Robot Love: It’s All an Illusion

Robot Scarf
Robots in cashmere by a Ravelry knitter.

My Robot Illusion Scarf knitting pattern has been getting a lot of love lately. Last week, a Reddit user received one as a gift and posted about it. All of a sudden, my Knitting page was getting lots of hits and the pattern lots of downloads. “Cool,” I thought, “the more robots the better.” Yesterday, the robot stats exploded again, the result of this lovely post over at Make.

Our Robot Overlords are pleased, as are the Knitting Gods.

However, I keep reading comments about how this is beyond the commenter’s “basic knitting skills.” Here’s a little secret. Illusion knitting is really easy.

Illusion knitting requires four skills:

  1. Cast On.
  2. Knit.
  3. Purl.
  4. Bind off.

That’s it. If you’re experienced at reading charts, that’s a plus. If not, illusion knitting is a great place to start.

Here’s how it works.

If you knit (or purl) every row on a flat piece of work, you get the Garter Stitch, full of little bumps and ridges.

If you knit when the right side (the side you want seen) is facing you and purl on the wrong side, you get the smooth Stockinette stitch with which even non-knitters are familiar.

Illusion knitting uses two colors, but there is no complicated color changing. Work two rows in one color, then two rows in the next. The right side is always knit, but when working the wrong side, follow the charts (or written instructions for some patterns) for knit and purl stitches. The wrong side stitches produce a combination of stockinette and garter stitches, creating a pattern of peaks and valleys. When the finished piece is viewed head-on, we see the stripes, but when it’s viewed at an angle, the valleys disappear and the peaks merge to create an image. Really—that sounds more complicated than it is. Here’s a nice Instructables with pictures.

Illusion knitting is a terrific way to wow people with your incredible prowess with a ball of string and two sticks—even if you’re a beginning knitter. If my Robots or Cats in Shades (scroll down) aren’t your style, the web abounds with Illusion patterns. There’s the Harry Potter Dark Mark, Skulls, Game of Thrones, a DNA Helix, and so much more. And, to be truly wowed, check out Wooly Thoughts Illusion Knitting site, where you can find (among other masterpieces) Elvis and Einstein rendered in yarn.

I haven’t knit much for the past couple of years—since I started grad school—but the end is in sight and the Yarn Sirens are beckoning me. And, looking at all of this illusion-knitting-goodness has given me a couple of ideas. In fact, I’m obsessing. I just ordered yarn. If they work out, I’ll share the patterns here. Now, to get that pesky MFA out of the way…

6 thoughts on “Robot Love: It’s All an Illusion

  1. Monica

    I stumbled across your site and love the robot scarf but am unable to access your pdf pattern. Please please would you be able to email me your chart. My grandson has been asking for a scarf and I’m sure he’d love this. Thank you in advance


    1. Hi Monica,

      Thanks for getting in touch. Apparently there’s something going on with the server the patterns are stored on. I had no idea until you and another peson contacted me. I’m trying to solve the problem. (I don’t have your email address so am replying to you here.)



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