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How to Read a Crochet Chart

What Does Each Square on a Crochet Chart Represent?

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Question:

Ellen writes,

Hi Amy, I am wondering what each square on a crochet chart represents? How do I know what to crochet?

Answer:

Thanks for getting in touch, Ellen.

Since there are multiple ways to interpret crochet charts, there isn't any one definitive answer to this question.

If you encounter a chart as part of a crochet pattern or design in a book, magazine or website, the designer has hopefully specified some sort of key to interpreting the chart. However, you'll often find charts without any kind of key, and if you don't already know what to do with them, that can be frustrating.

If you do find a crochet chart without a key, it's possibly because the designer knows that the chart can be used in so many different ways.

Here are some of the most common ways to read a crochet chart:

Two-Color Charts:

Filet Crochet:

Two-color charts are often used for filet crochet. To learn more about filet crochet charts, I highly recommend Sandi Marshall's filet crochet tutorials:

Two-Color Charts for Cross Stitch on Crochet:

You could use two-color charts for cross stitching on top of a crocheted background. If that's what you want to do, there are several decisions you need to make. Decide which crochet stitch to use; single crochet and afghan stitch are both good choices, although there are other possibilities. Then decide which color is your main (background) color, and which color on the chart you want to interpret as representing the areas to be cross stitched. You'll want to choose two contrasting colors of yarn, one for the background and one for the cross stitch.

You'll have to crochet the entire piece using your chosen stitch and the background color. You'll crochet one stitch corresponding to each block on your chart. When you've finished that, the chart will help you know where to work the cross stitch. In this case, one square in the main color would represent one crochet stitch that remains unworked, without any cross stitching; the other color would represent the areas where you'd cross stitch on top of the crocheted background.

With a two-color chart, you only have to cross stitch one of the colors. Of course, if you want the entire piece to be covered with cross stitch, it's an option; you could work cross stitches over the crocheted background if you wish, using either the background color or a third color. However, it is not necessary to do this.

If you want to work cross stitch on crochet, you aren't limited to only using crochet charts; a world of possibilities opens up if you consider all the cross stitch charts available. Connie Barwick has posted many free cross stitch charts; I often whip up crochet projects and then use her charts to embellish them with a little stitching. You can see an example here:

Dad's char -n- grill potholder | Get the free cross stitch chart

Multi-Colored Crochet Charts:

If you're looking at a chart that has more than three colors on it, the chart is most likely a chart intended for some sort of color work. You could probably use it for tapestry crochet or cross stitch on crochet.

Tapestry Crochet

Tapestry crochet is typically worked using single crochet stitch, although this is not the only stitch you could use it with. Unless your pattern specifies otherwise, generally, each color on the crochet chart corresponds to a different color of yarn; each square on the chart represents one single crochet stitch.

Since there can be more than one color per row, you'll need to know how to change colors in single crochet stitch. Sometimes the color changes will happen in the middle of a row. With tapestry crochet, you will crochet overtop of your unused color(s); they'll be hidden inside the stitches you create using your active color. This eliminates the problem of long floats appearing across the back, or sometimes, front of your work, depending which side you are working from at any given time.

For more detailed information about this technique, be sure to check out my tapestry crochet tutorial. Be sure to check out our free tapestry crochet patterns too.

You may also wish to visit Carol Ventura's tapestry crochet website, which is another fantastic source of information about the technique.

Hope this helps, Ellen! If you have additional questions, please feel free to join us in the crochet forum. Happy crocheting!

Amy

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