Brackets in Crochet Patterns

There are so many skills to learn when attempting to crochet something! First we have to learn how to do the stitches, we also have to learn how to choose a hook size and what yarn to use or substitute, some are just learning how to read patterns or how to read those fancy pictures or a chart, and then you finally get all that figured out and you come across a pattern that says:

JS, sc1, [{(dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3) x2, (dc1, sc1) x2} x2, (dc1, sc5) x3, (dc1, sc1) x3, (dc1, sc5) x3, dc1, sc1] x4, (dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3) x2, (dc1, sc1) x2, ES

Cue the scary music!

What are you supposed to do with all that!!?!

Brackets are a very useful tool when writing patterns, but they can definitely be confusing. I can only tell you how my patterns use the brackets – other designers may have different methods!

The example line above comes from the mosaic version of my Abstract Queen CAL and I will break it down for you here but the same concept applies to all my patterns.

I use three types of brackets: ( ) { } [ ] and I always use them in the same order [ { ( ) } ]. You repeat the instructions in the bracket x whatever number is listed.

Our example again: JS, sc1, [{(dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3) x2, (dc1, sc1) x2} x2, (dc1, sc5) x3, (dc1, sc1) x3, (dc1, sc5) x3, dc1, sc1] x4, (dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3) x2, (dc1, sc1) x2, ES

In the example above it starts with JS, sc1, and then you get 3 brackets in a row!

[{(

It begins with a square bracket, so, if you follow along to find the ending square bracket you can see what needs to be repeated.

[{(dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3) x2, (dc1, sc1) x2} x2, (dc1, sc5) x3, (dc1, sc1) x3, (dc1, sc5) x3, dc1, sc1] x4,

We could expand it and write it all out, it would look like this:

{(dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3) x2, (dc1, sc1) x2} x2, (dc1, sc5) x3, (dc1, sc1) x3, (dc1, sc5) x3, dc1, sc1, {(dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3) x2, (dc1, sc1) x2} x2, (dc1, sc5) x3, (dc1, sc1) x3, (dc1, sc5) x3, dc1, sc1, {(dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3) x2, (dc1, sc1) x2} x2, (dc1, sc5) x3, (dc1, sc1) x3, (dc1, sc5) x3, dc1, sc1, {(dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3) x2, (dc1, sc1) x2} x2, (dc1, sc5) x3, (dc1, sc1) x3, (dc1, sc5) x3, dc1, sc1

We still have a lot of brackets in there, let’s expand that first bracket again.

{(dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3) x2, (dc1, sc1) x2} x2 turns into: (dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3) x2, (dc1, sc1) x2, (dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3) x2, (dc1, sc1) x2

And breaking it down one step further, (dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3) x2 turns into dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3

So, without brackets our instructions looks like this: JS, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc5, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc1, ES

The Abstract Queen was a 90 page pattern without brackets. With brackets, it is down to 23 pages.

Now that we understand what the brackets tell us, how can we use them while crocheting?

I would follow the pattern and essentially I ignore the first bracket when I see it. When I see the end bracket I look at how many times to repeat it and back up a few steps to that bracket’s beginning.

Our example again: JS, sc1, [{(dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3) x2, (dc1, sc1) x2} x2, (dc1, sc5) x3, (dc1, sc1) x3, (dc1, sc5) x3, dc1, sc1] x4, (dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3) x2, (dc1, sc1) x2, ES

I would crochet my joining stitch, sc1, dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3 and then I see it says close bracket, ) x2. So, I look back a few steps to the opening bracket ( and crochet dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3 again.

Then I move on and do dc1, sc1 and I see the closed bracket ) x2, again so I back up and do dc1, sc1 again.

A different style of closed bracket then appears } x2, so I go back and find where it opens and repeat everything inside. In this case that means I do dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3 and then repeat dc1, sc1, dc1, sc3. Then, I dc1, sc1, and repeat dc1, sc1.

Then I continue outside that { } bracket and do dc1, sc5. It tells me to do that 3 times, so I dc1, sc5, dc1, sc5 again.

The next bit says dc1, sc1, do it 3 times, so I repeat dc1, sc1, and again, dc1, sc1.

I then come to dc1, sc5 and it says 3 times again, so I do another dc1, sc5 and dc1, sc5.

I do the next dc1, sc1 and see a square bracket ] x4. So I have to rewind and find the opening of the square. It is way at the beginning and I have to count 4 repeats of it, so I make a note somewhere. You can write on your pattern or make a note on your tablet or however you like to keep track. I use stitch markers to keep track of the repeats if it is something that is confusing me (honestly, it depends on the day, some days my brain can handle more information lol).

For this pattern I would probably put a stitch marker in now and start at the beginning of the square bracket again. If you wanted to color coordinate you could use pink for square brackets and yellow for wiggly brackets (they probably have an official name, I don’t know what it is) and green for regular brackets. Some of my pattern testers use color-coded highlighters on their pattern to keep track.

There’s no right way, you have to find a method that works for you. And, this isn’t the easiest pattern to do, so be patient with yourself and count, count, count! You don’t want to have to frog (rip it, rip it = rip it out) your work.

I hope this helps! These skills that use our brain power are helping us avoid dementia and alzheimer’s! So, keep at it!

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