Sunday, January 29, 2012

Optical Illusion Cubes

Ok, ok I know it's been waaaay too long since I last posted.  But, once you see what I've got for you I hope you'll forgive that.  It's finally done!!  From time to time you'll probably hear me talk about 'demon spawn' projects.  This is one of those.  I had to do a crazy number of test pieces before I could come up with a satisfactory look.  We're talking weeks of work, which annoyed me to no end.  I prefer it when my ideas work the way I think they should the first time.  Ha!  You would think I would have learned by now that my projects seldom work out that way.  A glutton for punishment, that's what I am.  I would have to be, it's another piece work project.  Infernal stuff, why does it have to look so nice? 

One of my best so far, I think.  Working on this scarf has really gotten me thinking about ways to transform well known optical illusions into something unique and wearable.  The tricky bit is how much effort it takes to keep control of the multiple yarn colors.  I enjoy color work but I suspect the reason people haven't made a bunch of stuff like this is that the level of color work needed is vast and therefore annoying.  I agree, it is massively annoying.  But, if you can survive it, the end product is worth it.  Perhaps somewhere along the line I'll create a better way to handle the multiple strands so they get less tangled without having to keep cutting the yarn.  For that, though, I suspect if it could be done someone would have done it already.  But you never know, I've got a method for color work in double crochet that I've never seen or heard of anyone else using.  Granted, that doesn't mean much as I'm sure there are tons of things I've never heard of out there.  It doesn't change the usefulness of the method, though.  Don't worry, I'll share.  I've not used that particular method in a while but I'm sure I'll come up with something that uses it.  (-:

A few things to know, this is another like the Tim scarf; a little patience and a handful of stitch markers go a long way.  This is not a mile a minute project.  It takes some serious time to make each motif.  I was averaging one motif in 20 minutes.  Did I mention it's only a 4 round motif?  This beast takes some serious concentration.  If you aren't sure you're dedicated or patient enough to make the full scarf you could easily re-purpose the motifs for things like coasters, ornaments, or a small wall hanging.  If you try the coaster route you may want to add a solid color round for edging and to make it a little bigger.  Unlike the Tim scarf though, the truly masochistic crafter could, if they wanted, make this one into an afghan (it won't work with the spiral motifs from Tim; pentagons don't work for a flat piece without extra bits).  I am seriously considering doing just that but I'm not sure I could make that many of these motifs without losing what's left of my mind.   But doesn't it look neat?

The other important thing to keep in mind with this pattern is how you handle the multiple colors of yarn.  To save you the trouble of trying it, I took a picture of what the back of the work looks like if you carry the yarn along as you go versus the front and back of a piece worked with the colors being broken off as you go.

Motif with carried yarn.  It looks disappointing to me, wouldn't you agree?

There really is no comparison.  You can carry the colors, but your scarf will not be truly reversible.  But enough of my rambling, I know you're all eagerly awaiting the pattern.

Optical Illusion Cubes Scarf

Vanna's choice in three colors, about 105 yards each (that's a bit less than a full ball).  I used White (A), Blue (B), and Purple (C)
J hook
6 stitch markers (this project is like the Tim scarf, stitch markers are really super necessary)

Each motif should measure about 3 inches across.

You need to know how to change colors of yarn for this.  The color work is a bit of a pain, what with breaking the yarn repeatedly and weaving the multitude of ends, but makes it look really nice and keeps it fully reversible. See the pictures above for reference.

Break the yarn after each color change and don't carry the tail forward under the next color.  You'll weave the ends back into the same color so there is no cross contamination in any of the sections.  This will keep the scarf fully reversible.

A few notes before you begin.  Use stitch markers.  I really can't stress that enough.  You have to really watch this one to make sure that it doesn't start to curl up on you as it gets larger and the multicolor thing makes it surprisingly hard to track where you are.  Make sure 3 of your markers are directly over color changes and that the other 3 are evenly spaced between them.  If they aren't lined up correctly the illusion won't work.  Should you find that your markers are off, adjust the increase points accordingly to make sure they line up correctly.  Also, be aware of the pattern when you weave in ends.  Pulling the yarn through too tightly will change the shape of the motif and spoil the illusion.  You may also see small gaps where the color changes happen.  You can minimize the appearance of gaps when you weave in the ends by taking the tail through where the stitches were formed.

Optical Cube Pattern
Make 33

With A ch2,
Round 1: Work 2 sc in the first chain, change to B and work 2 sc, change to C and work 2 sc
Round 2: Continuing in C work 1 sc in the first A sc (you will see the chain from the previous row, skip it and work only in the sc sts), change to A, ch 1, PM in the ch 1, sc in same space(increase made).  Sc, ch1, PM in ch 1, sc in the next st (increase made).  Sc in the first B sc, change to B, ch 1, PM in ch 1, sc in same space (increase made).  Sc, ch1, PM in ch 1, sc in the next st (increase made). Sc in the first C sc, change to C, ch 1, PM in ch1, sc in same space (increase made).  Sc, ch1, PM in ch 1, sc in the next st (increase made).  Join with a slst to the final color C st and break the yarn.  You'll have a total of 6 increase points with two sts between them. Move the markers up each row as you make the increases.

Before moving on to the next step I highly recommend that you weave in ends.  It will help maintain the shape of the piece and prevent gaps in the work. 

Round 3:  Join B to the center increase in color C of round 2 (shown above).  Ch 1, sc in the join and sc to  the first marker (2 sc).  Sc, ch1, sc in the marked st.  Work in sc to the next increase point (should be the center increase of color A). 1 sc in the marked st, change to C, ch 1, sc also in the marked st.  Sc to the next marker.  Sc, ch 1, sc in the marked st.  Work in sc to the next increase point (center increase of color B).  1 sc in the marked st, change to A, ch 1, sc in the marked st.  Sc to the next marker.  Sc, ch 1, sc, in the marked st.  Continue sc in A to where B was joined.  1 sc in the same st as the join, then slst  color A to the first sc of color B.  Break yarn.
Round 4:  Repeat round 3, with 4 sts between markers, and weave in ends.


Set the motifs out in the pattern shown below.  Sew them together using purple on blue/purple and purple/white seams and use blue on the blue/white seams.  Be mindful of the points when you sew, making sure the pieces meet as squarely as possible.


  1. this is so neat! thank you for sharing the tutorial on how to make this. love your blog.

  2. This is an awesome pattern! I'm currently doing the math to figure out how many motifs would be needed to make this an afghan.

  3. Hi Melissa, this is so pretty, and I'm like Caderyn, as soon as I saw it I started thinking afghan.
    Thanks so much for sharing your pattern.
    Lisa in Alabama

  4. Have you tried turning the motif to the 'wrong' side every round? Of course there is no wrong side if you do that but you might be able to save yourself a few cuts and weavings in of yarn: pulling thru the last two loops before switching colors, pull thru the old color you are going to stop using and the new color that you are starting. Then drop the old color loop, save with a marker or safety pin, let it hang there waiting for you to come back around and proceed with the new color.

    I haven't tried this in the round but I've done it successfully in crochet 'intarsia' in the back and forth mode. You may or may not benefit from turning the work: it might work out just fine if you keep one side as 'right' side and the other as wrong.