How to Write Stitch Counts

Today, we’re going to discuss Stitch Counts. How and when to report them and different methods you can choose. [If you want to see a video of me summarizing this post, skip to the end.]

What is Stitch Count?

What is a stitch count? It is a summation of what was instructed in a line of the pattern. How many total stitches of each type were created in the line. How many single crochet, double crochet, chains, post-stitches, etc.

Some designers opt to report only the total number of stitches for the line. That could work, but if you have different stitches in the line, it’ll be more helpful to your reader to specify how many of each type are present.

When to write Stitch Count?

When do you report it? When it changes. Each time the stitch count changes from the previous row or round, you should report it. Always report the stitch count for the first line. If following lines are exactly the same, you no longer need to report it. However, if there are increases, decreases, or a change in stitch type, you will need to report the stitch count again.

How to write

You need to make sure your stitch count looks different from the rest of your instructions. The counts need to be marked or separated from the instructions in such a way that they are clearly not more stitches for the user to perform. Here are my favorite ways of denoting stitch counts:

Example line of instruction: Sc in next 10 sts, dc in next 10 sts.

Followed by:

– 10sc, 10dc Using bold font

<10sc, 10dc> Greater than/less than symbols

10sc, 10dc Using italics

Note that each of these formats is after the period at the end of the instructions. If you write your instructions in sentence format, using only one period at the very end of the line, it is clearly the end of the instructions and the following information will be recognized as stitch counts.

Less than ideal format

Surrounding your stitch counts with parentheses (10sc, 10dc) is ok, but can run into problems when you are working with multiple sizes.

Stitch Count for Multiple Sizes

More and more patterns are created for multiple sizes, these days. Designers often want to create for a larger audience. Typically, the pattern is written for one size and additional instructions for other sizes is shown inside parentheses following the original size instruction. The reader is made aware of the sizes and how the numbers will be presented in the beginning pages of information, often when listing the finished sizes.

Finished Sizes: Pattern written for size Small with sizes (Medium, Large) followed in parentheses. S (M, L)

Some designers will go even further to completely spell it out for the reader.

For Example: Sc in next 10 (12, 14) sts. Size small will sc in next 10 stitches, size medium will sc in next 12 stitches, size large will sc in next 14 stitches.

Problem with Parentheses

Quite often, when listing multiple sizes, the designer will also give a tip to the reader to highlight the numbers for their particular size throughout the pattern so their eye will be directed to the correct number. This is great advice for those who print their patterns. However, if you reader is looking at the pattern on a device, they might simply remember that their number is immediately after the open parenthesis, or the second or third number after the open parenthesis. For example: For sizes S (M, L, XL, 2X) someone making size large will always look to the second number after the parenthesis. Their eye will be trained to look at this number: sc in next 15 (16, 17, 18, 19) sts. If you follow your instructions with stitch counts listed in parentheses like this (20, 21, 22, 23, 24) and they’re trained to look at the second number, now they will be looking at size medium, not size large. Yes, they should be able to correct it, but in the moment it’s confusing.

However, if you write your stitch counts in the same way you write the sizes within the pattern, you’re making the pattern much easier for the reader. This is why I really like the use of the greater than/ less than symbols to contain stitch counts. They are not used in standard crochet instructions so they are clearly showing something different and you can keep the use of the parentheses for your sizes.

For example: -<22 (23, 24, 25, 26)sc> OR –22 (23, 24, 25, 26)sc

Now the reader can focus on the same second number after the parenthesis and they’re looking at the correct size.

This can get quite lengthy if you have a variety of stitches and multiple patterns, but it is doable.

For example: <10 (11, 12, 13, 14) sc, 10 (11, 12, 13, 14) dc>

You continue with the standard format of listing the number of each type of stitch created in that particular line, and you list the numbers in the order that is familiar to the reader.

Stitch Counts in Stitch Pattern

Now, what if your pattern contains clusters, shells, v-stitches, or some other form of grouped stitch? Typically, if you define the stitch in your abbreviations or special stitches, then you can write it in the instructions and the stitch count in the same form.

For Example: Say you define a shell as 5dc in the same stitch. In your line of instruction you may tell the reader to: *sc in next st, sk 1 st, shell in next st, sk 1 st; repeat from * 5 (6, 7, 8) times, sc in last st. <7 (8, 9, 10)sc, 6 (7, 8, 9) shells>

It is perfectly ok to list the number of shells in your stitch count. No need to take the number of shells, multiply by 5dc per shell and list out 30 (35, 40, 45) dc. Your reader is probably counting shells and doesn’t want to count individual dc stitches. This same method can be used if you tell the reader to make a cluster, bobble, puff, etc.

Chain Spaces or Loops?

How to write chains? If you’re writing only the total stitches at the end of the line and you’re including chains in that count, I would advise making a note of it in your notes section. “Chains are included in stitch counts.” However, if you have a series of multiple chain spaces, meaning ch-5 space, or ch-3 space, or some combination, then I would denote each different type. Remember, when we’re talking about the actual space, you add a hyphen to the description. Telling someone to make chains is written “ch 5” because the word chain is a verb, but referring to the space that was made by chains is “ch-5 sp” or “ch-sp” because it is a noun.

<5 ch-5 sps, 8 ch-3 sps, 9sc, 7dc>

Some designers will also refer to these spaces as loops. <5 ch-5 loops>

What’s the bottom line?

As always, with writing crochet, make it easy on your reader. Be clear and direct that the stitch count is there because it’s important (only when it changes), and it is written in the same way that you have trained the reader to read the rest of your pattern <S (M, L) sc, S (M, L) ch-3 loops> etc. If you have another situation that doesn’t fall in these examples, I would love to know what it is so I can help. I love a challenge.

Remember to check out the book A Simple Guide to Grading Crochet, if you’re interested in learning the basics of grading crochet. Also, check out the “How to Hire Emily” tab for more information in tech editing services.

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