Decrease Stitches Like a Pro

Decreasing basic stitches in crochet is easier than you might expect.

The process may have always been relatively easy, but it has not always been written in a manner that was universal in understanding in patterns. The current term I see most is the type of stitch (single or double crochet) followed by a number, then followed by “tog”, and it is all just one little abbreviation; such as sc4tog.

Breaking it down a bit helps you to better understand it, so sc4tog, is essentially “single crochet 4 stitches together”. Patterns will usually list this process in its special stitches section, but with some further understanding you will not have to find this “Special Stitch” description. 

This stitch decrease process is one that I describe as a “monster with 1 head and multiple legs”, meaning when you are finished there will only be 1 stitch (the classic “V” top and back loop section of a stitch at the top) while working over multiple stitches. It makes a solid fabric, without any holes that can be created in other decrease methods that have you simply skip the next stitch.

If you keep in mind this simple rule, than you will be able to work this technique no matter what the notations. You work the indicated type of stitch until you are only 1 yarn over and pull through away from completing, then you start the next stitch.

So if you were working the sc4tog, you would insert your hook into the next stitch, yarn over, pull through a loop-STOP. You now have 2 loops on the hook, and one more yarn over and pull through will finish the stitch, so this is when you begin the next stitch. So you insert your hook into the next stitch, yarn over and pull through a loop- STOP. To finish a single crochet you would perform one more yarn over and pull through, but you are still decreasing. You currently have 3 loops on you hook (1 more than the number of stitch “parts” you have worked). Repeat the process of inserting your hook, yarning over, pulling through a loop until you have 1 more loop on your hook then the number indicated in the abbreviation, in this case, until you have 5 loops.

Now, you yarn over and pull through all 5 loops on your hook.

Basically you are working 4 stitches part way, and then completing them all together.

This same principal applies in you are working a decrease in double crochet, such as dc3tog. You would begin a double crochet in the next stitch, stopping when you only have one more yarn over and pull through to finish the stitch. You then begin the next stitch, and repeat the process.

By understanding the basic concept, it has helped me be more independent in work a pattern, I don’t feel like I need to work the explicit directions of the special stitch section, I am more free to enjoy the process. Other tips that help, are understanding and recognizing your stitches….find more information here.

Read the Pattern or Recipes and Patterns One in the Same

ScannedImageOne of the statements I find many crocheters stating is that they do not know how to read a pattern. This isn’t surprising, nor is it uncommon. Many of us learned the stitches and techniques from friends or family members (and honestly, descriptions of crocheting can be difficult to write). It is a visual skill; those that are self taught probably used photos and maybe even videos; describing where to place a hook into a stitch without a visual cue could be quite daunting.

I’m hoping to add a little clarity in the world of reading patterns over the next couple of posts, beginning today with the most common; standard written.


The similarities are uncanny.

Standard written patterns are similar to cookbook recipes; the ingredients are listed out and then there is a paragraph giving you step by step directions on how to complete the dish. Patterns give you the materials needed and step by step directions to complete the project. Major difference, you probably learned to cook at the hip of someone else so you learned all the abbreviations and basic skills like sauté and chop while they showed you how to do it. Crochet is a little slower process and no one is probably how to decease then chain and skip a stitch while you were in the process of completing a pattern.

So where to start. First don’t expect that just because you know all the stitches that reading a pattern should come easy, it is like knowing all the basic cooking skills and now reading a pattern to make a soufflé; take baby steps. First we need to understand the abbreviations, almost every crochet magazine and book and even good patterns will have a list of all the abbreviations and what they mean (note: this will also include special stitches and techniques), and many will even have a tutorial or photo to demonstrate the stitch to assist you further. The most common abbreviations are:

ch- chain

dc- double crochet

rep- repeat

sc- single crochet

sk- skip

sl st- slip stitch

st(s)- stitch(es)

yo- yarn over hook

Note: This post is written in American crochet, short hand for other countries may (and often does) differ.


I sometimes use a wooden ruler to keep my place, but a nice sticky note works well too!

So now it is a step by step process of going line by line over the directions. This can seem daunting and slow, especially since if you’re like me crochet is something to relax you, but typically you can see the pattern in the stitches in the first couple of rows and you then use the pattern as a reference when you get to places that have some change. To make it a little less overwhelming (and assist in keeping your place), I have met several people that use highlighters when they complete a row, or place a check mark by the row, or others that use a sticky note just below the row they are on and move it down as they progress in the pattern.

Even if this doesn’t aide in your approach to patterns, not to fret, there are other ways to address reading patterns and we’ll get into some more of that next time……