How To Read Vintage Crochet Patterns
Have you seen a beautiful vintage crochet border, cloth or garment that you simply have to make, but have been intimidated by the vintage pattern? It may even look to the uninitiated that you really do have a book written in code in front of you.
However, learning how to read and getting the hang of vintage crochet patterns can open up a whole new world of design and patterns for you. You will see that the older the patterns are, the more difficult the pattern is to understand. Before you start, therefore, practice a few rounds with the yarn or thread and crochet hook that you’re going to use.
By testing part of the pattern first, you will soon realize if there’s anything wrong with either the pattern or your understanding of it.
Once you get the hang of the way in which the vintage crochet patterns are written and the materials that was used for their construction, you’ll see that it’s not so difficult to follow these patterns after all!
The following table has been created by Jenn from Roving Crafters to show the differences between vintage, US, and UK crochet stitch names:
All vintage crochet patterns are written in UK terms or the vintage terms above even if they were printed or published in the US. Always make sure that you know which of these stitch names are used in the design by keeping this table handy.
Other vintage crochet terms used in patterns, by Roving Crafters
- ac = across
- beg = beginning, also bgr = beginning of round
- bl = back loop (but sometimes in older patterns in can also mean “bobble” – what we often call a “popcorn stitch”)
- cl = cluster/popcorn stitch
- cm – closed mesh, seen in some vintage patterns as a way to describe the closed stitches in fillet crochet. This is usually a group of four double crochet/treble stitches. The outer two stitches form the “frame” of the filet crochet block, while the center two stitches “fills it in”. Also see “om/open mesh” below.
- fl = front loop, that is to say, work only through the front loop of the required stitch and not through both loops.
- foll/folls = following/follows
- incl = including
- m. = open mesh, seen in some vintage patterns as a way to describe the open stitches in fillet crochet. In this case, it is a group of two double crochet/treble stitches with two chain stitches between them. The chain stitches are what makes the mesh block formed by the stitches “open”. Also see “cm/closed mesh” above.
- p/pc = picot, which is still made in the same way as the modern day picot; consisting of three chain stitches that are formed into a small loop by making a slip stitch into the stitch before the first stitch of the picot.
- prr = previous round
- raised stitch = a “raised stitch” refers to the front post double crochet/front post treble stitch, in which the stitch is worked around a previous double crochet/treble’s “post” instead of through the two loops that form the top of the double crochet/treble.
- rf = repeat from; what would in modern patterns be shown as “repeat from *”. An asterisk would show where the repeat of the pattern or row would begin. If the piece of the pattern needs to be repeated more than once, this will also be shown in modern patterns. In many vintage patterns it is inferred that the crocheter knows how many times the pattern should be repeated for any one round.
- x/x st = a treble crochet (UK) cross stitch. This should not be confused with the “x” that is used to show a single crochet/double crochet stitch on crochet charts. See the Encyclopedia of Needlework, Chapter 9 for more information.
For more vintage patterns and help with reading vintage crochet patterns, visit:
Encyclopedia of Needlework, Chapter 9
You can also watch this very informative video by Long Thread Media and Karen Brock: