Crochet Basics: Getting Started & Reading Patterns

Holly's cute tattooYarn partyElsie Larson crochetKatie Shelton crochetEmma Chapman crochetI don’t know about you, but every autumn season I get the itch to start something new! I don’t know what it is, but every year I feel in the mood to get crafty or start some kind of project that I can do at home. In case any of you feel the same, we thought it would be fun to do something together. So, we’ve worked with Holly Neufeld to create a series of posts designed to teach you to crochet! I have been looking forward to this series for a few months now as I am in NEED of brushing up on some long-forgotten skills. So without further a do, take it away, Holly:

Crochet basicsCrochet partyHolly NeufeldCrocheting is one of my most beloved hobbies. I think one of the biggest reasons I love it so much is the simplicity of it. You only need a hook and yarn to create something. And it’s so easy to bring your projects with you wherever you go. 

I was very fortunate to have my husband’s mom teach me how to crochet. She took a bit of time one summer afternoon six years ago to show me the basics, and I’ve been “hooked” ever since. I started off making scarves and dish cloths, but it didn’t take very long before I was trying amigurumi animals and making hats and cowls. I enjoyed crocheting so much that I was looking for excuses to buy yarn and make things. I ended up opening an Etsy shop in 2007 to sell the things I created.

Holly Neufeld teaches crochetMy wish for you, is that this series will be a simple way for you to grasp the hobby and be well on your way to creating crocheted gifts and lovely things for you, your friends, family, and your home. I hope it ignites a passion for yarn crafts like it has for me.

Lots of yarnTo begin, you will need yarn, a hook, and scissors. Other things that will come in handy are a measuring tape and a tapestry/darning needle.

If there is a specific project you have in mind, your pattern will suggest a yarn weight that is best suited. There are many different weights of yarn, such as:

0: Lace (or fingering)

1: Superfine (or sock)

2: Fine (or sport)

3: Light (or DK, light worsted)

4: Medium (or worsted, afghan, aran)

5: Bulky (or chunky)

6: Super Bulky

Your yarn label will have a little symbol with a number on it.

Reading yarn labelsThe size of hook that you need is determined by the yarn you are using. Your yarn label will also have the suggested hook size printed on it. Either in metric range or letter size.

0: Lace, 1.6 – 1.4mm (steel hook)

1: Superfine, 2.25 – 3.5mm

2: Fine, 3.5 – 4.5mm

3: Light, 4.5 – 5.5mm

4: Medium, 5.5 – 6.5mm

5: Bulky, 6.5 – 9mm

6: Super Bulky, 9mm +

HooksYour pattern will have a gauge that explains how many stitches (st) should be in a certain length, for example, 4 inches. Use your measuring tape to crochet 4 inches of single crochet (sc) stitches to make sure the gauge is correct.

To start, choose a medium or bulky weight yarn and the appropriate hook. With the hook in your right hand, hold it with the hooked end pointing upwards between your thumb and middle finger. Your index finger will be a guide for the yarn, and the handle end of the hook will rest on the outer edge of your hand, with your ring and pinky fingers lightly keeping it in place.

Right handed

Flip if you are left handed.

Left handedNow let’s talk about reading a pattern. Crochet patterns are written using abbreviations, which makes them easier to read. Yarn industry designers and publishers use the same abbreviations in most patterns. Sometimes a pattern will have a unique abbreviation and usually explains what it means at the beginning of the pattern. These are a few of  the most commonly used abbreviations:

ch, chs – chain, chains

dc – double crochet

dc2tog – double crochet two stitches together

dec – decrease

hdc – half double crochet

inc – increase

rep – repeat

rnd, rnds – round, rounds

sc – single crochet

sc2tog – single crochet two stitches together

sl st – slip stitch

st, sts – stitch, stitches

tog – together

tr – treble crochet

yo – yarn over

beg – beginning

ch sp – chain space

A chain space is, for example, when you ch1 and then skip a stitch before making another ch1 in the next stitch. This creates a little opening which is called the “chain space”. So when the pattern reads: 4dc in ch sp, you’ll stitch those 4 double crochet stitches in the little opening that was created the previous row. A Granny Square pattern is a pattern that you will work in chain spaces.

Brackets [ ] and parentheses ( ), indicate that you work the instructions within them as many times as directed, often in the same stitch. For example, when the pattern reads (sc, 2dc), it means to do those stitches in the same stitch.

* or * * indicates to repeat the instructions after or between asterisks as many times as directed. For example, the pattern might read: “Row 2: Dc in next 5 sts; *ch 1, skip next st, dc in next st; rep from * to end of row.”

Understanding abbreviations, how to read patterns, needle sizes, and different yarn weights will be less overwhelming. This series will teach you basic stitches, and equip you with everything you need to know to start crocheting. So look forward to some fun patterns and how-to videos! -Holly

Credits // Author: Holly Neufeld, Photography: Sarah Rhodes. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions

  • When I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four emails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove me from that service? Thanks!

    • Hi Clive! Could you email us at support AT abeautifulmess DOT com with some more info? It looks like the last comment on this post was submitted in 2014.

  • I just started a new crochet pattern-Red Heart #LW2397″Baby Cocoon & Hat”.
    I don’t understand the follow instructions: Place marker in center sc of the last 3 sc,” working on opposite side of ch,” sc in next 6 ch, 2 ac in last ch.
    The :Working on opposite side of ch, is what has me confussed?
    Please help me

  • That pattern for the floor pouf is coming up in this series! Stay tuned! -Holly

  • Thank you! My natural hair colour is a level 5, and yes I did pre-lighten it before colouring it with Joico KPAK Color Intesity – Violet. I prelightened with bleach to a level 8/9. -Holly

  • Super excited about this. I’ve been knitting for about 3 years now and I’ve always wanted to learn to crochet, hopefully I’ll be able to pick it up!

  • Omg how cool. I am on holidays and took some hooks and yarn to do while the kids were in bed. Istill class my self as a learner and everything I know is from you tube and I recently used a pattern to make a minion. I am annoying all my friends with my crotchet frenzy but I can’t help it. Am following this series closely. Thank you

  • I have always wanted to to start crocheting but never knew where to start! I am so excited for this series!


  • Im new to crocheting and love making my own little photography props 🙂
    Nilla Forever

  • As a devoted knitter, I love any yarn-related things, and crochet is my latest interest – it works up so fast and looks great in bright colours!
    I’m looking forward to what you share about it 🙂

  • Yes! Yes! Yes! I’m so happy you are doing this series. I’ve been wanting to re-learn what I’ve forgotten and I already have a pattern I’ve been eyeing but too rusty to even attempt 🙂 !

  • Wow. Rae took the words out of my mouth. I’m so happy to learn the basics from scratch because there are giant gaping spaces in my knowledge about crochet. Thank you!

  • Just today, I was thinking I wanted to learn to read a crochet pattern and refresh my crocheting skills! (It’s been about ten years since I last crocheted!) PERFECT timing on this post, for me. Thank you!

  • I love that you are starting with the basics! I need a refresher as it has been years. I am wondering if you could include into this series a tutorial on making those awesome round crocheted cushions that are in the photos with you?

  • Thank you! The yarn shops sound amazing! I love to look at fabric. I am just learning to sew but always loved to look at the different patterns and colors. I will have to check out Thank you again! Have a lovely day!

    Anna Neumann from The Whistling Willow

  • I crochet all the freaking time!!! Love, love, love it! Even though I’ve been crocheting for years (my story is pretty much just like Holly’s, but I taught myself through a book and youtube lol) I still say I’m a beginner and I’m excited to see what you guys can teach me!

  • I love Elsie’s hair! This is what mine looks like now:
    I went for purple tips, you were a bit braver! Haha love it!
    (Also, hi from Brazil!)

  • Oh seriously, your team has to be the most talented I’ve ever seen. Gutted I haven’t discovered this blog earlier.
    Crochet , grandma, you were right!

  • holly, what is your etsy shop? i’d love to see things you’ve learned to create in the past 6 years. it might give me some inspiration!

  • Thanks so much for doing this series!! I’ve been wanting to learn crochet for so long! You guys are the best!

  • Kiersten of She is Fierce shared this post to me since I told her that I want to learn crocheting (just the basics) since I only know how to cross-stitch from my Home Economics class in high school. Many thanks for sharing this! 🙂


  • My mum taught how to chochet when I was a little girl. I didn’t really enjoy it at the time but now as a grown up I’m so happy that I can. When I started crafting a few years ago it made me feel so free.

  • Crafty Minx has awesome free classes online (23 classed in all), and that’s how I learned and now I feel like a pro! My favorite hooks are CLOVER! Have fun 🙂

  • Such a helpful post! I absolutely love crocheting and the part that always intimidates me with new patterns are seeing all the stitches! The breakdown in the end was very helpful!

  • Can you do a post on everyone’s tattoos? You girls have some of the prettiest tattoos- someone has a gorgeous bird on their arm that i love, and that purple ball of wool in this post is really awesome too!

  • Can we get a post on Holly’s hair? I’ve been dying for one since the macaroon tutorial post. It’s the prettiest!!

  • As much as I love the content of this post .. What I really love is your hair colour! I have wanted purple hair for a long time but was worried about having to bleach my dark hair first in order to get the level of intensity. How dark is your natural base? Did you have to bleach your hair?

  • I love crocheting and learned when I was a little girl. I haven’t broke out my yarn and hooks in so long and this post makes me want to get started on a project! And totally unrelated but that purple hair is absolutely amazing!

  • I love to crochet and recently bought a new set of hooks and some yarn to get back into it. I’ll send this post to a friend of mine who wants to learn.

    And I just have to say….LOVE your purple hair. The color is amazing!

  • it’s like you guys can read minds!!!!! I was just looking at crotchet patterns and how to get started on pinterest this morning and lo and behold you post this amazing information!!! thank you thank you!

  • Aaaa so many good things!! crochet lessons, check. Purple hair, check. More exciting things to come, you bet. Thanks so muck ABM team for making my day!

  • I was just looking at books on how to crochet and got too frustrated – This makes it look simple! Thanks!

  • This is really basic, which is so helpful for people who have zero knowledge of crocheting like me…great series..


  • Thanks Anna! My favourite places to buy yarn are 2 local yarn shops in Winnipeg, MB. They carry gorgeous artisan yarn, and amazing quality wools from around the world… it’s an indulgence!! I love shopping at places like them because I get inspired by the projects on display, and love to just browse! I often get yarn from Michael’s as well. When I order online, I get yarn from! – Holly

  • so cool! i’ve always wanted to learn, definitely going to give it a try with your advice 🙂
    xo, cheyenne

  • A few friends and I were just talking about getting into crochet! Thanks for the great inspiration! xox

  • I’ve never tried crochet but I love sewing and knitting so I’ll have to give it a go!

  • This is great! Crocheting such a quick hobby to pick up and there are so many cute things to make!

    I actually started a crochet basics series on my blog too, and would love to see how you guys approach it. So far I have some tutorials for the basic stitches and how to start simple projects. I’ve also posted a pattern for a beginner’s amigurumi octopus! I would love if you guys would check it out and give me feedback.

  • Love this! This will be perfect for the upcoming colder seasons! 🙂

  • thats so helpful, I wanted to learn it for years but never had the nerves to do it… thanks to you, i will give it a try again;-)

    Love from Germany and the fatcatconnection


  • just yesterday I was wondering if you girls were into knitting or crochet and voila a crochet post!! excited to read more!!

  • I just started a knitting project (a blanket, so I’m in it for the long hall 😉 ) but this is giving me crochet envy! Such a fun idea.

    Always, Anita

  • THANK YOU FOR THIS POST! I really needed it. Can’t wait for the rest of the series!

  • I’ve seen others hold the hook that way! I tried it for myself, and wasn’t able to keep good tension, but there’s definitely more than one right way to hold the hook. Whatever is most comfortable! -Holly

  • I’ve been meaning to re-learn crocheting again, I learned as a little girl but I haven’t done it in years! Your post made it look like so much fun!

  • I’m so excited for this series! I’ve been a knitter for years, but I’ve recently been inspired to learn to crochet. This is perfect timing!

  • I am a mess with crochet but i finally finished this for my little daughter last winter

  • So excited about this- I’ve been itching to learn how – but am left handed so I need a profesh instructor for introductory lessons. Love your mani!

    Warm Regards,

  • Love that crochet has gotten to be in the spotlight recently! I have some easy beginner patterns on my blog for anyone who may want to check then out after learning some skills here!

  • I’m so excited for this series! I’ve been attempting to teach myself to crochet for a while, but still need a little extra guidance! Thanks 🙂

  • I use to knit when I was a kid, should get back into it or try crocheting.
    Absolutely love the purple hair!

  • I love Crochet!
    And i am very happy to see: you too.
    Nice pictures! So lovely.

    Greetings & Love & a Wonderful Start in the New Week

  • Very good post 🙂

  • I also get the urge to do something crafty towards the end of the year. I think it is because we are all typically cooped up in the house for months at a time. Then it is best to have something to pass away the time. The explanations in this post were excellent! They were really easy to understand and I just loved how bright and cheery all the yarns looked. Where is Holly’s favorite place to buy yarn? 🙂 Have a lovely day!

    Anna Neumann from The Whistling Willow

  • Looking forward to this series! I’ve tried to crochet before but just can’t get the hang of it. Am determined not to give up though so will try again by following along with you.

  • very excited to try to learn this! been wanting to for so long! could you please share where your white super chunky yarn is from(i think Elsie is using it in above photos)? I’ve looked everywhere. hobby lobby, Joann’s, online…i love it, but cant find it:(

  • Crochet is my favorite hobby! And I usually put it away for the summer, but this weekend I grabbed my yarn stock and got started again! Sunday afternoons are just better with a hook in my hand!

    Thanks for featuring crochet! It’s a great step 1 tutorial! Love it!

  • Fantastic! I’ve been wanting to learn to crochet for ages so I’m really looking forward to this series – thank you!

  • I’m so excited! I’ve been wanting to learn for so long, but I never got around to it. Time to start. Perfect for Fall, and to start all those wonderful homemade Christmas gifts!

  • Wow! I can tell that this series is going to be SUPER beneficial! Every year about this time, I get an urge to attempt crocheting again, and every year I fail… I just haven’t gotten the knack of it, I guess! I hope that by the time this is over, I’ll finally understand!

  • Ah how fun! I’m a huge knitter but never really got the hang of crochet…maybe I’ll finally learn! Seeing that crate of yarn makes me smile, I’ve got four times as much stashed away in baskets. No shame, right?

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