Crochet Symbols and Charts: An In-Depth Guide (With Cheatsheets)

While crocheting is a universal craft, the language and terms of crochet can vary between countries.

The easiest way to translate a pattern between languages is to chart it using symbols that are recognized globally.

Crochet patterns use two different types of charts, colorwork charts and stitch charts. In this article, we will talk about stitch charts and how to read them. 

What are stitch charts?

Stitch charts are especially popular in the international community because they transcend language barriers and make patterns accessible to crafters of any nationality.

These charts utilize symbols to represent each stitch used in the pattern and arrange the symbols to give a visual representation of the finished product.

Stitch graph
Example of a stitch chart.

How to read stitch charts

Learning to read stitch charts is similar to learning to read crochet patterns.  

Start simple

Like with most new pursuits, start with a simple pattern with a few stitches. This will help you learn the symbols more quickly. 

Have a cheat sheet on hand

When you begin working with stitch charts, you will want to keep a cheat sheet showing all the stitches and symbols close at hand. Whenever you run into a symbol you don’t recognize, you can refer to this sheet for answers.

crochet symbols chart
Click image to download sheet

The symbols and what they mean

Notice that the symbols mimic the way the stitches themselves are made. This article uses U.S. terminology for the stitches. If you are more familiar with U.K. terms, you can read more about crochet abbreviations here. 

Chain Stitch

A finished chain stitch looks like a simple oval loop of yarn. Similarly, the symbol for the chain stitch is an oval loop. 

Chain stitch
Chain stitch symbol

Single Crochet

A single crochet stitch is characterized by a single post and the top. The stitch is visually represented by a short cross or an x. 

single crochet symbol
Single crochet symbol

Half Double Crochet

The half double crochet is similar to the single, but a little taller. This one is symbolized by a short post with a line across the top. 

Half double crochet symbol
Half double crochet symbol

Double Crochet

At this point, we being to see a pattern in how the symbols are written. The double crochet is made with a single yarn over. Similarly, the post of the double crochet symbols has a single line through it to represent the yarn over. 

Double crochet symbol
Double crochet symbol

Treble Crochet and beyond

The treble crochet has two yarn overs, so the symbols have two slashes through the post. The number of slashes through the post of the symbol is the number of yarn overs used to make the stitch. 

Treble crochet symbol
Treble crochet symbol

Complex Stitches

The simple stitches above can be combined in many ways to show more complex techniques.

Shell Stitch

Shell stitches are symbolized by a grouping of double crochet symbols fanning out from the stitch the shell is worked into. 

Shell stitch symbol
Shell stitch symbol

Work Two Together

A decreasing stitch or two stitches worked together, is symbolized by two stitches leaning into each other with a single top line. 

Work Two Together Symbol
Work two together symbol

Crossed Stitches

Crossed stitches are used to make cables, x-stitches, and more. These are symbolized by double or treble crochet stitch drawn over the others it crosses over. 

Crossed double crochet symbol
Crossed double crochet symbol

Popcorn Stitch

A popcorn stitch consists of many double crochet stitches all worked together. The symbol will show the number of double crochet stitches needed all looped together with a single top stroke. 

Popcorn stitch
Popcorn stitch symbol

Bobble Stitch or Puff Stitch

The bobble or puff stitch varies from the popcorn stitch by having many yarn overs worked together instead of many double crochet stitches. Notice with the symbol that the vertical strokes of the symbol do not have any slashes to indicate the double crochet. 

Puff stitch symbol
Puff stitch symbol

Post Stitches

Many patterns utilize front or back post stitches to create depth and texture. 

Front Post Stitches

These stitches are worked in front of your work around the post of the stitch below it. The front post stitch is symbolized by a hook at the bottom of the stitch that opens to the left. 

Front post stitches symbol
Front post stitches symbols

Back Post Stitches

Back post stitches are worked behind your work around the post of the stitch below it. The back post stitch is pictured by a hook at the bottom of the stitch that opens to the right. 

Back post stitch symbol
Back post stitch symbol

Tunisian Stitch Symbols

Tunisian stitch symbols follow a similar pattern to traditional crochet chart symbols. Each little picture is an indication of how the stitch is made or what it looks like complete. 

Click image to download sheet

Basic Stitches

The simple stitch and purl stitch, some of the most fundamental stitches in Tunisian crochet, are illustrated with a vertical line and a horizontal line respectively. The horizontal line mimics the little bump created by the purl stitch.

Basic stitch symbol
Basic stitch symbol
Purl Stitch symbol
Purl stitch symbol


Twisted Stitches

Twisted stitches are indicated by a little loop that crosses over itself, much like a twisted stitch does in reality. 

See twisted simple stitch tutorial.

Crochet Stitch Symbol
Twisted stitch symbol

Decreasing stitches 

To reduce the number of stitches in a row, stitches are worked together. This is charted by illustrating two different stitches that join together. 

tds2tog symbol
Tunisian decrease stitch symbol

Reading the pattern

Looking at a chart can be overwhelming. Where do the rows begin? What stitches should you make first?

The Beginning

If the pattern is worked in rows, look for where the turning chains (two vertical ovals) are located. Those turning chains are the beginning of those rows. 

If the pattern is worked in rounds, look for the joining slip stitch or the starting chains to find the beginning and ending of each round. 

Don’t get lost

You might easily get lost in a sea of symbols. Many charts have helpful additions to assist you in finding your place. 

Color coded rows

Many charts are written in alternating colors with the odd rows being one color and the even rows being another color. This helps you easily see which row or round you are currently working on. 

Numbered rows

Many charts have small numbers at the beginning of each row to show what order the rows should be worked in. 

Tiny Arrows

Some charts even have tiny arrows at the beginning or end of each row pointing the direction the row should be worked, so you know you are going the right way through the chart. 

Charted Patterns

Are you ready to get started working from charts? Check out these charted patterns for practice. 

Crochet Patterns

Ripple Afghan

This afghan pattern features both written and charted techniques, so you can easily switch between the two pattern styles as you get more comfortable reading charts. 

Lace Triangle Shawl

This beautiful shawl pattern can be downloaded for free as a charted pattern and is available as a written pattern on the blog for free as well. 

Tunisian Stitch Library

Most of the beautiful Tunisian crochet stitch tutorials on our website are charted along with the written directions. This is a great place to get some practice reading Tunisian crochet symbols.