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Geeky Graphghans

Jolly Roger Pirate Flag Crochet Graphghan Pattern

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Jolly Roger Pirate Flag Crochet Graphghan Pattern

Jolly Roger is the traditional English name for the flags flown to identify a pirate ship about to attack, during the early 18th century (the later part of the Golden Age of Piracy).

The flag most commonly identified as the Jolly Roger today—the skull and crossbones symbol on a black flag—was used during the 1710s by a number of pirate captains including Black Sam Bellamy, Edward England, and John Taylor. It went on to become the most commonly used pirate flag during the 1720s, although other designs were also in use.

Use of the term Jolly Roger in reference to pirate flags goes back to at least Charles Johnson's A General History of the Pyrates, published in Britain in 1724.

Johnson specifically cites two pirates as having named their flag "Jolly Roger": Bartholomew Roberts in June 1721[2] and Francis Spriggs in December 1723. While Spriggs and Roberts used the same name for their flags, their flag designs were very different, suggesting that already "Jolly Roger" was a generic term for black pirate flags rather than a name for any single specific design. Neither Spriggs' nor Roberts' Jolly Roger consisted of a skull and crossbones.

Richard Hawkins, who was captured by pirates in 1724, reported that the pirates had a black flag bearing the figure of a skeleton stabbing a heart with a spear, which they named "Jolly Roger". This description closely resembles the infamous flag of Blackbeard (Edward Teach), who flew a similar design six years prior.

It is sometimes claimed that the term derives from "Joli Rouge" ("Pretty Red") in reference to a red flag used by French privateers. This is sometimes attributed to red blood, symbolizing violent pirates, ready to kill.

The first recorded uses of the skull-and-crossbones symbol on naval flags date to the 17th century. It possibly originated among the Barbary pirates of the period, which would connect the black colour of the Jolly Roger to the Muslim Black Standard (black flag). But an early reference to Muslim corsairs flying a skull symbol, in the context of a 1625 slave raid on Cornwall, explicitly refers to the symbols being shown on a green flag. There are mentions of Francis Drake's flying a black flag as early as 1585, but the historicity of this tradition has been called into question. Contemporary accounts show Peter Easton using a plain black flag in 1612; a plain black flag was also used by Captain Martel's pirates in 1716,[10] Blackbeard, Charles Vane, and Richard Worley in 1718, and Howell Davis in 1719.

An early record of the skull-and-crossbones design being used on a (red) flag by pirates is found in a December 6, 1687 entry in a log book held by the Bibliothèque nationale de France. The entry describes pirates using the flag, not on a ship but on land.


1725 woodcut of Stede Bonnet with a Jolly Roger in Charles Johnson's A General History of the Pyrates
17th and 18th century colonial governors usually required privateers to fly a specific version of the British flag, the 1606 Union Jack with a white crest in the middle, also distinguishing them from naval vessels. Before this time, British privateers such as Sir Henry Morgan sailed under English colours. An early use of a black flag with skull, crossbones, and hourglass is attributed to pirate captain Emanuel Wynn in 1700, according to a wide variety of secondary sources. Reportedly, these secondary sources are based on the account of Captain John Cranby of HMS Poole and are verified at the London Public Record Office.

With the end of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714, many privateers turned to piracy. They still used red and black flags, but now they decorated them with their own designs. Edward England, for example, flew three different flags: from his mainmast the black flag depicted above; from his foremast a red version of the same; and from his ensign staff the English national flag. Just as variations on the Jolly Roger design existed, red flags sometimes incorporated yellow stripes or images symbolic of death. Coloured pennants and ribbons could also be used alongside flags.

Marcus Rediker (1987) claims that most pirates active between 1716 and 1726 were part of one of two large interconnected groups sharing many similarities in organisation. He states that this accounts for the "comparatively rapid adoption of the piratical black flag among a group of men operating across thousands of miles of ocean", suggesting that the skull-and-crossbone design became standardized at about the same time as the term Jolly Roger was adopted as its name. By 1730, the diversity of symbols in prior use had been mostly replaced by the standard design.

Single Crochet
Throw Size
240 x 200 Stitches
2 Colors
Includes Recommended Yarns
Graph & Full Written Instructions & Color Coded Blocks
Single File Digital Download

The final stitch count is provided. The instructions are for right handed but if you're left handed you can read the rows backwards or add an extra row at the beginning of each panel so row 1 in the pattern will be your row 2, row 2 will be your row 3 etc.

The finished size of the graphghan will vary depending on the hook size and yarn.
This listing is for pattern only- not a finished graphghan. Pattern Copyright ©2021 Geeky Graphghans


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Pattern by Geeky Graphghans