Reversing Illusion Knitting

We are often asked why Woolly Thoughts illusion patterns are arranged in the way they are. This post will attempt to answer the most frequently asked questions.

Illusion knitting works by knitting alternate ridges in two different colours. A ridge is two rows of knitting. Each horizontal stripe on the chart is one ridge of knitting.

In all Woolly Thoughts patterns the first row of each ridge (right-side of work) is always knit. The chart is only used for the wrong-side rows. All coloured-in squares are knit stitches. All empty squares are purl stitches. The chart is read from left to right.

In this basic chart for a letter R, the first ridge is worked in the dark colour. The right-side is knit; the wrong-side shows all purl stitches.

The second ridge is worked in the light colour. The right side is knit; the wrong side is also knit (because all the stitches are coloured-in).

At Ridge 6 (light) the wrong side row shows k10, p3, k6, p3, k10.
Ridge 7 (dark) shows p10, k3, p6, k3, p10.

What happens if the chart is used from right to left?

  • The sample on the left is what you get when you work from left to right. It is exactly what you see on the chart. This explains why all our charts are constructed this way.
  • The sample on the right shows what happens if you work from right to left on the chart.

Reversing the colours
The following two samples show what happens when you knit both in the usual way but reverse the colours. We always refer to the colours as Light and Dark. Sometimes it is difficult to decide which of your colours is light and which is dark but the chart shows you which colour will stand out in your knitting.

  • The sample on the left shows the colours exactly as they are in the chart.
  • The sample on the right shows the colours swapped over. The dark colour is now worked with the lighter yarn and the light colour is worked with the darker yarn.

Reversing all stitches
Occasionally people ask what happens if you choose to purl the first row of each ridge instead of knitting it. The samples below show that the result is almost identical. I found that my purled version (on the right) was not quite as pronounced as the knit version. I suspect it might be that my purling is slightly tighter than my knitting and this makes the ridges a bit flatter.

To use this method all the stitches have to be reversed. On the second row of each ridge the coloured in squares should be purled and the empty squares should be knitted. The purl row as the first row of each ridge means it becomes the wrong side of the work. The second row is then worked from the chart on the right side of the knitting and is worked using the chart from right to left so the knitting looks exactly like the chart.

Looking from above
Illusions can only be seen when they are viewed from an angle. They are extremely difficult to photograph. In the right light the image should disappear. The R shape is very bold and does not disappear completely in this photo but you can see that all four versions look the same when viewed from overhead.

Edit
I just remembered that we addressed similar issues last year when someone asked what left-handed knitters should do. For many designs it does not matter if the completed work has the design reversed. It is important for others, especially lettering. We produced simple instructions for checking whether the results are as expected.
Download Am I doing it right?

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