Technique Tuesday – Pattern Help

Repeats and Symbols

One of the most common errors or issues with understanding patterns is interpreting repeats. We use symbols, brackets, and parenthesis as a way to simplify and shorten a pattern. We would like to break down part of a couple of patterns that have several different types of repeats and help explain each part.

Example round:


In this round, we have several pattern indicators.

The * is a starting point. The pattern will redirect you back to this point to repeat the instructions.

The ** is a stopping point. Usually, in the instructions, it will tell you to repeat the pattern until ** There will be finishing instructions for that row following the ** .

The ( ) indicates a separate a set of stitches for a specific area. In this case, the parenthesis is telling you all of the stitches you will be working in the corner space.


The [ ] separate a series of stitches to be repeated across a specified area in the pattern. Some patterns have [ ] and ( ) coupled together. Example: ( 3 dc [ch 1, 3dc] twice). If it were to be written out, this is how it would look: 3 dc, ch 1, 3 dc, ch 1, 3 dc.

Another example: ( 3 dc [ch 1, 3dc] twice) 4 times. This one gets tricky, but if you take it slow you can work it out easily. This is how it would look written out: 3 dc, ch 1, 3 dc, ch 1, 3 dc, 3 dc, ch 1, 3 dc, ch 1, 3 dc, 3 dc, ch 1, 3 dc, ch 1, 3 dc, 3 dc, ch 1, 3 dc, ch 1, 3 dc. You begin the ( ) and be sure to complete in internal [  ] amount of times required before you reach the end of ( ) for the whole repeat.

Depending on the designer and company, the [ ] and ( ) can be used interchangeably.

The # is a stopping point in the pattern. It will follow the starting point * until indicated in the pattern. There is a key sentence that a lot of people miss: rep from * 5 times more, ending last rep at #. Each pattern will tell you how many times to repeat and when to end the repeat. It is no different from the ** in a pattern, it is just used as another option when ** has already been used in a different part of a pattern for ease of understanding.

Another area of confusion is with repeats within a pattern. Many people get confused about how many times to repeat a set of stitches.

We will use the above pattern as an example again. It states: [ch 4, sc in next ch-4 sp] 6 times. This pattern is to be done 6 times. It would read, if fully written out, as: ch 4, sc in next ch-4 sp, ch 4, sc in next ch-4 sp, ch 4, sc in next ch-4 sp, ch 4, sc in next ch-4 sp, ch 4, sc in next ch-4 sp, ch 4, sc in next ch-4 sp. At the end of this repeat, you will have 6 sc in 6 ch-4 sps, and you will also have 6 sets of ch 4.

If they wanted the repeat 7 times, they could say 7 times or 6 times MORE. This largely depends on the designer and company.

Every designer and pattern company has a different style for writing and establishing patterns, so make sure to thoroughly read over your pattern before you begin. Don’t ever be afraid to grab a sheet of notebook paper, if a certain repeat is confusing for you, and write it out if that is easier for you to grasp.

 If you have more questions about patterns, symbols, and repeats, please call our Project Assistance Team At 1-800-962-9504.

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Kendra Sagash

Kendra has been crocheting for over 20 years. She became obsessed and enthused with crochet when she realized it was a great way to interact with people. She enjoys sharing her love of crafts with her two beautiful daughters. Kendra also paints in her free time.

Kendra joined Mary Maxim in 2013. She is the crochet instructor at the Mary Maxim retail store in Port Huron. She assists customers with our pattern support team and is the Social Media Assistant.

8 CommentsLeave a comment

  • This is wonderful. I have tried my hand at crochet, but have to admit, that some of the patterns left me speechless……You make it sound undersstandable. Thank you very much.

    • That is in the actual pattern 🙂 It stands for Cluster. If any of our patterns have abbreviations in them, we state what they stand for, and if it is out of our normal stitches, we state how to complete it as well. Hope that helps!

  • I ordered the Christmas tree skirt pattern 2373. How do I get the kit? There is nowhere
    on the sight where I could click to order this.

    • Hi Ann, can you give us a call, I know we had limited quantities left and now it may be on backorder until October 31. Our customer service department will be able to help you best and since you already ordered the pattern and just need the kit. (800) 962-9504

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