How to Write Crochet: How many repeats on a Square?

Today, on tips from a tech editor, we’re talking about those pesky repeats on a granny square. You’d think it’s pretty straightforward, right? 4 sides. Tell them what to do, repeat 3 times, boom, you’re back where you started. But are you?

It really all depends on where you start stitching and where you start writing the repeat. This post is inspired by a beautiful crochet designer who sent me the following question:

Designer: 1 dc in each st across, (2 dc, ch 2, 2 dc) into corner; repeat from * 3 times
It should be 3 times, right?
3 times + 1 = 4
ch 5, 2 dc into corner, *1 dc in each st across, (2 dc, ch 2, 2 dc) into corner; repeat from * 3 times, 1 dc in each st across, 1 dc before beginning ch-5, sl st in 3rd ch, sl st into corner (4 sets of 9 dc)
or do i understand the ‘repeat from * wrong? Should it be 2 because they follow the steps and then repeat 2 more times? or do i understand the ‘repeat from * wrong? Should it be 2 because they follow the steps and then repeat 2 more times?

ME: Are you starting at one corner?

Designer: yes, they should do the steps between the * 3 times total, plus one more time written out at the end

ME: Start at one corner *work first side plus second corner, repeat twice for second side + third corner then third side + fourth corner, then tell them how to work fourth side and join to first corner.

Did you get that? If you’re starting a new square by describing a partial corner or a partial side, and you begin the repeat with the first full corner or side, then you’ll only be repeating that information twice. The last bit of the instructions will be completing the final side or corner.

This designer’s example starts with a partial corner:

Ch 5 (counts as dc plus ch 2), 2 dc in corner space, [now only part of the corner is finished], *1 dc in each st across, (2 dc, ch 2, 2 dc) in corner; [now one full side and one full corner are complete, plus the partial corner at the beginning] repeat from * 2 times [repeating twice will fill in the second side, second complete corner, then third side and third complete corner], 1 dc in each st across, 1 dc in corner space before ch-5, sl st to 3rd ch of beg ch-5. [We have stitched the fourth side and completed the fourth corner that was started at the beginning.]

Starting at beginning of first side

If you start with the first stitch of a side, you could write:

*work side and corner; repeat from * 3 times, join to first st. [shown below]

But then the next round will not be starting at the beginning of a side, it’ll be starting on the third stitch of that side. Conceivably you could write an even simpler line without repeats that says: dc in each st on sides, work (2 dc, ch 2, 2 dc) in each ch-2 space.

However, if your design has any kind of pattern and you begin in the middle of a side, remember that you’re telling them:

Work side to corner, *work corner, work side; repeat from * 2 times, work corner, work final side to beginning. [shown below]

or if your repeat starts on the first full side:

Work side to corner, work corner, *work side and corner; repeat from * 2 times, work final side to beginning. [shown below]

If you start in the middle of a corner it’ll be like the original question from the designer:

Work partial corner, *work side, work corner; repeat from * 2 times, work final side and partial corner. [shown below]

Or start the repeat at the first full corner. Then your line will read:

Work partial corner and full side, *work full corner and full side; repeat from * 2 times, work partial corner to beginning. [shown below]

But we can also do this….

You can write a repeat, then repeat and omit the final segment of the repeat.

For most of these examples, if you repeat from * 3 times, then omit the final thing that’s going to be partially completed, you only describe the final bit to get to the beginning.

Instead of: Work partial corner, *work side, work corner; repeat from * twice, work final side and partial corner.

You can write: repeat from * 3 times omitting final corner, work partial corner, join.

Another alternative is adding the double asterisk ** as a stopping point. In which case: Work partial corner, *work side**, work corner; repeat from * 3 times stopping final repeat at **, work partial corner.

This use of the double asterisks ** is great for lengthy pattern descriptions along a side and you don’t want to repeat half of the lengthy pattern all over again at the end of the line. Think complex doilies or intricate mandala squares.

I hope this helps alleviate some of the confusion that can happen with crochet writing and punctuation. Remember, when we are using asterisks, the user is always working the stitches the first time they are read, then they repeat the pattern. As the wise Edie Eckman said, “you can’t repeat something you haven’t done yet.”

Here is a video describing these options.

Remember, you can always contact me or send me your patterns for tech editing. Click the “How to Hire Emily” tab at the top for more information.

  1. Cheryl Floyd left a comment on September 10, 2019 at 12:03 pm

    Thank you so much for this, Emily! I really appreciate it. This is the most challenging part of writing a crochet pattern, in my opinion. It makes me crazy! I’ve printed these pages and will keep them near my laptop as a handy reference.

    • Emily Reiter left a comment on September 10, 2019 at 12:04 pm

      I’m so glad it’s helping!!

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