How to Figure Out Crochet Stitch Multiples to Change Patterns

When you find a crochet stitch pattern that you love, there’s a good chance that you will want to use it over and over. But what happens when you find it in one kind of pattern (such as a blanket) but want to make it in another project (such as a dishcloth)?

What if you like the project? Let’s say a scarf, but you want to make it narrower or wider than the original pattern? What you will need to do is figure out what the stitch multiples are for that pattern. Then you will adjust your starting chain with those multiples in mind. This guide will show you how to do it.

What Are Stitch Multiples?

Little Sweetie Dress and Headband

A crochet stitch pattern is created by working a certain combination of stitches across a row, repeating that same combination a number of times until the end of the row. Those repeated segments are the multiples. For example, the Little Sweetie Headband shown above is made with a multiple of 6; the starting chain might be 48 for a young baby or 60 for a larger baby but it’s always going to be a multiple of 6. If you love that stitch pattern and want to make it a scarf, you would make a much, much longer starting chain but it would still need to be a multiple of 6.

Tip: See If The Designer Told You The Stitch Multiples

Fan Trellis Wrap

The first thing that you should do if you want to change the stitch multiples on a project is to see if the designer has told you what multiple (s)he used. Many designers will do this for you, saving you the trouble of having to figure it out yourself. There are several places in a pattern to look for this information. In the Fan Trellis Wrap we find it as a designer note at the very top of the pattern; it’s a “multiple of 12 + 11 (plus 1 for base row)”.

Long Boot Warmers

The multiple is also in the pattern notes at the beginning of the Long Boot Warmers pattern, however it’s a little more subtle to find. The second bullet point in the designer’s notes reads, “To make wider or narrower legwarmers, increase or decrease beginning chains in multiples of 4.” That also tells you that the pattern repeat is a multiple of 4 so if you wanted to make a wide scarf or a blanket using this stitch pattern then you would begin with a starting chain that is a multiple of 4 (such as 40 or 88 or 400).

Comfy Crochet Sweater

In the Comfy Crochet Sweater pattern by Marly Bird, the information is written within the pattern instructions; just before the Row 1 instructions it says “foundation is a multiple of 19 sts + 1.” So if you wanted to make that pretty wave pattern into a blanket, you might chain 191 stitches (190 is a multiple of 19 + 1 for the turning chain).

Button Up Neckwarmer

The Button Up Neckwarmer, on the other hand, tells you at the beginning what the “stitch pattern repeat” is; it is a multiple of 7 + 3 worked in a pattern that begins with Row 1 and then alternates Rows 2 and 3. This is found in the same section of the pattern where you would normally find “special stitches” information. If you love this pattern then you can replicate it by beginning with a starting chain that is a multiple of 7 (21, 70 and 112) would all work and then add another 3 stitches (so the starting chain would be 24, 73 or 115).

Crochet Cable Cardi

The Crochet Cable Cardi is similar in that it lists the pattern repeat before the written instructions for the pattern. There are other Special Stitches listed here and then the multiples information follows. What’s different is that it doesn’t tell us the multiples for the whole row but rather for each type of special pattern; the Cable Pattern is a multiple of 5 + 2 while the Popcorn Pattern is worked over 5 stitches. This information would allow you to work out the math to make a series of cables or popcorns or both on your own pattern, although you would definitely have to do some math on your own for this one, using the designer’s information as a starting point. So now let’s talk about doing the math …

Figuring Out Multiples For Yourself

If the designer told you the multiples then you just need to determine how wide you want your project to be. Begin with a starting chain that is approximately that wide, making sure that it is a multiple of what the designer said. But if you don’t have clear information about the multiples in the pattern, you can figure out that information yourself. Let’s take a look at the Speckled Super Scarf crochet pattern to see how we would adjust it.

Speckled Super Scarf

Find the repeating stitch pattern in one row

repeat stitch multiple

Look at the instructions in the first row of your pattern to find the part that repeats across the row. Typically this is located after an asterisk or between brackets, in a row that says “rep” or “repeat”.

Note that in some cases this will not be the first row of the pattern; the pattern may begin with a whole row of double crochet, first, before the repeating parts come in. You want to use the information in the very first row of the pattern that includes a repeat.  In the Speckled Super Scarf pattern rows 1 and 2 are just single crochet, so the pattern doesn’t begin until row 3. When we get to that row we see that the pattern repeat information is:

*dc in next 3 sts [dc2tog in next 2 sts] twice, dc in next 3 sts**, 2 dc in next 2 sts; rep from * across ending at *

Let’s break down what we are going to repeat to create this stitch pattern:

  • dc in next 3 sts (= 3 st)
  • dc2tog in next 2 st (+ 2 st)
  • “twice” ( + 2 st)
  • dc in next 3 st (+ 3 st)
  • 2 dc in next 2 st (+ 2 st)

When we add that up we get a total of 12 stitches for the repeat. If we want to create 1 wave, we need 12 stitches for it; if we want to create 10 waves, we need 120 stitches for it.

Add any additional starting and finishing stitches in that row

Now you have the basic repeating pattern. You know that you’re going to multiply that number across the row as few or as many times as you want to get that same stitch design. However, we need to go back to those pattern instructions to account for what was NOT in the asterisks or brackets. A pattern will often begin and end with a few additional stitches to make for more even edges. For example, a row might begin and end with a double crochet while there are repeating shell stitches in the center.

When we look at the Speckled Super Scarf pattern we see that it begins with:

Ch 3 (counts as dc throughout), work in back loops only, dc in first st,

The chain 3 does not add any stitches. We need to add 1 for the first dc. After that is when we got our main repeat (which we’ve already calculated). But remember, it said:

rep from * across ending at **

So, what that tells us is that after completing all of our repeats, we are going to need to do one more partial repeat of:

*dc in next 3 sts [dc2tog in next 2 sts] twice, dc in next 3 sts*

Going back to the math we did before, we see that means we need to add 10 more stitches. Then after that the instructions say:

2 dc in last st

This means we have to add 1 more. If we add up all those additions, we see that we need to add 12. So we are going to have a stitch multiple of 12 + 12. If we want to make a very narrow scarf of just one wave, we will do 12 + 12 = 24 for our starting chain. The original pattern has 2 waves (12 * 2 = 24 + 12 = 36). If we want to make a very wide scarf of 6 waves we’ll do (12 * 6 = 72 + 12 = 84). (Note that the scarf essentially has one extra wave because you do almost all of the repeat in those extra 12 stitches, so the scarf pattern as written looks like 3 waves, although you only do 2 full repeats.)

Adjust for a turning chain

You may also need to adjust for your turning chain when calculating the starting chain for your multiples. In The Speckled Super Scarf pattern, rows one and two are made using single crochet. So when you create your turning chain you will begin with the number you found above (your multiple of 12 + 12) and then you will add 1 more stitch because it is single crochet. So for the original pattern you have a starting chain of (12 * 2 = 24 + 12 = 36 + 1 = 37). Adjust the number that you add for the starting chain based on the stitches used in the first row (1 for sc, 2 for hdc, 3 for dc, etc).

What if you didn’t want to have any rows before beginning the pattern and instead just wanted to begin right into the turning chain. You’ll remember that the first line of the Speckled Super Scarf pattern began with “Ch 3 (counts as dc throughout)” so you will add an additional 3 stitches to the starting chain (which makes sense since what you are adding is a double crochet, which is 3 stitches).

Make a gauge swatch

Before you get too invested in your project, make a gauge swatch to make sure that your numbers are right. Depending on the width of the project, you’ll typically want to begin with a repeat of 3-5 multiples to make sure you’ve got your numbers right. For example, for the Speckled Super Scarf, you might do 12 * 3 = 36 + 12 = 48. Work several inches of the pattern to make sure that it’s turning out right. This is especially important in patterns where the stitch design is created over several rows. This isn’t the case with the Speckled Super Scarf; rows 3 and beyond are just repeating row 2 (the pattern is created in that single row) but it can occur.

Practice Makes Perfect

See if you can use the information above to calculate the starting chain for each of the following projects. To find out if you are right, click on the pattern above the instructions and look at the number for the starting chain for that pattern. If you got the math right, your numbers should match, and if you got the numbers right then you should be able to adapt that information to create multiples for a narrower or wider project. Try it by using the stitch multiple to create a starting chain of a different length and see if it works.

Shaded Shells Super Scarf

Sc in 2nd ch from hook, *skip 2 ch, 5 dc in next ch (Scallop made), skip 2 ch, sc in next ch; repeat from * 5 times

Snazzy Striped Scarf

Ch 1, (sc, 2 dc) in first hdc, *skip next 2 hdc, (sc, 2 dc) in next st; repeat from * 5 times, skip next 2 hdc, sc in last hdc (+ add 2 for first hdc in starting chain)

Pistachio Lace Scarf

Sc in 2nd ch from hook, * ch 1, skip 3 ch, shell in next ch, ch 1, skip 3 ch, sc in next ch; repeat from 3 times