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How to translate a US English crochet pattern to UK English

#Selecting your yarn or thread
#Length or weight
#Choosing the right hook size
#Working the stitches

The internet is awash with free crochet patterns, covering pretty well everything you could possibly want to make in crochet, but the majority are American patterns, which need to be translated if the items are to be reproduced exactly by someone who learned to crochet in the UK.  We use the same stitches and tools, and very similar yarns and threads, but the words used for those elements of crochet in the USA do not necessarily correspond to the ones we use in the UK, and units of measurement can also be different.  Worse still, for stitches we have the same, or very similar, words, but we use them for different stitches!  This article is written for UK crocheters working with US patterns, but will be equally useful to a US crocheter trying to understand UK pattern directions.

Selecting your yarn or thread

There is no directly equivalent scale for converting US yarn sizes to the UK equivalent, as in both countries yarns in the same category can produce very different results.  As always, you need to make a swatch to check that the tension is correct and assess whether the fabric texture and drape is what you are expecting.  The purpose of the following table is to identify the equivalent categories, so that you have a starting point for making your swatches.

US Category UK Category
Lace weight 1ply
Fingering, baby wool 2 & 3 ply
Sports weight, baby wool 4 ply
Light Worsted weight Double knitting (DK)
Medium Worsted weight, fisherman's Aran
Bulky, craft, rug Chunky

Length or weight?

Thread sizing is more universal, starting with #100 for the very finest and going up to #10 for a relatively thick thread (sometimes called bedspread weight, particularly in older American patterns).  In both cases the prefixes Number, No, Ticket, Tkt and # are seemingly interchangeable.  The problem with purchasing your thread for a pattern from the other side of the ocean is to know how much you need.  The convention in the USA is to measure crochet thread by the yard, but in the UK it is sold mainly by weight, in 20 or 50gram balls.  The following table is based on the meterage of Presencia Fincrochet 3 ply mercerised crochet cotton, but can be used as a guide to the approximate equivalence of other brands of the same weight.  The first figure in each column is the length in a 50g ball, the figure in brackets is the length of 20g.

thread size meters yards
#10 275 (110) 300 (120)
#20 430 (172) 470 (188)
#30 525 (210) 574 (230)
#40 745 (298) 814 (542)
#50 850 (340) 929 (371)
#60 1041 (416) 1138 (455)
#80 1190 (476) 1301 (520)
#100 1388 (554) 1518 (607)

Choosing the right size hook

There is usually a recommended hook size printed on the ball band or the spool end of your crochet cotton, but some patterns will call for a larger or smaller hook in order to achieve a particular effect.  Modern USA patterns tend to give the metric size as well as the American size, but older patterns usually only have the US hook size.  This is made even more difficult for the English reader as the major USA hook manufacturers have different sizing systems.  Of course the text book answer is to swatch and experiment until you find the right hook, and you cannot rely absolutely on this conversion table, but it will help you pick the first hook for your experiments.  Old 'imperial' sizes are included, for those of us in the UK, Canada and Australia who are still using Granny's hooks.  There is a metric equivalent for each of the USA sizes, but not every size is available from every manufacturer; you may have to compromise with the nearest size that is available

steel crochet hooks (for thread work) yarn crochet hooks
Metric US (Boye) US (Clover) Imperial Metric US Imperial
0.4mm 2.00mm 14
0.5mm 14 2.25mm 1 / B 13
0.55mm 2.50mm 12
0.6mm 12 6 2.75mm C 11
0.65mm 3.00mm 11
0.7mm 3.25mm D 10
0.75mm 14 10 5 3.50mm 4 / E 9
0.8mm 3.75mm F
0.85mm 13 4.00mm 6 8
0.9mm 8 4.25mm G
1mm 12 6 4 4.50mm 7 7
1.05mm 5.00mm 8 / H 6
1.1mm 11 5.50mm 9 / I 5
1.2mm 6.00mm 10 / J 4
1.25mm 4 3 6.50mm 10.5 / K 3
1.3mm 10 7.00mm 2
1.4mm 9 7.50mm
1.5mm 8 2 2.5 8.00mm 0
1.65mm 7 9.00mm 15 / N 00
1.75mm 0 2 10.00mm P 000
1.8mm 6
1.9mm 5
2mm 4 1 or 14
2.1mm 3
2.25mm 0
2.5mm 2 2/0 or 12
2.75mm 1

Working the stitches

Now you are sure you have the right materials and tools, it is time to start following the pattern.  You will be reading text that looks very familiar. Even though some of the abbreviations may be slightly different from those you are used to, it isn't difficult to work out what they mean.  At least, it isn't difficult to work out what words they represent, but much of the time those words mean something different than you would expect, and if you follow the pattern faithfully according to your customary understanding of the words, you will NOT be able to replicate the picture on the pattern cover.  Once you have worked through the differences in the following table though, all you need to remember is the American stitches, from double crochet onwards, are bigger than their UK namesakes:

English American
abb'n stitch abb'n stitch
ch chain ch chain
sl st slip stitch slip st slip stitch
dc double crochet sc single crochet
htr half treble hdc half double crochet
tr treble dc double crochet
dtr double treble tr
triple crochet
triptr triple treble dtr
double treble
double triple crochet
quadtr quadruple treble ttr
triple treble
triple triple crochet