post the row you are having an issue with and one row before and one row after for context for copyright reasons.
Little prairie spitfire, hoping to bring you some positivity and feist.