Crochet patterns contain several important bits of information that you need to start your pattern. The designer includes this information to help you get a result that is as close as possible to the sample. Hook size, yarns used, amount of yarn used, terms used, other materials used, and the size of the finished object are all things that may be listed.
Side note: Most designers also list the gauge, or how many stitches are in a given space when working with their hook and yarn. We won't worry about gauge today since you are just starting out. That will follow in another lesson. Also, gauge is most important when the size of the finished item matters quite a bit, as with a garment. Since it doesn't really matter if your potholder is a little bit bigger or smaller than mine, gauge is not as important right now.
Let's see the important tidbits for the Essential Potholder.
Yarn: Lion Brand Martha Stewart Crafts Extra Soft Wool Blend
120 yards of Gray Pearl #550
Hook: US size H8 5mm hook
Extras: yarn needle
Terms: ch = chain, sc = single crochet, hdc = half double crochet, sk = skip, rep = repeat, sl st = slip stitch
Here is what the pattern looks like in written form. Don't worry! There will be a photo tutorial after the written pattern to explain each line.
Row 1: Work 1 sc into the third ch from the hook. Work 1 hdc into the same ch. *Sk 1 ch, work [sc, hdc] into following ch*, rep from * across.
Row 2: Ch 1, turn. *Sk 1 st, work [sc, hdc] into following st*, rep from * across.
Rows 3 through 23: Rep Row 2 twenty-one times.
You will now begin the border.
Border: Ch 1. Continuing to the left, work 1 sc into each row end (Side 1). Ch 1 to cross the corner. Work 1 sc into each base chain nub (Side 2). Ch 1 to cross the corner. Work 1 sc into each row end (Side 3). Ch 7 to cross the corner and to form the hang tab. Work 1 sc into each st (Side 4). Ch 1 to cross the final corner. Sl st into first st to join.
Fasten off and weave in ends of first panel. Make a second panel, but do not fasten off.
Place one panel on top of the other so that the stitches line up. Slide the hook into the first pair of stitches and work a sc. Work 1 sc into each pair of stitches all of the way around, treating each ch 1 corner as 1 st. When you come to the hanging loops, work 7 to 8 single crochet stitches around them. Fasten off and weave in ends.
So...what did all of that mean!? Let's get down to details.
"Ch 27. Row 1: Work 1 sc into the third ch from the hook."
Ch means 'chain'. When you see a number after it, it is telling you how many chain stitches you will need. In this case we work 27 chain stitches. Next, the pattern tells us to work 1 sc, short for single crochet, into the third chain from the hook. The arrow points to the correct chain stitch.
"Work 1 hdc into the same ch."
Next we work 1 half double crochet into the same stitch as the single crochet. Yes, that's right, the very same chain stitch has two different stitches worked into it. That is one way that designers create what is called a stitch pattern, by working different numbers and types of stitches into the same place.
*Sk 1 ch, work [sc, hdc] into following ch*, rep from * across.
When you see a set of directions surrounded by asterisks (*), this means that the directions will be repeated. Sk means 'skip', so we skip 1 chain stitch. Into the next we work 1 single crochet and 1 half double crochet as before. See the brackets ( [ ] )? They are telling you that everything inside of them will go into the same stitch. In summary, we will now repeat everything inside the asterisks until the end of the row -- We will skip 1 chain stitch, then work 1 single crochet and 1 half double crochet into the very next stitch... and then do that same thing again and again! All of the preceding sure was a lot of text for a fairly simple process. This is why crochet terms and symbols exist, to shorten directions and make them more user-friendly.
"Row 2: Ch 1, turn. *Sk 1 st,"
We know how to chain and turn! We learned that in previous lessons. Go ahead and do so. Then notice that you will be skipping the first stitch of the row.
"Row 2: Ch 1, turn. *Sk 1 st, work [sc, hdc] into following st*, rep from * across."
These directions look familiar, don't they? They are the same as the directions from Row 1, but this time we will be working into actual stitches instead of chain stitches. Every other stitch will be skipped, and those that are worked into will have 1 single crochet and 1 half double crochet. You can see that the stitch pattern is starting to emerge.
Here we are at the end of Row 2.
"Rows 3 through 23: Rep Row 2 twenty-one times."
Remember, 'rep' means repeat. To continue with our panel, all we need to do is follow the directions in Row 2 over and over until we have twenty-three rows in total. Since we already had two rows by the end of Row 2, we only need to 'repeat' twenty-one times to get to twenty-three.
"You will now begin the border. Border: Ch 1. Continuing to the left,"
This is just how it sounds. The flat part of the panel is done and now we need to work stitches around the outside to make a border. Since we work from right to left in crochet, you will be continuing to the left.
"Border: Ch 1. Continuing to the left, work 1 sc into each row end (Side 1)."
There are two types of row end. The first is made of the very last stitch of a row. This is lined in pink above. The second kind is made of turning chains. The ch 1 turning chains are line in red above. You after you ch 1, work 1 single crochet into each row end until you hit the next corner. Tip: Since there are 23 rows, you should end up with 23 single crochet stitches.
Here are some single crochet stitches that have been worked into the row ends.
"Ch 1 to cross the corner. Work 1 sc into each base chain nub (Side 2). Ch 1 to cross the corner. Work 1 sc into each row end (Side 3)."
When you get to a corner you will need a way to continue around to the next side. By chaining 1 we are able to bridge the gaps. Then we can keep working single crochet stitches around the outside of the panel.
"Ch 7 to cross the corner and to form the hang tab. Work 1 sc into each st (Side 4). Ch 1 to cross the final corner."
This is just how it sounds. Instead of chaining 1 to cross the corner, this time we are chaining 6 extra stitches to make a little loop for hanging the potholder. Then we continue working down the final side, 1 single crochet in each stitch.
"Sl st into first st to join."
Now that we have come full circle (tee hee), we need to join the round. See where the arrow is? That is our very first single crochet stitch of the border. That is where you will insert your hook for the slip stitch.
You insert your hook.
Yarn over and pull the loop through.
Then keep on pulling the yarn until it has gone through the working loop on your hook.
"Fasten off and weave in ends of first panel. Make a second panel, but do not fasten off."
Here is our first panel in all of its glory. You can stop here if you'd like. However, If you want a thicker potholder you can go thorough all of the steps in the "Panel" section again, stopping right before you fasten off. You will want to keep the yarn attached and a working loop on the hook for finishing. The finishing section is where the designer tells you what you need to do to put the final touches on your object.
"Place one panel on top of the other so that the stitches line up."
Here are the two panels, all lined up. You can see that the stitches mirror each other and pair nicely.
"Slide the hook into the first pair of stitches and work a sc."
Here you can see that the hook is under both loops of both stitches. This set of stitches is the very first from the border.
"Work 1 sc into each pair of stitches all of the way around, treating each ch 1 corner as 1 st."
Just as the pattern states, continue to match up your stitches and crochet a single crochet stitch through both of them at once. You can see that this is joining the two panels together to make one, thick potholder.
"When you come to the hanging loops, work 7 to 9 single crochet stitches around them."
Instead of working under the tight loops of the chain stitches, you will simply be working around them. This is much easier and looks nicer.
Like so. Then you continue working into stitches as before.
Fasten off and weave in ends.
You did it! Your potholder is now complete!
As a new crocheter, patterns may be a bit frustrating at first. Don't worry, you'll eventually have a light bulb moment and things will come together. Take it slow and don't be afraid to rip out and start over. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below. Happy hooking!