Illusion knitting is a deceptively simple, really cool looking way to add unique visual interest to your creations.
The basic premise is that you alternate rows of garter and stockinette stitch in order to create images that can only be seen at a certain angle. When you look at the piece straight on, it looks like stripes, but when you tilt it, the picture appears.
As you can see in the Croak Skull Illusion Scarf above, from this view you can only vaguely make out that there is a pattern in the piece, but when you look at it from a different angle, the skull becomes much clearer:
To do this, you need two contrasting colors of yarn in the same weight. This pattern, for example, uses Vanna's Choice® in red and black. You will also want to use a needle that gets you a tight gauge, possibly a size or two smaller than the yarn calls for. This will make sure the image pops.
The way it works is that you always work the background color in garter stitch, but you alternate between stockinette and garter with the main color to create the pattern. The places where the main color is stockinette will fade into the background and the places where it is garter will pop out and create the image. As you can see in the pictures above, the black is the background color and the red is the main color. What you see pop out as the skull is where the red was worked in garter stitch. The parts with red stockinette make for colorful stripes from straight on, but virtually disappear when angled to see the design.
Often, illusion patterns are a single, simple image, like the skull in the example. But people also make gorgeous, intricate works of art using this technique, recreating famous works or designing their own. There are also many different patterns on Ravelry to look at for ideas, as well as resources for designing your own charts.
Illusion knits make great gifts for older kids and teens, who might want something unique but still subtle. And adults will love them too! They're an excellent way to celebrate a favorite team, fandom, or saying in your knitting while still being versatile and stylish.