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…

I Am (Not Only) a Camera

Point of View can make or break a story. As writers, we have a lot of decisions to make. Who will tell the story—or be our POV character. Will the POV character tell the story in first (I), second (you), or third (she) person? Do we need more than one POV? Writer and editor Jon Gingrich explains a few of the many variations of POV in his LitReactor essay Which P.O.V Is Right For Your Story?

Once those decisions are made, writing POV—from my point of view (see what I did there?)—gets really fun. I am, both as a writer and a reader, a big fan of deep or close point of view in which everything is not just seen or heard through a character’s eyes and ears, but processed through that characters experience and emotion with minimal author intrusion.

In deep POV, the character is much more than a recording device relaying events. Deep POV doesn’t just tell us what the character saw, but how they saw it. Two friends get in an argument. One says the car is blue, the other says purple. A third comes along and declares the car indigo. The paint job on the car doesn’t change, but each individual sees it from their own POV, filtered through their own frame of reference.

Deep POV is a key to building character and that character’s voice. The drunken redneck hooligan who’s just been knocked on his ass and is staring up at an evening sky probably wouldn’t describe that sky as “robin’s egg blue brushed with hints of tangerine,” but if he does, that certainly becomes a clue to hidden depths of his character—and you’d better follow up on that clue. Deep point of view gives us a story that only the POV character can tell us and provides us with more understanding of the character than pages of backstory or physical description provides.

Over at Writers in the Storm, Guest Blogger Rhay Christou provides four quick tips for Diving Deep into Deep Point of View, and at Write Stranger, my former mentor Scott A. Johnson (a big fan of deep POV) urges you to go Deeper! Deeper! Deeper! But, my favorite definition of deep POV comes not from a writer, but from an eye doctor in this June 2014 Humans of New York Facebook post:

For me, that says it all. We are not cameras, and neither should our characters be.

Speaking of Little Bitty Bad Things…

Black Widow and Super Dragon Ninja Warrior. Do not mess with them.
Black Widow and Super Dragon Ninja Warrior. Do not mess with them.

Despite the number of ninjas roaming the streets on October 31st, I was incredibly pleased when Thing One and Thing Two, aka the grand-nieces, decided to go with Black Widow and Super-Dragon-Ninja-Warrior rather than Elsa and/or Anna. (And not just because I blame the arctic Halloween weather on the number of Frozen Princesses.)

Thing One and Thing Two are sisters, but they are very different people. Thing One wants to be a princess, but not because she needs rescuing or craves pampering. Okay, maybe a little bit on the pampering. She wants to be in charge. She wants minions. Princess is her first step in ruling the world, and I suspect, on her journey to Empress of the Universe. As a bonus, when you’re a princess, you get to wear pretty dresses AND be in charge.

Thing Two, on the other hand, wants to grow up to be an Avenger. At two-years old, she announced that Astro-Boy was her boyfriend, and they would marry as soon as they were old enough. She’s fickle and soon moved on to her beloved Hulky. I’m not sure who her current Super-Crush is, but she plans on more than marrying her hero. Those Wife in Training t-shirts? She scoffs. No basking in reflected glory for this one. She plans on kicking butt along side her Super Significant Other, and if SSO needs rescuing? She’s just the one to do it.

I often marvel at the technology these two take for granted. Video calls are not the things of the future, but an everyday part of their lives. They score a goal in soccer, get on FaceTime, and not only tell the extended family about it but demonstrate exactly how they did it. Happiness ensues on both sides of the connection. But, as much as I love techie tools and toys, there is something even better for me to marvel at and them to take for granted.

Notice Thing Two’s pink? She is not a girl pretending to be a boy warrior. She is a girl-ninja, and if you need taking down (or out), she’s ready. Black Widow not only has better skills than Liam Neeson, Thing One got to dye her hair for the very first time. Although they may someday decide to choose between sparkly nail polish and their badass selves, they don’t have to make that choice if they don’t want to. If they want both, they’ve got it.

And next Halloween, who knows—they may choose to go the princess route. (Last year, they were Merida and Cowgirl Jessie.)

So, HOORAY for kick-ass little girls. May you live long and prosper.

You’ll one day save the world. Or rule it.

Or both.

And, you get to be just as girly—or not—as you want while doing it.