In the art of crocheting, one of the most discouraging things is to be half way through a project only to discover that the pattern is above your skill level. First you will have a few days of frustration trying to figure out the pattern and then eventually you cast it aside and it becomes a nagging reminder of your shortcomings. This all could have been prevented by learning how to choose a crochet pattern wisely.

When choosing pattern there are several things I look for to help me decide which pattern to attempt . Occasionally I also like to be challenged, but never overwhelmed by a pattern. So with all the patterns out there how do I choose? This very well may be a question you’re considering.

When choosing a pattern, the first place I look is at the stitches used. Are there any “speciality stitches or techniques” that the pattern requires? Sometimes I will even try working a speciality stitch to ensure that I understand the process before tackling it on a larger scale. This isn’t always necessary though, still, you should take the time to look over the pattern and make sure you can work the stitches required to complete the project. This is when taking the time to work a swatch for a gauge can be helpful in deciding to proceed further.

The quality and type of yarn used. Novelty yarn is fun but can be a little trickier to work with than the smoother yarns. I love working with Novelty yarn, but it can be more difficult to work with and harder to count if you have no experience with it.

I always look at the tools needed, the type of hooks used and if there is any added material needed. What notions are needed, for example does it need a zipper? Do you know how to sew a zipper on? Does it have good instruction to help you through it?

I would strongly suggest reading through the pattern and just judging if it looks to hard. This, in addition with the skill level will usually give me an idea if the pattern would be to hard for me. Keep in mind that skill levels are just guidelines suggested by the person that created the pattern, in other words they are arbitrary. They can still be helpful in choosing a pattern but keep in mind that there have been times where I have found patterns labeled easy/beginner, difficult and difficult patterns- easy.

Basically skill levels are guidelines and symbols to bring uniformity to a pattern. Once they are understood they can be beneficial in choosing the right pattern for your next project. Don’t feel bound by these levels but use them as guidelines in helping you evaluating the pattern. The different skill levels are Beginner, Easy, Intermediate and Experienced. Lets take one at a time and briefly go through each one.

Beginner: Projects for first time crocheters using basic stitches and minimal shaping.

First I would like to state that a basic stitch is a chain stitch, slip stitch, single crochet, half double crochet, double crochet and treble/triple crochet. You should not only be familiar with how to form and make each of these stitches but also to be familiar with the abbreviations for each. (ch, sl st, sc, hdd, dc and tr).

Minimal shaping is simply adding or skipping stitches to form the desired shaping.

It is assumed that if you have a basic working knowledge of the basic stitches, then you are also to know the crochet abbreviations, crochet symbols and terminology. You should also be familiar with are how to turn and join. When reading a pattern you should also know the parenthesis, star/asterisks, daggers, and the symbols associated with them and how to work them within the pattern.

Easy: Projects using yarn with basic stitches, repetitive stitch patterns, simple color changes, and simple shaping and finishing.

Note: Think of Skill levels like steps, when you move to the next one it is assumed you know the previous one.

A crochet pattern marked “Easy” will be a little bit more challenging than the one marked “Beginner” but it should still be an easy pattern and a beginner crocheter should be capable of working it.

We already discussed basic stitches, but what about repetitive stitch pattern. A repetitive stitch pattern is when you used two or more stitches in a set pattern to complete the row. For example if your set patten is a single crochet and a double crochet and the pattern tells you to use the set pattern to complete the row. You would simply crochet a single crochet and double crochet repeatedly until you come to the end.

You should also have a working knowledge of how to change yarn colors. What this means is the project might (but not always) be working with two or more colors.

Finally what is simple shaping? It simply means to crochet some basic shaping by using increasing and decreasing.

Intermediate: Projects using a variety of techniques, such as basic lace patterns or color patterns, mid- level shaping and finishing.

In “Intermediate” patterns they may use a variety of techniques, for example a basic lace pattern with different colors.

What is Mid-level shaping? It is when you crochet across a piece, leaving some of the stitches unworked.

Intermediate patterns are great for someone who has mastered several Easy patterns and would like to challenge themselves to something harder.

Experienced: projects with intricate stitch patterns, techniques and dimension, such as not-repeating patterns, milt-color techniques, fin threads, small hooks, detailed shaping and refined finishing.

This would be for people who can easily crochet intermediate projects. You will sometimes be working with smaller hooks and more detailed patterns. Most of the patterns will not be repetetive patterns that repeat the same the set stitches, but when each row is crocheted differently.

A little side note, I have found that all crochet companies that sell patterns have a pattern help number. When you call them they will have someone who will walk you through those spots you are having trouble with. You will need the name of the book/pamphlet with the page number or pattern number. You will also need the name of the pattern, the row you are having trouble in and what the problem is. These have been some of the friendliest and most helpful people I have ever talked to. When I found out about this, I started keeping a list of companies with the correct phone numbers. I call it my Emergency Numbers for Crocheting.

I hope you found this post helpful for choosing your next project. If you have any helpful advice please share. Sometimes the best way to learn is from other people and their experiences.

Until next week, keep those hooks flying.