Reading Graph Patterns

Reading Graph Patterns and crocheting to them is one of those skills that, the moment you learn the simple “how to”, you’ll wonder why you thought it was so hard. This VERY easy lesson will have you working with them in moments.

Graph Patterns are used for Tapestry, Fairisle, and Intarsia crochet, but they are also used for Filet Crochet. This is why reading graph patterns is important.

I think the confused, overwhelming feeling comes from looking at very involved patterns with lots of color changes. I remember seeing my first graph pattern (which was a cute country village) and my first thought was, “NO WAY!” But a good friend sat me down with a simple checkerboard to show me that reading graph patterns was easy. That was about 40 years ago, and I’ve loved graph patterns ever sense then.

I’m going to do the same thing my friend did, I’m going to start with a simple checkerboard graph pattern and show you how easy it is. You’ll learn to keep track of your rows, count how many stitches to your color changes, and even how to calculate your beginning chain.

Simple Checkerboard Graph Pattern

In the free PDF (at the end of this page) you'll find the full size graph pattern. Because of page speed I'm only including a smaller version here.

Reading Graph Patterns - Calculating Your Beginning Chain

On the graph you see several blue boxes and white boxes. Each full color block is made up of 5 smaller squares wide, and 5 smaller squares tall. Each of those smaller squares (inside the blocks) represent stitches and rows.

To calculate your beginning chain go to the bottom of the graph pattern and count little squares across the work (see the picture below). I mark my count in groups of 10. This may seem silly for such an easy graph, but when you get to a graph pattern that has something like 161 little squares, you’ll appreciate this little step. No matter what your count is always add 1.

ADD 1: 45 + 1 = 46

Now you have the exact number of chain stitches.

What color do you start with? This is also explained in the previous lesson, Tapestry Crochet Color Change. However, look at the color of the last little square (in the picture above it’s number 45). In any pattern you are working with, this is the color of your chain. The reason for this is you are going to turn your chain and start crocheting back. Trying to do a color change, in a chain, is not easy. So if your chain color matches the first few stitches, you are ready to go.

Also explained in the previous lesson, don’t forget to lay your next color over the chain. Remember this explains Tapestry Crochet, IT IS DIFFERENT FOR FAIRISLE AND INTARSIA. I’ll talk about those later.

Reading Graph Patterns - Crocheting

The first thing to remember, when reading graph patterns, is that you read them - and crochet them - from the bottom up. There are exceptions, and a pattern will (usually) tell you if there is an exception.

The second thing to remember is that you alternate reading them from one direction to the next. This is the part that confuses people, but the reason is really simple. When crocheting a flat object you chain 1 and turn your work. Now you can’t flip the pattern over - so the easy thing is to use the graph in the opposite direction.

It doesn’t matter much with a checkerboard. But it really matters with very involved patterns. Reading your graph pattern, back and forth, with ensure that your colors and your design match up.

When I’m working a graph pattern I mark the outside of a row, I’m about to start, with an arrow telling me what direction I’m going.

< = crocheting from right to left.

> = crocheting from left to right.

When I’m done with a row I mark it with a star (*).

How many stitches of the color you’re using? Simply count the little squares. Again, this is really easy on the the checkerboard graph - they are all 5 stitches. When you move to more elaborate work you’ll need to count the boxes of color.

Row Example for Reading Graph Patterns

Here’s an example of crocheting this checkerboard design you’ll start with a chain of 46, add your blue.

Row 1 (reading the graph from right to left): With white, 1 single crochet (over and around the blue) in the 1st 4 chains. Start your 5th stitch (2 loops on the hook) - PAUSE AND TIGHTEN THE BLUE YARN THREAD - change color to blue. With blue 1 single crochet (over and around the white) in the next 4 chains. Start your 5th stitch (2 loops on the hook) - PAUSE AND TIGHTEN THE WHITE YARN THREAD - change color to white. Continue ...

Row 2 you would read the graph from left to right.

You will see the same graph in the 1st practice pattern, Checkerboard Dishcloth / Trivet.

Want More Lessons and Ideas About Tapestry, Fairisle, and Intarsia Crochet?

See The Index on the Website:

Tapestry Crochet Color Change

Tapestry Crochet Color Change goes a little further than just showing you how to change colors. I also share tips to keep your yarn from tangling, I talk about the importance of yarn tension, and I share some information that many other places don’t. Like what (you may ask)? Like the importance of keeping the same order of your colors when working (and why).

Checkerboard Dishcloth / Trivet
Free Practice Pattern

This pattern includes both a little written instruction, and the simple graph pattern. It’s a super easy little pattern that will allow you to practice color changes, work with your yarn tension, and using the graph pattern to crochet your project. Practicing what you’ve just learned (see above) is just as important as reading the lessons.

Go Beyond Checkerboards
Available in Mom’s Crochet Shop

This ebook includes a design for Brickwork, Gingham, Houndstooth, and Jigsaw. Often people don't realize that these historic designs did originate from the checkerboard.

Learn More

Click the button, "Free Lesson Download" to download your free PDF copy of Reading Graph Patterns.

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Notice of Copyright © by Sandy Marie, May 2017. All rights reserved.

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