Whether you’ve been crocheting for 30 days or 30 years, you may not know that each of these crochet repeat symbols represent a completely different action when used in a crochet pattern.

Maybe you can read patterns that use one or two of these crochet repeat symbols without issue, but if you’re totally stuck when all three of these symbols are used at the same time, in the same pattern, I can help.

This topic is specifically about crochet pattern symbols for repeats, especially when more than one symbol is used within a line of instructions.

CLICK HERE for help to read and follow crochet patterns in general (I have 3 simple tips that will help)!

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

How to read a crochet pattern with asterisks, brackets, and parentheses - American Crochet Association

What is a repeat?

When a pattern has a complex stitch repeat that does not begin or end equally, these crochet pattern symbols are necessary to help shorten the length of the instructions into their simplest form. 

The need for these symbols together is a sign of the difficulty of the pattern; seeing two or three symbols used together within a pattern is a sign that the instructions are at the intermediate or experienced level. 

In fact, use of multiple symbols at the same time is what makes instructions more complex!

Understanding what each of these symbols means will help you to understand how to read and follow their direction.

Crochet instructions are like math equations, and there is an order of operations that must be followed before you can unlock their intention.

Why use repeat symbols?

I can read and follow most patterns… aren’t these symbols just unnecessary and complex?

Have you ever made a granny square, or multi-side crochet motif in the round?

You may be able to look at the finished project and think that the design is simple. 

And while the words needed to make a pattern work can be repeated over and over, these patterns may also have areas where the repetition is not equal.

Most crocheters can probably look at the first few rounds and easily work up a granny square. No problem, right?

But, this four-sided motif is not equally created on all four sides, and that’s why brackets and parentheses are used at the same time.

This motif starts with a chain 3, which typically counts as the first stitch. From there, a few more stitches have to be worked before an equal part of the pattern can actually begin.

Let’s take a look at the second round of instructions:  

Round 2: 

  • Sl St into each of next 2 Dc, 
  • Sl St into Ch-3 space, 
  • Ch 3, 
  • (2 Dc, Ch 3, 3 Dc) into same Ch-3 space, 
  • Ch 1, 
  • [(3 Dc, Ch 3, 3 Dc) into next Ch-3 space, Ch 1] 3 times, 
  • Sl St into top of beginning Ch-3 to join
  • 24 Dc + 4 Ch-3 spaces + 4 Ch-1 spaces

I’ve broken up the paragraph of instructions into small action steps.

When you follow each piece of instruction while looking at the finished project (or chart), you may begin to understand why there is a need for the two repeat symbols. 

Notice that of the eight lines of instructions shown, the only part that works as a repeat is line six. 

And, even line six has two sections of repeats: what should be done in the Ch-1 sides, and what should be done in the Ch-3 corner.

What are repeat symbols telling me to do?

Crochet patterns are essentially worded math problems, and certain symbols are needed to designate what you do, and in what order. 

There are 3 types of repeat symbols in crochet: Asterisk, Bracket, Parenthesis.

crochet pattern repeat cheat sheet asterisk brackets parentheses

Each of these has a different meaning, and they are not interchangeable.

As soon as you think about symbols this way, understanding the order of operations to follow will become easier to do! 

Let’s define each one using instructions from the Sundial Throw Motif:

How to read and follow an Asterisk

Symbol: *

Definition: Repeat entire section of instructions; may include parentheses, brackets.

Example: *[skip 2 Sts, (3 Dc, Ch 1, 3 Dc) into same St, skip 2 Sts, Sc] 2 times, skip 2 Sts, (3 Tc, Ch 1, 3 Tc) into same St, skip 2 Sts, Sc*. Repeat * to * 3  times

How to follow the example:

  • *[skip 2 Sts, 
  • (3 Dc, Ch 1, 3 Dc) into same St, 
  • skip 2 Sts, Sc] 2 times, 
  • skip 2 Sts, 
  • (3 Tc, Ch 1, 3 Tc) into same St, 
  • skip 2 Sts, Sc*. 
  • Repeat from * to * 3  times

How to read and follow Brackets

Symbol: [ ]

Definition: Indicates when instructions should be worked a certain number of times.

Example: [skip 2 Sts, (3 Dc, Ch 1, 3 Dc) into same St, skip 2 Sts, Sc] 2 times

How to follow the example:

  • [skip 2 Sts, 
  • (3 Dc, Ch 1, 3 Dc) into same St, 
  • skip 2 Sts, Sc] 
  • Repeat from [ to ] 2 time

How to read and follow Parenthesis

Symbol: ( )

Definition: Indicates when stitches are worked together, into one stitch or space.

Example: (3 Dc, Ch 1, 3 Dc) into same St

How to follow the example:

  • (3 Dc, Ch 1, 3 Dc)
  • Work from ( to ) into same stitch

Tips to read and follow crochet repeats

Read the entire piece of instructions first. Then, follow each instruction to the comma and do not move on until your stitch work matches the written pattern. 

Break long pieces of instruction into separate bullets so you can read and follow each one individually and note where repeats should start and stop. 

Keep practicing!

And remember, no matter how long you’ve been crocheting…

Math is hard. 

Crochet is hard. 

Repeats are hard!

The beautiful thing about crochet is that patterns can come from anywhere, and from anyone.

When these universal crochet rules are followed, hopefully patterns can be presented with greater ease and clarity, and then followed with greater ease and clarity.

Video Chat

Watch my video chat on this subject for even more details, right here:

Now that you have a few tips, do you feel more confident about reading and following crochet repeat symbols on your own?

Let me know in the comments or CLICK HERE to start a conversation in the community!

Peace, Love & Crochet


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  1. Margaret Stieber says:

    I’ll take any help….I can’t continue because my stitches are not aligning up.

    1. Happy to share information that helps with pattern reading! However, if you have questions about a specific pattern, be sure to reach out to the pattern author for help and support (publicly sharing pattern instructions in any way is not allowed). Happy crocheting!