Learning to Read Crochet Symbols the Duplet Way

Note: See Irene’s updated chart of Russian crochet symbols with English translation at her website.

At the end of the black and white pages of every Duplet Crochet Magazine is a crochet symbol guide with illustrated how-to’s of the various crochet stitches. The symbols and illustrations are also accompanied by explanations in the Russian language.

In order to fully use the Duplet magazines, it is best to have some knowledge of the Russian language. There are several Russian language resources with particular focus on crochet, knitting and the other needle arts, or example this Dictionary.

A good grasp of crochet symbols is likewise crucial, particularly if one is not fluent in Russian language. Thanks to Irene of Duplet-Crochet.com, we now have available as reference the crochet symbols used in the Russian language crochet magazines.

Although these crochet symbols are “international symbols”, there are some variations in the symbols, pretty much “like the difference between the handwriting of different people” as Irene explained. Those who are new to crochet symbols and perhaps even those who are used to reading only a specific locale of crochet symbols, for example those employed in Japanese crochet books and magazines, usually find the shift from one handwriting to another (so to speak) as difficult and confusing.

I think the key to understanding crochet symbols across a wide range of applications, is practice: to keep on reading and using crochet symbols in their usage in various publications in Russian, Japanese, Chinese or English or other.

Crochet symbol pattern charts, I believe, may also be interpreted in more than one way. This is especially true of  symbol charts that look as if they are “incomplete,” but are actually rather like the raw ingredients of a recipe book. In such cases, there may be a basic set of techniques needed to bring the ingredients together into a successful finished object. Such techniques may include methods of joining, methods of shaping whether increase or decrease, and methods of achieving correct sizes on multiples of stitches.

Reading a simple symbol pattern chart

Here is the symbol chart for a simple motif found in Duplet Special Swimsuit Issue 3. Refer to the Duplet crochet symbol chart in reading this pattern. Since this motif is crocheted in the round, we start reading the pattern from the centre of the motif although this is not particularly indicated in the pattern.

Duplet patterns have rows and rounds that are generally unnumbered, and the start and ends of rows and rounds are likewise often unmarked. This can be confusing for many crocheters including those accustomed to Japanese symbol patterns where start and finish and all rows and rounds are marked and numbered.

Thus, it is really up to the crocheter to interpret the Duplet patterns in accordance with experience and some basic symbol crochet reading directions such as: start in the centre for crochet in the round; and start at the bottom right going left and right in the upward direction for crochet in rows.

Here is my reading of the simple motif shown above:

Using thread colour A, ch 6, sl st in 6th ch fr hook.

Rnd 1: In ring make: [sc, ch 5, dtr2tog, ch 5] 3 times, sc in ring. Fasten off.

Rnd 2: Join thread colour B to sc with sc, [ch 5, sc in top of ch 5 of previous rnd, picot, sc in top of next ch 5, ch 5, sc in next sc] 3 times. Fasten off.

It is possible that the last stitch of Rnd 2 is a sl st to join to the first sc, although such a sl st is not indicated in the pattern. Nonetheless, the sl st makes for a much neater join. Another possibility is that of a needle join instead of a sl st join. This means that you finish off with the last stitch of the round but not the joining st (such as a sl st) and instead leave a long tail for sewing into the first st of the round to join.

You may also notice that Rnd 1 of the pattern is shaded in light gray. This helps to distinguish one round from another.

Here is another example. This is a larger and more complicated motif with the alternating rounds shaded in light and dark gray. (The shades are not very visible in this reproduction but is clearer in the printed magazine.)

Again, this is a motif crocheted in the round so we begin at the centre which is highlighted in light gray.

Ch 3, sl st in 3rd ch fr hook to join. (In light gray)

Rnd 1: (In dark gray) Ch 6 (count as 1 dc and ch 3), *dc in ring, ch 3, rep fr * 4 times. Sl st in top of ch-3 to join.

Rnd 2: (In light gray) Ch 1, *in next ch-3 sp make [sc, 3 hdc, sc], sc in dc, rep fr * 5 times ending last rep with sl st in first ch to join.

Rnd 3: (In dark gray) Ch 6, *sk [sc, 3 hdc, sc], sc in next sc, ch 5, rep fr * 5 times ending last rep with sl st in first ch to join.

Rnd 4: (In light gray) Ch 1, *in next ch-5 sp make [sc, hdc, 4 dc, hdc, sc], rep fr * 4 times, in last ch-5 sp make [sc, hdc, 4 dc, hdc] sl st in first ch to join.

Rnd 5: (In dark gray) Ch 7, *sk [sc, hdc, 4 dc, hdc], sc in sp bet next 2 sc, ch 6, rep fr * 4 times, ending last rep with sl st in first ch to join.

Rnd 6: (In light gray) Ch 1, *in next ch-6 sp make [sc, hdc, 2 dc, 2 tr, 2 dc, hdc, sc], rep fr * 4 times, in last ch-6 sp make [sc, hdc, 2 dc, 2 tr, 2 dc, hdc], sl st in first ch to join.

Now come the tricky part which are the six outer petals of the flower motif, shaded in dark gray, which means that it is done in a single round. Here is my interpretation of this last round:

Ch 17, sc in first sc and hdc, ch 8, turn, sc in ch-17 lp, ch 3, sc in same lp, ch 8, sc in hdc, turn, in ch-8 lp make [sc, hdc, 8 dc], ch 3, sc in ch-3 lp, ch 3, in next ch-8 lp make [8 dc, hdc, sc], sc in each of next 2 dc, sc in each of next 2 tr, sc in each of next 2 dc, sc in hdc, sc in sc, *ch 16, sc in next sc, sc in next hdc, ch 8, sc in ch-16 lp, ch 3, sc in same lp, ch 7, sc in sc next to base of start of ch-16 lp, in ch-7 lp make [sc, hdc, 8 dc], ch 3, sc in ch-3 lp, ch 3, in next ch-8 lp make [8 dc, hdc, sc], sc in each of next 8 sts, rep fr * 4 times ending last rep with sc in last 6 sts and sl st in sc to join.

Now here is an even more complex pattern found in Duplet 112, with no numbering nor shaded areas to delineate the different rounds.The chain loops are also not explicitly illustrated in the pattern but are rather indicated in terms of a line and a number under the line. The number tells you how many chains to make. This pattern is completely workable and correct. Can you figure it out?

I have made the motifs shown above to make several crocheted garments, for example, a bolero crocheted in silk-cashmere yarn. You may find the finished bolero at Silky Cashmere Bolero.

Improvisation and Free-Form

I think that key to understanding and creating from patterns found in Duplet and MOD Zhurnal and the many other symbol crochet patterns found in books, magazines and websites all around the world is a freedom-loving approach to crochet. Rather than a rigid adherence to every minute detail or the demand for precision in every single stitch pattern, a pattern design is seen as a possibility and an opportunity to construct something as beautiful as – or even more beautiful than – the finished objects presented with the patterns.


17 thoughts on “Learning to Read Crochet Symbols the Duplet Way”

  1. I like the explanation you gave, but I have a question. In the Duplet magazine they will have a circle with no number in it. but a series of single chains around. Are they asking for a “magic circle” or just to guestimate the number of chains to join and then do the singles like you would if there was a number inside.
    Make sense what I am asking?

  2. Hi, I am trying to find out how to create my own crochet patterns using the symbols in a circular format. Is there some sort of software that I can buy for this purpose?

    1. Hi Kaye! I haven’t tried any crochet symbol software before so I can’t tell from experience. I’ve only seen StitchWorks which makes software for crochet charts.

      Personally, I just use an image editing program (I use GIMP) and arrange the various symbols on a blank canvas. I get the symbols from websites that show and explain the standard symbols such as Gosyo/Pierot Yarns.

      Hope this helps! :)

      1. I do it old-school, with pencil & paper, while I work the pattern out on some scrap yarn. I try to match hook to yarn though, not so much follow the pattern. I figure the pattern should work out pretty well, even if not the right size .. So far so good .. Ok, until this last pattern that’s giving me absolute fits!

        However you do it, don’t give up! The results are always amazing! & it DOES get easier! =D

  3. I just have a question regarding the dc’s with a single point of convergence: are they always denoting some form of a cluster stitch? If so, then how are shells expressed?

    I’m trying to help a friend, who’s a better crocheter than I am by the way, but I seem to be better at reading diagrams. However, there is a pattern, pineapple-based, that’s worked in panels & it’s giving me fits! There are a LOT of 3 dc stitch “bunches”, separated by 2 chains & I thought they were chains but now I’m confused.

    I’m posting a link to the pattern so maybe I can get some guidance? I’d be really appreciative! http://www.liveinternet.ru/users/3770036/post158996698/

      1. darn .. I was hoping they weren’t .. it makes the rows really curly & the skirt panels don’t look curly at all, until they fan at the bottom .. I have a tab open to the closeup of the Duplet page you posted here & I can understand the diagrams pretty well but this pattern is really making my head itch.

        I have just one more question if it’s not much trouble? .. Am I right in thinking that this pattern calls for a foundation chain of 9 and that is the basis for each panel? I’m asking ’cause I’ve tried to make each “chain” symbol stand for one chain and for an arbitrary #, like 3, to see how I can make it lay flat & that’s where I’m stuck.

        In other words, I think I understand the symbols pretty well but not the # of stitches to start ..

        Is there a way to help me?

        & wow, I REALLY appreciate your prompt reply!

        I too am restricted by my health to how much I can do. In part it’s physical in that my hands are clumsy in the handling of the hooks and yarn but also ’cause I ache & get tired from sitting or just arm movement.

        The other part is the lack of brain function. It’s called cognitive deficiency due to Lupus affecting my nervous system. I can’t always follow directions or keep track of what I’m doing. I do too many stitches or repeat a pattern part w/out realizing it in the moment and I come back later to find the HUGE mistake & have to rip out a lot of work.

        It’s all to the good. I’m a recent arrival to crocheting (this past March) after a brief, VERY brief, fling with it when I was pregnant w/ my first son. Now I’m crocheting for THEIR children and my one daughter-in-law (my firstborn is still looking for a wife; he’s a single father to a quarter-Pinoy, quarter-Irish, quarter-Salvadoran, quarter-Mexican boy! =D). I’m restricted but it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the life I have. I too miss my “old” life but I hope to regain my health & go back to my tropical paradise in El Salvador! Presently living in COLD Wisconsin w/ my 2nd son, his wife & 2 children. <3

        1. I think that the perfect crochet for you is Free Form Crochet! So you don’t have to worry about written patterns, and let your creative mind free! :) You must try it! I have tried it a few times and I will share my experiences here.

          As for living in the tropics, I can certainly say that the warmth of the tropics takes away a lot of illness, stress and pain. My husband lived in Europe all his life and was sick all his life. When he moved here to the Philippines, it was like a miraculous cure. I’m not joking!

          Now the pineapple pattern looks like it was worked in multiples of 8 + 1 foundation stitches. Then the pineapples just fan out to make the ruffles of the skirt.

          The instructions say you make three tiers of the pineapple lace, each having 19, 22 and 23 pineapple panels respectively.

          Then the three tiers of the skirt are sewn together.

          If you want to translate Russian, you can use the Google Translator at http://translate.google.com/ – It is not 100% correct but useful free online translator.

          Try to improvise and listen more to your instincts when crocheting, rather than stick too closely to the pattern. It is more fun ad relaxing that way! :)

          1. I thank you SO much for your help! & I agree, I seem more comfortable NOT following patterns but this pattern isn’t for me, it’s for a friend who’s not so good at using the internet for help.

            & I agree abt the warmth & the slowness of life being a HUGE help to get better but in my case, I got too sick to even enjoy ANY of it. My husband too found a 2nd chance at a happy life there, but death finds us anywhere. =( .. He died almost 3 years ago this Oct but he was immensely happy in the house of MY dreams. It’s the stress & grief of his dying that put my health into this downward spiral but I’m confident I’ll be better and return.

            Every life we choose to live has it’s price. The question is how high a price are we willing to pay to live it. Once that decision is made, to complain, to my way of thinking, is not only selfish but also a bit of cowardice. I say this ’cause I chose a life that was difficult but I lived it ’cause the cost of living an easier life for myself would have meant a miserable life for my children. The rewards of all that hardship are seeing my kids happy and grateful for the life they ARE able to have now as adults. Like my younger son said to me recently, I least I tried.

            Hugs, Fatima (my half-sister’s name too!). And again, thanks SO much. Namaste!

          2. HI Jessie, thank you for this very touching message. You sound like you have a loving family, and that is very important.

            Perhaps I am still young (am in my 40s now) but I have always had very little thought of the past or the future. I always live in the present. I realise that that attitude has prevented me from regretting past things or worrying about future things. It seems to be a helpful way of seeing things, at least, for me.

            A hard life, I think, is a good life. Having everything easy never teach us anything, and our spirits become weak.

            You will be okay. You have strong spirit. :)

  4. Thank you so much. I just received my first Duplet magazine, and I am intimidated by the unfamiliar look of the diagrams; this will help. One thing I don’t get, can you tell from the diagram if a stitch is to be worked into the chain itself, or the chain space below it?
    Or do you just guess if you have a photo to look at as well?


  5. I just ordered my first copy of Duplet and can hardly wait for it to arrive to me in Seattle, WA.

    I have fallen in love with the crochet work done in Russia and want to try my hand at some of my own. I have a question regarding the complex diagram you posted from Duplet 112. I’m doing rather well at learning to read the diagrams but are there times when you break off the yarn or thread and reattach to started the next round? The reason for asking is I cannot see a way of making a clean transition from some of the rounds to the next round without doing a lot of slip stitches in order to arrive at the starting point for the next row. I guess it really is my option but I was wondering how you handled that motif.

    I tend to like really clean transitions between rounds, yes I’m a bit of a neat freak about some things.

    Thanks so much, I love you web site.


    1. Hi Suzy!

      It is hard to read some symbol patterns because they are also not always consistent. As far as I can remember, that motif from Duplet 112 has no breaks and the longest sl st to get to the start of the next round is that of 7 sl sts, it’s at Round 4.

      Sometimes, it is easy to make a mistake because it doesn’t say when you actually need to turn the piece to start a round/row on the other side. This is true of rnd 4 of the Duplet 112 motif – you will need to turn the work to make the oval-shaped petals of the motif.

      But – at some point, I learned to stop being too neat and exact with crochet, especially Irish Crochet. I only need to be really precise and pedantic if I am writing out a step-by-step pattern.

      You’ll have many many hours of fun and new things to learn with your Duplet! :)


      1. Hi Fatima,

        I figured out the turn in round 4 but couldn’t figure out how to get to round 5 without sl st over previous stitches to get to the start of round 5.

        Mistakes are teaching aids.


        1. There could be several ways of doing it since it is not explicit in the chart.

          One way is to sl st in the sc and 2-ch sp to make the sc in the first dc.

          Another way is to sl st back in rnd 4 so you’re in the middle dc of the 5-dc/ch sp group.

          So yes, by figuring out an ambiguous pattern, you teach yourself.

          I hope this helps. But surely there are other ways of doing it.

          Cheers! :)

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