To start off, you may be wondering what I even mean by “round graph.” To clarify, there are two different types of graphs: round graphs and flat graphs. Flat graphs are for making things that lie flat, like dish cloths, scarves, blankets, etc. Round graphs, which is the type I’ll be focusing on in this post, can be used to make things like bags and purses, baskets, pillow covers, etc. You know, things that you can make working in the round. When it comes to what you can make, the list really goes on and on for both flat and round designs.
Here’s that round graph I’ve been talking about:
It may not seem like much, but the number of designs you can create on this simple graph is practically endless. You just how to know what to do with it.
The first thing you should know is how you should read the graph. Just like with regular crocheting, you start at the bottom and work your way up. And for each row, you work from the right to left. You read these round tapestry graphs the same way. To simplify, you read the graph from bottom to top and right to left. [Please note that when you’re making a round project in tapestry crochet you don’t turn your work. Nor do you end the row by joining with a slip stitch. Working rows in tapestry crochet is more like working in a spiral. More on that in another post.] So when you’re reading the graph the right way, this is how it should look:
Pretty straightforward, right? On to the next point, which has to do with the stitches. Each one of the circle shapes on the graph represents one single crochet. That means the circle at the very bottom and all the way to the right represents the first stitch. I should mention that this graph is this size for no reason in particular. If you’re making a really small project you may only need to use a fourth of this graph. If you’re making a big, elaborate project, you may need to use multiple graphs. But for simplicity’s sake, let’s start with this one. Like I said, there are so many things you can do with this very graph. I’m tempted to end the lesson and go make a new one! But I guess I’ll stick it out to the end.
Now, let’s have an example of what can be done with one of these graphs. I saw this picture on Pinterest one day and thought it would make a great pattern.
One of the first things I noticed is that all of the straight lines (by straight I am referring to the fact that they are not diagonal) are going up and down. This instantly lets me know that I need to flip this image horizontally to make it work. Why is that? Take a look:
As you can see, the horizontal blue line fits into each circle in the row, as do the green diagonal lines. But the red vertical line, on the other hand, does not. That’s because when you’re crocheting into the previous row, each stitch is nestled in between the two stitches below it. Like this:
Since the stitches don’t stack directly on top of each other, you can’t have lines that go straight up and down. (Huge Note! You technically can have relatively straight vertical lines, but it requires doing a variation of the typical single crochet that has a significantly different appearance to it. It’s still very beautiful and it’s worth checking out. Check it out here.) Using regular single crochet stitches, you can have straight horizontal lines, you can have straight diagonal lines, but you can’t have straight vertical lines. So when I saw the straight vertical lines in the picture I wanted to graph, I first flipped the image to make those vertical lines horizontal so I could properly graph it. This is the image I ultimately based my pattern on:
Once you have an idea of what you want to graph, you’ll probably wonder “where do I even start?” The best answer is that it’s up to you. Of course, you might not be using a picture to base your pattern off of. You may be a million times more creative than I am and come up with a design off of the top of your head! But if you want to get some tips on how to use an image to create your pattern, or if you just want a better understanding of what you can do with a graph, read on.
When I get to graphing, I usually start with one detail within the bigger picture. From that one detail you can figure out every detail around it. For this graph, the first thing I focused on was the inner solid hexagon.
It seemed to me that each side was pretty much the same length, so I started with graphing a hexagon with sides that were four stitches long. Four was almost a random number. I have to play around with the hexagon for a while before I found what worked best. This is something that you just kinda have to get used to doing. It may be kinda tedious but usually the first step it the hardest, and all the other steps fall into place after you finish the first. In this case, I could have gone with three stitches per side, but a shape that small might come closer to representing a circle. Five would have been too big. So, I settled on sides that were four stitches long. Here’s what the process of creating that shape looks like:
Once you have your first detail graphed out, decide what detail you want to work on next. For my example, there aren’t many details to choose from, so by default I started working on the outer hexagon that borders the solid inner hexagon. This is what I’m referring to:
The first thing I did was draw lines going out diagonally from the corners of the inner hexagon shape. These lines are just there temporarily to help me draw the first side of the outer hexagon (the border). Using the corners as reference points is usually the easiest way to make sure things are lined.
After counting two stitches from each corner, I drew the first and last stitch (the orange ones). Then I filled in the stitches in between and came out with a line that was seven stitches long. From there, using the same steps that I used in the last picture, I can fill in the stitches all the way around the shape, making each side seven stitches long.
Here are a few things I noticed about the shape:
- Each side is seven stitches long.
- At any point between the inner hexagon and the outer border, there are two stitches separating them.
- From each corner of the inner hexagon you can drawn a straight line the the corresponding corner of the outer border.
When making your graph, it’s helpful to double check your work every step of the way, using points similar to the three I just mentioned to be sure that you’re on the right track. If you mis-graph even just one stitch, it can set the rest of the pattern off.
Now, the bordered hexagon above is good, but it isn’t exactly the shape we want, though. The image we’re basing this off of shows an opening in the outer border, either on the left or on the right. Let’s get to it! Before getting started, the most important thing to know is the opening should be centered. Let me show you how I accomplished that:
Once again, I used the corner stitch as a reference for knowing which points to take off. Now the opening in the outer hexagon is perfectly centered.
The bordered hexagon with an opening on one side is actually the primary shape that this whole pattern is made of. The entire pattern basically repeats this shape over and over, sometimes exactly as pictured above, sometimes flipped so the opening is on the right. You’ve unlocked the key to this pattern! I’ll call this our “key shape.”
Lots of other patterns work the same way, with key shapes repeating themselves over and over to make something that looks much more complex than its key shape (making the pattern seem greater than the sum of its parts). Remembering that lots of patterns work this way can save you a lot of time graphing. Let’s see if we can use this key shape (and the flipped version of it) to start filling up the graph.
But first, do you remember the original image? It’s kinda made up of columns:
Let’s start by focusing on just this column. Something that is helpful to notice is that the column is just a bunch our “key shapes” stacked on top of each other. Do you see it? Here’s a visual:
The orange dots and lines are represent the areas where the key shapes are overlapping. If you just keep flipping and overlapping the key shapes like this for the entire height of the graph, you’ll get a column like the one in the image. Pretty cool, huh? Here it is:
That right there is proof that this really is more simple than it looks! Once you have found a key shape and have seen how to space them out (or overlap them in this case), you’re pretty much set to complete the pattern. As I mentioned earlier, this pattern is basically made up of columns. So all we really have to do is add a few more columns and we’re done! It’s just transposing, more or less. I’m making the columns alternating colors so it’ll be easier to see how it repeats.
See how the pink and yellow columns are the same thing? That’s what makes the pattern so simple! Not only have you learned the basics of designing a pattern, you’ve actually made one! Now you just have to know how to make the foundation or base of the project, how to calculate the number of stitches needed, how to actually read a graph, and how to go from row to row.
But don’t be overwhelmed! The skill that you learned today is one of the most difficult skills to understand. Everything else will be a breeze. To get instructions on all the other skills you’ll need, go to The Basics section of the website. Don’t freak out when you get there! You don’t need to learn everything there in order to be able to make something. Feel free to read all the articles or none; whatever it takes for you to feel ready for your first project!
One last thing; if you found this article to be helpful but are still hoping for a little more advice (or maybe a lot more), please feel free to let me know in the comments below and I’d be glad to help! Happy Crocheting 🙂