Crochet Symbol Charting Using Adobe Illustrator CS3 (Part 2: Making Basic Stitches)

Picking up where we left off in the first lesson, I am going to show you how to create a single crochet stitch, which in turn, will get you on the path to creating other basic stitches. (If you haven’t read that lesson, I would do so as I won’t be reviewing too much from there). They can be made by using the Line Segment Tool Line Segment Tool , which draws individual straight lines. You’ll see that in this lesson, I use a lot of keyboard shortcuts to do things. If you’re not familiar with them, get to know them. They will help you accomplish tasks more quickly.

Drawing Line Segments

Some people draw them as a plus sign (+) and others create them as an X shape. I’m going to show you how to make both so you can decide for yourself what works best for you.

Begin by selecting the Line Segment Tool Line Segment Tool in the toolbar on the left of your window. Click anywhere in the workspace and hold down on the left mouse button but swing the mouse around. You’ll see that you have one fixed spot of your line attached to the workspace, but the other end is unattached, enabling you to drop it wherever you like.

Line Segment

Don’t let go just yet. With your other hand, hold down the SHIFT key on your keyboard. Now try to move the mouse around. You should see that the line you potentially are about to create will only stop in fixed positions. When you have a perfect horizontal line created, release the left mouse button (Don’t release the SHIFT key first as you’ll lose the straight line you’re making).

Line Segment

Copying Line Segments

Now you need a vertical line that’s the same height as the width of this one to make a plus sign shape. It would be much harder to draw a new line and try to match that by just eyeballing it. There are two ways to do this without guessing. I’ll show you both so that you have options.

Option #1 (redraw method): You could observe the width of the current line. To find this out, look at the Options Bar, which is just directly below the Menu Bar (this has the words File, Edit, Options…Help across the top) at the very top of your screen. Look for a (W) with a measurement next to it. My horizontal line is .5278 inches wide.

Options Bar

[Note: If your horizontal line is not selected, there will be nothing in this area. If that is the case, click on the Selection Tool and select the line again. It'll turn blue if it's being selected.]

Now that you know how wide your line is, create a vertical line using the Line Segment Tool Line Segment Tool. Don’t worry about measuring just yet. Be sure to hold the SHIFT key when you do so it’s a perfect vertical line. You can see my two lines are clearly not the same size.

Line Segments

Now, with the vertical line still selected, go back up to the Options Bar and look for the height measurement (H). Type in the width (W) measurement you had from the horizontal line. The vertical line should now be the same size – just reversed – as the horizontal line.

Line Segments

Doing things this way can be time consuming when you have a lot of stitches to create. Let me show you a less time consuming way to do the same task.

Option #2 (copy/paste method): If your vertical line is still selected, hit the DELETE key on your keyboard. Now the line you just made is gone. Using the Selection Tool Selection Tool , select the horizontal line. Hit Command + C (PC people that’s Control + C) to copy the line. Then hit  Command + V (PC people that’s Control + V) to paste the line into your workspace. You should have two horizontal lines of equal width.

Rotating Line Segments

Now what you need to do is to turn the line so it’s vertical. With one of the lines selected, click on the Selection Tool Selection Tool. You should see a blue bounding box with four anchors surrounding the line. Float your mouse’s pointer near one of the corners of the box but not on the anchor itself until you see a curved, double-pointed arrow.

Rotating Line Segments

Hold down the SHIFT key and with your left mouse button pressed down, turn the line so it’s vertical and then release the left mouse button first, and the SHIFT key second. Now you have your vertical line. Keep it selected

Line Segments

Moving Line Segments

We want to move it to the center of the horizontal one. This can be done a couple different ways. You could use the directional arrows on your keyboard – this is very inefficient if your two lines are spaced out in the workspace – or you could grab the line and drag and drop it into place.

To drag and drop it, simply put your pointer on the line you want to move – not the blue bounding box as that will change it’s proportions – click your left mouse button, and drag it into place. The problem with this method is that you don’t know if they are crossing over one another in the center of each line.

Hit COMMAND + Z (Or Edit –>> Undo in the Menu Bar above) to undo the last move. If you moved the line more than once, then keep undoing until the lines are no longer crossing over one another.

Using Guides

Let’s make it so they cross over one another at their midpoints. To do this, we need to set up a quick guide. You can create guides by hovering your pointer over where the ruler is located (works for both horizontal and vertical rulers), left-clicking and then dragging a line with your mouse into the workspace. It will look like a grey dashed line until you release your finger from the left mouse button and drop it. It’ll change to a cyan colored line when in position. Drop the guide so that it straddles the center of the middle blue anchors on the vertical line.


Using the Selection Tool Selection Tool (you should still be working with this tool), go back and select the horizontal line.

Line Segments Selected

Drag and drop the horizontal line so that its middle anchors line up with the guide you just created. If you drop it close but not exactly on the right spot, use the directional arrows on your keyboard to inch it into place. See how the blue anchors of the horizontal line perpendicularly cross over the vertical line? That’s what you want.

Aligning Line Segments

Hit COMMAND + ; (Or go to View –>> Guides –>> Hide Guides) to make the guide hidden. You can toggle back and forth, hiding and showing the guides by pressing that same sequence of keys.

To deselect the horizontal line, simply click anywhere else in the workspace that’s empty. Now you can see the single crochet stitch you made.

Single Crochet Stitch

Selecting Line Segments

This stitch is a little large in size – but was designed that way for the purposes of this lesson so you could see what I was doing. If the one you made was too big as well, you can resize it. To do this, we need to group these lines together. Grouping is a method of taking items in your workspace and joining them together so that you can perform similar actions on them without affecting the settings you assigned to them, settings like their stroke for example. This becomes most helpful when moving, scaling, or rotating objects.

There are many ways in Adobe Illustrator to select multiple items together. I will explain the two I use most frequently.

Option #1 (Select Individually): With the Selection Tool Selection Tool selected, click on each line individually. To deselect, simply click the same line segment again. If you’re working on a large chart and you need to select half of what’s in your workspace, this can be tedious and inefficient.

Option #2 (Marquee): With the Selection ToolSelection Tool selected, click anywhere in the empty workspace and hold down the left mouse button. Now drag the mouse across the single crochet stitch you made. You’ll see that there’s a grey, dashed line that is forming a square/rectangle shape. That’s called a, “marquee.” Anything that falls in that square/rectangle will be selected once you release the left mouse button. When you have the stitch within the marquee, go ahead and release the mouse button. Wasn’t that easy? Now that they’re selected, let’s group these two lines.

Grouping Line Segments

Hit COMMAND + G (Or go to Object –>> Group) to group or join these two line segments into one.

It’s important to practice using both of these methods as they are both essential. There have been times where I’ve had a large symbol chart on the screen and I needed to select almost half of it but simply making a marquee around half wouldn’t work because it was then selecting a lot of other lines that I did not need. In these situations, knowing how to accurately select and deselect individual lines helped me to get only the selection of lines I desired.

Changing Line Segment Proportions

So, the size of this stitch is too big. Let’s make it smaller. With the stitch still grouped and using the Selection Tool Selection Tool,  click on your stitch. Float your pointer over one of the corner anchor points. You should see a straight double-arrow now.

Resizing Objects Quickly

Hold the SHIFT key, click on the anchor and drag it to the desired size. Holding SHIFT with constrain the image to the current proportions of the entire object.

Single Crochet

In Part 1 of this series, I showed you how to change the stroke and color. Go ahead and do that on your own, if you so desire.

If you want this stitch to look like an X, simply keep it selected, float your pointer near, but not on one of the corner anchor points until the curved double-arrow appears, hold down the SHIFT key and left mouse button, and turn the shape until it makes an X. Release the mouse button and then the SHIFT key.

Single Crochet X

Using all of the tools, tricks, and tips above, you should have enough information to make a half double, double, treble and so on.

Basic Crochet Symbols

In Part 3 of this series, we’ll talk about how to take these stitches you’ve made and create a basic stitch diagram. If you’re smart, you’ll keep all the stitches you create in one master document. Any time you need a certain stitch, just open up that main document and copy/paste it into your new document. Consider this document like your ever-evolving legend. You’ll never have to make the same stitch twice!

1 Comment

One Response to “Crochet Symbol Charting Using Adobe Illustrator CS3 (Part 2: Making Basic Stitches)”

  1. [...] Techno Babble on Apr 1st, 2009 Now that you know how to make slip and chain stitches as well as single, double, and treble crochets, let’s talk about how we can group our stitches to make a simple chart. Open a new document [...]