Because of the difference in taste there are two types of patterns. There are the ones completely written out or with abbreviations (as you probably use the most) and the patterns that are only a chart. Or a combination of the both of them.
The last one is the best option to attracht both types of crocheters but for most indie designers writing out a pattern is the simplest and fastest method of publishing patterns.
The designers who create charts for their designs are in a minority because there are only a few options to make a chart digitally with a home computer and basic software (and you have to be a bit computer savvy). There are requests for charted patterns as I have noticed on Ravelry but they are hard to find. The biggest chance of finding a chart is in a magazine, probably lace and/or doily patterns. These type of patterns are sometimes very complex to write down in crochet terms, so they aid in visualizing what you are doing with your hook and yarn. In Western world crochet they are simply not popular enough. On the other hand, Japanese crochet books are filled with charts so you can imagine they are quite popular world wide. Crochet charts are made of an international language.
I thought it was a good thing for me, as a designer, to learn how to make charts and add them to my patterns. A few months ago I was hopping over to Mrs Micawbers blog and she wrote “when I see a written pattern my mind just doesn’t grab it, it’s becoming jibberish” or something like that and this note really stuck with me.
I started wondering what all those dyslexic crocheters would feel like, or those who really need to rely on pictorials to grasp a pattern.
And then I started searching for software and found “StitchWorks”. This computer program is actually the only option if you want to create professional charts independently. Yes you can use Paint and a crochet font (Adriprints has one) or draw a chart from scratch in Inkscape, but this is at the moment the best option. I am not completely in 7th heaven with this program because it is still being tested and not perfect/easy to use but it is a start. The designer of the software is still making adjustments and hopefully will update it a few times in the nearby future.
But how do you read charts? I am going to give you a few examples of some stitches and how to read a basic chart in this tutorial.
First of all, you need to know your stitch dictionary. Surely you know that a double crochet is a dc and a back post double crochet is a bpdc but how is it visualized?
There are a few chart dictionaries on the net which cover the basic stitches. Here is an example.
Source: Craft Yarn Council
The stitches are very simple put together logically. For example the double crochet is a T shaped symbol with a slanted line over it. This visualizes your yarn over your crochet hook. Logically, a treble crochet has two slanted Lines over the stick and a triple treble has four over the same stick.
I really do not know the origin of these symbols, I cannot find any info! But every stitch has its own symbol (some even have a few variations such as extended stitches) and for example shells or other lace stitches are made of grouping basic stitches.
If you are going to read a chart always read the legend that is put next to the chart or is in the index of a magazin. There are quite a few variations of all stitches so always make sure you know what each symbol represents.
I am going to give you an example chart to show you what I mean. . In the chart below I have the most common known motif in crochet history: The Granny Square. Compare the symbol for a dc in the symbol list and in the chart. In the list it is a T shaped symbol, but in the chart below it is a sort of a cross with a longer vertical line. This is why you need to check if there is a legend or explanation on what the charted symbols mean. Unfortunately there are no rules or really common symbols in charting crochet patterns among indie designers!
Source: Le Monde De Sucrette
How to read a chart?
If we are going to use above chart as an example you can see easily it is made up of five rounds, with each round in a different colour. The circles are your chains and the crosses are your dc's. Your round starts with a ch3 and your groups of dc's are made in the ch1 sp of previous round. Can you see it?
This is a very basic chart.
How about crocheting in rows?
This is a chart for crocheting flat. It is a pattern for the Papillion Scarf by Birgit who is actually a very professional designer (she has published her patterns in books!). She has the pattern both in chart and in text. Just click on the link. But what do we see in this chart? There are dc stitches, chains and very large X's which indicate a single crochet but because it is done over two other rows she enlarged it. But she has a legend next to it on her site so it is very easy to understand. The numbers next to the rows indicate on which row you are working on.
How about working in the round and adding more intricate stitch repeats?
Source: Crochet Art
Ah, now we're talking!
This is a chart you will commonly find in crochet magazines, especially the filet and doily type of magazines.
Here you can see that there is little information showed, but enough to give you an idea how the doily has been made.
You start in the middle and as you can see the first round is made of single crochet's (x's) made into a circle of eight chains (the oval shapes in the centre). After that you see that on the right of each ch 3 a number indicates the start of the new round. Round number one isn't indicated (which is the sc crochet round) but the start of round 2 is. Every number above that indicates the starts of the next round. And so you progress through your chart.
But what does it not tell you? Wether or not to turn your work. That is why I think patterns need both a chart and a written pattern!
What it does tell you is a very nice visualization of how your doily is supposed to look. That is the great thing about charts.
I hope you found this tutorial useful, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask!
I am going to put you to the test in a couple of days ;)