Reading graphs may seem like a foreign concept, but it’s actually pretty straightforward. In this post I’ll go into detail about reading round and abbreviated. But first, I’ll go over a few general rules that apply to reading any graph.
Rules For Any Type of Graph
For any graph, you read the pattern from bottom to top. That’s pretty much a given, since that’s crocheting goes. Each spot in a graph represents one single crochet, and each row represents one round. Besides the occasional chain stitches and slip stitches, single crochet is the only crochet stitch you’ll use when using the tapestry crochet method.
The first time I tried a tapestry crochet pattern, I didn’t really understand when to switch colors. Allow me to provide an example: Let’s say your graph shows four blue stitches in a row, followed by four pink stitches then four blue stitches again.
What you would do here is crochet three complete blue single crochets, but on the fourth one, do the last YO and pull through with pink. With the pink, do three complete single crochets and on the fourth, complete the stitch with blue. For a more detailed description of how to change (and carry) colors, click here.
Reading and Understanding Round Graphs
There’s actually a third type of tapestry crochet that I could go into, which is flat tapestry crochet, but to be honest I don’t care for it much. I really prefer doing tapestry crochet in the round. It’s easier, quicker and I like that look of it more as well. The round tapestry crochet may be slightly more limited in the things you can make with it, but not by much. For example, you can make both scarves, bags, tablet covers, pillow covers, etc. with both types of tapestry crochet. But if you wanted to make something like a blanket or a dish cloth, you couldn’t really make those with the round tapestry crochet method. Still, I personally find the round method to be more enjoyable.
Below is the graph I use. Technically, I make my graphs on a software program that I found online. I really wanted to share the process with you guys, but I can’t figure out how to make the video the way I needed to. But if you guys really want to know, say so in the comments below and I will figure it out for you guys.. somehow 😛
If this graph isn’t quite big enough for the pattern you want to make, you can do what I do and just print out multiple graphs and line them up to create a larger graph.
Like flat graphs, round graphs are also read from bottom to top, but unlike flat graphs, they are only read from right to left. That’s because when working tapestry crochet in the round, you do not have to turn your work or and start a new round. What happens is that once you get started, the stitches line up so that you can just keep working in one continuous round. (I’ve written another post that goes into detail about how rounds work in tapestry crochet, which you can check out here.)
So, if the rounds are continuous but the graph isn’t, how do you read the graph?
Well, let me give you a simple example. The pattern below is made of 20 stitch across. Starting with the orange stitch at the tip of the second upside down triangle, crochet each stitch across from right to left. You’ll do 1 orange, 9 pink, 1 orange, 9 pink. When you get to the end of the round, you’ll already be in the perfect spot to place the first stitch of the next round into the first stitch of the previous round. If you do it right, you’ll always end each round where the previous round began.
That brings me to the next point about reading round graphs. If you looked at any point in the graph, it could seem like you have the following possibilities: stitch X goes into stitch A; stitch X goes into stitch B; or, stitch X somehow goes into both stitch A and stitch B.
I’ll just go ahead and tell you; stitch X goes into stitch A. That is to say, each stitch on the graph always goes into the stitch below it and to the left. This may not make sense not, but trust me; once you start crocheting, this all will become so much easier to understand because a lot of it just happens naturally.
Reading and Understanding Abbreviated Graphs
Abbreviated graphs are shortened versions of full patterns. They’re really useful when crocheting patterns that are confusing or difficult to follow along with. I wrote a whole post about what abbreviated graphs are and how to use them. It’s a very useful skill, so it’s definitely worth checking out. Abbreviated graphs are written in a simple grid format, so it’s pretty easy to read and understand. Here’s an example of a pattern with it’s abbreviated graph:
Abbreviated graphs can be used with either flat or round graphs. The only difference is that when reading them, you read only from right to left for round patterns, but alternate between right to left and left to right with flat patterns. On the first round, you repeat only the first row of the abbreviated graph as many times as you need to in order to achieve the correct size for your project. In the example below, the first row of the abbreviated graph must be repeated 4 times to match the full graph.
When you’ve finished the first round, you move to the second row of the abbreviated graph and do the same amount of repetitions as you did of the first row in the first round. Each time you finish a round, you move on to reading the next row of the abbreviated graph.
When you begin a new round, you should be starting with the first stitch on the corresponding row of the abbreviated graph. And likewise, you should be ending the row with the last stitch on the corresponding row. If either of these doesn’t happen, double check your work to make sure you have left out or misplaced a stitch somewhere in the round. Using the example above, if I start the fourth round of my project (using the fourth row of the abbreviated graph) with a blue stitch but I end with a white stitch, it would mean that I made a mistake somewhere along the way because the abbreviated graph says I should be ending with a blue stitch.
Other than what I’ve mentioned, reading abbreviated graphs is done pretty much in the same way as reading round or flat graphs. Personally, I almost never use abbreviated graphs by themselves. I find that for me, the easiest way to crochet something is to rely mostly on an abbreviated graph, using the complete pattern occasionally to double check that I’m on the right track.
The idea of reading and understanding graphs is something that a lot of people wonder about. Tapestry crochet graphs can seem a bit mysterious if you’ve never used one. And there’s a good chance this post may have raised some questions that you didn’t have before. But as with many other things, this is just one of those things that you have to try to really understand. So even if you feel a little unsure, I would say just go for it and you’ll find that it all makes sense once you experience it firsthand.
But of course, if you have any questions, doubts or confusions, feel free to ask away in the comments below and I’ll try to clear up the uncertainties. Happy day, and happy crocheting!