Patterns usually come in one of three different methods, long form, short, or shorthand form and visual. Older patterns are generally written in long form, while newer patterns are written visually or using the short form. This sample will help you to learn to read a pattern by showing the same pattern in all 3 formats.

1. Long

R 4 ds, 3p sep by 4 ds, 4 ds cl, RW, *ch 4 ds, p, 4 ds, RW,
r 4 ds, join to third p of r, 4 ds, 2p sep by 4 ds, 4 ds cl. Repeat from *

Start with a ring of 4 double stitches, then 3 picots separated from each other by 4 double stitches, 4 double stitches and close the ring. Reverse the work, (that just means turn it upside down) and do a chain of 4 double stitches a picot and 4 double stitches. Reverse work and do a ring of 4 double stitches join to the third picot of the first ring, then 2 picots separated from each other by 4 double stitches, 4 double stitches and close the ring. Repeat the pattern from the beginning of the chain. Note patterns don't always tell you when to reverse work although as a general rule you reverse work when you switch from a ring to a chain or from a chain to a ring, but not always. That is why it is helpful to have a picture of the finished piece.

2. Short

R 4-4-4-4. C 4-4. R 4+4-4-4. C 4-4. R 4+4-4-4.
Repeat for desired length.

The short form tells you the same thing. R means ring, the number represents the number of double stitches the '-' is a picot. C is for a chain. The '+' sign represents a join and in this pattern it is joining a ring to the one beside it. If there was more than one row to this pattern there could be a join to the previous ring and a second join to the preceding row. If the pattern is accompanied by a picture, you may be directed to follow the picture, otherwise you will hopefully be given instructions where to make the joins.

3. Visual Pattern

The Visual pattern may or may not use contrasting colours to distinguish between rings and chains. The circles are rings and the curved lines are chains. The short lines extending out from the rings represent picots and the numbers in between are the number of double stitches between the picots. Where one element joins another, instead of two short lines there is only one. A visual pattern is like a picture, except that it doesn't always give the whole pattern. For example a border for a handkerchief would contain a full pattern repeat for the side and one corner back to where the pattern starts repeating again, or a doily would show a pie shaped wedge of the pattern.