Music Illusion Knit

Music Illusion Knit

Have you ever knitted an illusion? Illusion knitting, also called shadow knitting, is a technique where you knit a design of two contrasting colors of stripes with simple knit and purl stitches. From the front view, it looks like a simple striped pattern. But, when the project is viewed from the proper angles, a hidden image appears.

Dog Bone Illusion Knit

Dog Bone Illusion Knit

Skull Scarf Illusion

Skull Scarf Illusion

My first illusion knit project was a Halloween skull illusion knit scarf. I loved this technique, but could not find the patterns for the hidden images I wanted.  So, I decided to create my own designs.



Kkhymn’s Illusion Knit Charts:

I have put links to my other (non-illusion) knit designs on the More Free Patterns page on this blog.  There are also links to some great, free patterns from other designers.

Horse Illusion Knit

Horse Illusion Knit

Apple Illusion Knit

Apple Illusion Knit

I think I am attracted to illusion knitting because it reminds me of two lessons in life – Don’t judge a book by its cover and everyone has a hidden talent or gift to share in life.

If you would like to request a particular illusion knit pattern, please feel free to ask. I can not promise that I am able to create it, but I will try my best.

How to Create Your Own Illusion

Cat Illusion Scarf

Cat Illusion Knit Scarf

Click for a PDF file of How to Create Your Own Illusion Knit Design and a Illusion Knit Excel template for a head start.

After much trial and error, I finally figured out how to take a graphic image on a chart and convert it to an illusion knit pattern. Before you begin, it is important to understand these key concepts:

  • You can’t just take an image on a chart, add knit and purl stitches and change colors every two rows to create your illusion. Whatever graphic or image you have on a chart needs to be stretched vertically to create the illusion knit pattern. To stretch the image, you will be adding blank rows in between each of the rows that have the pattern image. See the example of the heart chart below.
  • The pattern on an illusion knit chart is created on even numbered rows. The odd numbered rows are always knit across and left blank. The only difference  between whether you knit or purl a stitch on the chart is whether the even numbered row is on the contrast color or background color.If the pattern is created correctly, the wrong side of your project will show you a reverse-colored image of your illusion.
  • Illusion knitting results in a pattern of two alternating colored stripes when viewed from the front. But, at the proper angles, a seemingly invisible image appears. See my Halloween Skull scarf as an example from a previous post.

So, what is the difference between the original image and one created for an illusion? Here is the image of a heart on a chart:

Original Image of a Heart

Original Image of a Heart

Now here is the same image re-done for an illusion knit chart. The image is stretched by adding blank rows in between every patterned row:
Heart Illusion Knit

Heart Illusion Knit

Now that you understand the concept of creating an illusion knit design, you are ready to begin!
  1. Select the image you want to put on a knit chart. It should be a simple image, with two colors (black and white works best for me).
  2. Go to the KnitPro Web site to upload the image on to a chart specifically designed for knitting. The height and width or knit and purl stitches are not the same (the ratio is not 1:1), so using regular graph paper to create your picture won’t work.  Save your Knit Pro image and print out the chart.
  3. Go to a spreadsheet program, like Excel, and create a blank chart. Insert your border rows (two rows at top and two rows at the bottom of the chart that is not part of your pattern. I try to keep these rows opposite colors and leave these as knitted rows.
  4. Look at your Knit Pro chart. Starting from the 4th row from the bottom of your Excel spreadsheet, recreate your pattern image on the even numbered row, shading the boxes with a color of your choice.
  5. Add another column to mark the right-side and wrong side of your pattern. Row 1 is the RS of the pattern. At the bottom of the chart, number each column starting from right to left.
  6. Starting with  Row 1 of your chart, shade every other two rows grey, leaving the colored patterned boxes alone. The first two rows are shaded grey, the next two are not, etc. The only exception is where you have already placed your pattern colored boxes. Leave those the same.
  7. If you are shading correctly, Rows 1 and 2 are shaded in grey, Row 3 should be no color. Row 4 should be no color except for where your pattern boxes are already placed. And so on … The shaded rows will represent your contrast color, the non-shaded rows will represent your background color.
  8. Now add your purl stitches to the pattern. These are only on the even numbered rows of your chart, starting with Row 4. For even-numbered, background color (non-shaded) rows, add purl stitches where the pattern exists. For even-numbered, contrast color (shaded) rows, add purl stitches where the pattern does not exist.
  9. Now you have to modify the chart cells to the proper row height and width, and make sure it is readable and prints out on one page. In an actual knit graph. the width is always wider (almost double) than the height, but that distorts the image on your chart. I make the cell width significantly smaller than the height so that the chart is readable. 

Inverting and Flipping Your Image:

This last series of steps are optional but it will help you when you are inverting the image.

On the left side of your chart, number the rows from top to bottom. This marks the order of the rows when you want to invert the pattern. Where you start the numbering depends on which row your pattern ends on the chart. Starting at one row before your pattern begins from the top of that chart, number this row as Row 1  and it should be the contrast color. Row 2 should be the start of when your pattern appears, and should also be the contrast color. Add the column with RS and WS – it should match with the other side of the chart. At the top of your chart, number the columns from left to right, this shows the direction to read the even number rows of the chart when you are inverting the image.

Finding Peace Illusion Knit

Finding Peace Illusion Knit

For the first half of the pattern, the odd number rows are read from right to left and the even numbered rows are read from left to right and the chart is read from bottom to top. When you are inverting the pattern, you read the chart from top to bottom. If you want to also flip your image so that it faces the opposite direction, then read the even number rows from right to left.


34 Responses to “Illusion Knits”

  1. Donna aka SmoothFoxLover Says:

    Thanks so much for adding the written instructions to your patterns. I appreciate it very much.

    Being a brand new knitter and new to Ilusion knitting it helped me a lot.


  2. Teryl Says:

    Thanks so much! Your instructions are so much easier to understand than most. I appreciate all your work

  3. BECKY HILL Says:

    well, that was bunk. i am not able to download your cat illusion knit and others. is there some kind of trick? i think your ideas are great! can you help me? thank you

  4. kkhymn Says:

    I just checked all the links and they should work for you. The files are all PDFs, and you need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader to open them. Adobe Acrobat Reader is a free download on the Adobe Web site. Let me know if you continue to have difficulty, and I will send them directly to you.

  5. Kathryn Says:

    Wow, these look like a lot of fun and the instructions are easy. Now I just need to go and get some yarn to start!

    I have a piano playing friend that I would like to make a scarf for. My question is, is it possible to perhaps put a treble clef on one end, have piano keys in between, and another treble clef on the other end?


  6. kkhymn Says:

    Ideally, each of the three designs are meant to stand alone. You can have one image on the right side of a scarf, and another image on the left side of the scarf. Or, you can do the same image on both sides of the scarf.

    You could possibly put the piano keys on top and the music note on the bottom on one side of the scarf, and then do the treble clef on the other side. My only concern is that the illusion of the piano keys might be more difficult to view unless you make the scarf very long in length.

    I think the music note and treble clef are the better images to use of the three.

  7. Sheryl Says:

    I completed the Alien scarf and love doing this technique.

    I need a pattern for a horse silhouette for your illusion knitting technique.I would be very happy to pay for this pattern.

    What is the best way to do this? Even a horseshoe would do for now but we have a big community of equestrian lovers who I would love to do some of these for.

    Thank you so much, – Sheryl

  8. kkhymn Says:

    I have just added a Horse Illusion Knit pattern on this page and in a blog post. It is just the chart and not the K1, P2 instructions. I will try to update the file before the year ends. Hope you like this one!

  9. Sheryl Says:

    Wow – thank you !!!!!!
    Now all I have to do is figure out the K1 P2 stuff.

    I am working on the dragonfly right now for my daughter and I love it.

    Thank you so much !!!!!

  10. Sheryl Says:

    If there is anyway to get the instructions before Christmas I would love to make this for some of my Equestrian buddies.

    Let me know if I need to buy the pattern. I will be happy to.

    Thank you

  11. kkhymn Says:

    I have updated the Horse Illusion Knit pattern with the written “K1, P2” instructions. This is an extra wide scarf pattern if made with worsted weight yarn. Otherwise, a decorative pillow or bag would be great project ideas. Enjoy.

  12. […] pattern is from here. Yarn is Caron’s Simply Soft (aka “Yarn my SIL can’t […]

  13. Tanya Says:

    I am trying to figure out how to graph and creat a “C” for the bears, scarf for a co-worker and have not been able to comprehend the instructions. Is there any advice that you can offer? Thanks, Tanya

    1. kkhymn Says:

      I will contact you directly to try and understand what exactly you want to create and to answer some of your specific questions about creating the illusion knit design. It might be easier to start with a blank Excel Chart that is 24 cells across. Color in the cells with your image of the “C”. Then, insert a blank row in between each of those rows with the colored image. Put that revised chart into my template, starting on an even numbered row. Then follow my instructions about where to add the purl stitches.

  14. kkhymn Says:

    I have just added the “C” Bears Illusion Knits pattern to this page and on Ravelry. This design is similar to the one for the Bears, but the letter “C” is not colored in. The outline of the letter “C” will appear. Please send me a photo of your finished project so I can share it with everyone.

  15. manicwitch Says:

    I’m actually working on a “C” Bears Illusion scarf too. I made my own pattern too and have had to frog it 3 times before I got it right. I am just beginning it (again) but would love to see a pic of someone’s finished project.


  16. manicwitch Says:

    Oops. I am coloring in the whole “C” but would love to see how it turns out with just the outline.

  17. Gail Says:

    Thank you for sharing your illusion patterns. I love this technique and enjoy all your work

  18. Kathleen Steinhart Says:

    I thought I read in this site somewhere that you would create patterns for images if they weren’t too difficult. I would really like one for a soccer ball, that I could do repeats for the entire length of the scarf. Possible to do?

  19. Marcie Says:

    Hi Kimberly,
    I am doing the horse head and the chart is as you have written in the instructions.
    I think I understand now about the charts.
    I don’t know how it will come out loom knit but it sure is faster. lol
    Thank you for being so creative.


  20. Judy Says:

    I have done two illusion scarves, the aliens and footballs. I am about to embark on the horse heads as a scarf, but don’t understand why you say to invert the pattern. On the others I’ve done, I just repeated the pattern 5 times. Do you mean I do rows 76 to 1, then invert and do 1 to 76 and keep going back and forth for five repeats? I’m not picturing this evidently.

    1. kkhymn Says:

      Thanks for contacting me on my blog regarding my horse head illusion knit. As you can see, my charts and instructions are different from other illusion knit patterns. My charts are row by row.

      If you just do the same repeat of the illusion knit pattern on the other half of your scarf. the second horse head will be upside down. So, you need to invert the image so that the horse head will be right side up on both sides of the scarf. Both horse heads will then be facing the same exact direction and be right side up.

      I like working from the chart when I am inverting the image, it is easier than using the written instructions.

      Just work from the top down when inverting the image, starting at Row 1, on the top, left corner. With my charts, all knit stitches are blank and all purl stitches have a dash in them. You will be changing colors every two rows.

      If you have any further questions, let me know.

  21. Amanda Says:

    I was wondering if you could do a lightning bolt illusion pattern (I can’t seem to find one).

  22. OPKnitter Says:

    Wonderfully helpful discussion & patterns. Thank you from another “chronic” knitter.

  23. Nancy Parssinen Says:

    I used a chart and knit both a dragon fly scarf and a skull/snake. Then I decided to make up one of my own. I downloaded knitting graph paper to do this. I find your directions showing a stretched out design incorrect when using the knitting graph paper. With it, your outline of the design is exactly the way the design will come out. You do not stretch it out. Every other pair of rows on the chart is colored in. Your stretched out design is shown on knitting graph paper. If you knit it that way you would end up with a stretched out heart. I think if you sketched a heart on regular graph paper, as show in the first picture, and then wanted to graph the knitting directions ON TO REGULAR GRAPH PAPER you would have to stretch it out. But NOT when using knitting graph paper.

    1. kkhymn Says:

      My illusion knits are not designed the same way as regular knit charts. My charts are written so that you work every row as is – the charts are row by row – so you don’t see instructions like ” knit on right side, purl on wrong “. Other illusion knit charts described on my page do actually use the stretched charts and are read differently. If you work my patterns on the charts as they are, it will come out correctly.

  24. Oksana Says:

    I am working on the alien illusion scarf from Stitch ‘n Bitch using Caron’s Simply Soft yarn. I am on my fourth alien, and the scarf is now curling into a tube with the stockinette stitches on the outside, and the purl stitches on the inside. Is there a remedy to flatten out the scarf? Your samples look so nice and flat!

    1. kkhymn Says:

      I would try blocking the finished scarf. Or, if you hate blocking, put a thin towel over the edge and iron over the towel with medium to high heat. The other option is to add a single crochet edge first before trying to block or steam iron it with the towel. Good luck!

      1. Dorcas Says:

        I began my first Illusion scarf last night. I was so busy trying to understand the how’s and why’s of Illusion that I hadn’t thought about curling. To avoid curling simply add a small Seed Stitch border. The smallest would be – K1, P1, K1. This will add a bit of width to the scarf because you are adding 6 stitches to each row.
        For new knitters – Seed stitch is
        Row 1: *K1, p1* repeat to end. This is done on an even number of stitches. Then you do the same thing on each row.
        Row 2: *K1, p1* repeat to end
        This gives a small checker board look.

  25. lorraine Says:

    i would realy love to do something spicel for my sister
    would you make me a chart please if so please email me so i can tell you whot i wont please many thanks

  26. Dylan Says:

    Do you have an email that I can send you an excel version of a pattern i’m going to try to do because I want to make sure I made it correctly before i begin.

  27. Sandy Says:

    Thank you so much for this great information on creating illusion charts! Also, thanks for the charts you have so graciously given already as I can’t wait to make up the sewing machine! We must like to do all the same things…..knit, sew, music…Sandy

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