Picture of Shadow or Illusion Knitting
Shadow knitting, or illusion knitting, is a process of knitting such that the finished piece has a hidden image only viewable from an angle. The effect is created by alternating rows of two colored yarns so that the raised stitches from one row block out the flat stitches of another row. The finished work looks like a simple striped pattern from the front, but when viewed from an angle, the "hidden" image appears.

The first image is a piano keyboard pattern that I knitted. The second and third are a simple block pattern for this instructable viewed straight on and then at an angle.
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Step 1: Gathering Materials and Creating a pattern

Picture of Gathering Materials and Creating a pattern
This process relies on raised stitches, so worsted or sweater weight yarns work best. Homespun yarns or yarns that have irregular shapes do not work as well.

You will need two contrasting colors, usually a light and a dark work best.

To create the pattern you will need graph paper or a spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel. For the sake of this instruction set, I have created a simple block pattern that is 20 stitches wide and 6 stitches high, repeated indefinitely.

After the basic pattern has been created choose which of your two yarn colors you will start with. This will be your "background color" The other color will be the "pattern color". We'll call them "Color 1" and "Color 2". For this set Color 1 will be white and Color 2 will be blue.

The trick to shadow knitting is in reading the pattern. Each single row in the pattern represents 4 knitted rows.

Row 1a - Color 1 - Knit across
Row 1b - Color 1 - Knit and Purl in pattern
Row 1c - Color 2 - Knit Across
Row 1d - Color 2 - Knit and Purl in Pattern

Step 2: Casting On and Beginning Row 1a

Picture of Casting On and Beginning Row 1a
Using Color 1, cast on the number of stitches in your pattern.
cglaw20131 year ago
really nice
Just came across this! You've given some pretty clear instruction which is fantastic! Anytime I show anyone my scarves they always ask how it works and I've taken to just smiling at them and saying "Math!" :) 
I learned to do this stuff awhile back, but it's nice to see good clear instructions online after having to teach myself how to do it (and after trying to teach kids to do it)! Here are 2 of mine:


great instructable!  :D

Arthai4 years ago
Thanks for the Instructable! I've always wanted to know how to do this. :-)
deladybex7 years ago
Hello This is a nice reminder of a stitch I learned years ago in a MON TRICOT now defucnt knitting and crochet magazine thanks for the reminder :) Now with so many people back into knotting what was old is new again hahah I have knitting for over 40 years and crocheting for over 50years and love to see what is done with stitches form all around. thanks and keep up the nice work I love the spell check feature here on this site , funny it asks if the word knitting should be change to knotting hahah . ahh!, I found that funny as we do makes fancey knots on needles don't we?
ERNesbitt (author)  deladybex6 years ago
I'm putting together some additional information on shadow knitting for wikipedia, and to enhance this instructable... do you have a copy of the magazine that demonstrates this? That would be a very cool addition.
kuhltwo7 years ago
My wife knots like a machine, and I should know, we have 2 knitting machines, I asked her about this raised patterns and she was familar with it, I was hoping to surprise her with it. What I am looking for is some kind of program that can take artwork and make a pattern in excel. Right now we have to do it by hand.
hi, my students change their artwork on excell sheets. we can work this out. send across your artworks to me at, and we will try to change it fopr you. sonali
ERNesbitt (author)  kuhltwo7 years ago
I'm not aware of any such program, but it wouldn't be too hard to develop using PHP and imagemagick. Another idea, Thanks!
BearyAnn7 years ago
This looks great, and so easy. Thanks, I can' wait to try it.
Kiteman7 years ago
Kitewife is 2/3 of the way through a scarf like this - it has a skull & cross-bones at each end.
Kitewife must be fairly skilled to do that.
She is, but won't admit it. It's not her pattern, though, she found it online (I'll find the url later).
ERNesbitt (author)  Kiteman7 years ago
And... Here's the final result from Kitewife. Very nicely done.
(And I've edited the text to include the link to the original pattern.)
Kiteman Kiteman7 years ago
[ Here it is.]
Now there's a site from a cute lass, with some great knitting!
ERNesbitt (author)  nateh2027 years ago
My favorite one that I've seen is the linux penguin on a scarf. You can find it here.
Isn't it Kitewoman? ...unless you're Kitehusband! That sounds... like a honeymoon took a turn for the worse...
She prefers Kitewife - she says Kitewoman makes her sound like a medeival serf (like washer-woman, but not so damp).
Really? I think its more of a colonial washer-woman kind of thing...
Cool, I'd never seen this before. It'd be great for spies...
I have a pattern for this of a stripper on a pole.
theadamlevy7 years ago
This is not even cool, because this is just AWESOME! I love it, great photos, great instructions, I love illusions, nice work.
canida7 years ago
This is neat! I've seen pieces like these before- thanks for explaining how it works.
zaro123457 years ago
This is pretty cool. You should do a hidden word or code in these things. Great instructable!