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OpArt

Knitting
September 2008
DK / 8 ply (11 wpi) ?
20 stitches and 42 rows = 4 inches in garter stitch
US 7 - 4.5 mm
984 - 1476 yards (900 - 1350 m)
This pattern is available for free.

“Optical Art is a method of painting concerning the interaction between illusion and picture plane, between understanding and seeing.” John Lancaster. Introducing Op Art, London: BT Batsford Ltd, 1973, p. 28. The Op Art movement of the 1960s played with perspective in very simple shapes, taking advantage of the way that the brain interprets images. The art they produced created optical illusions, making the flat surface of a painting appear to bend and twist. Black and white were especially popular in this movement, as the high contrast helped make the illusions more convincing.

In this blanket, I have done the same thing. By starting at the center and making increases every row in the same spot, the increases end up making a spiraling square. By making the lines thin at the center, and increasing in width as they move outwards, an illusion is created that the center is further away from the viewer than the outside edge. Pretty cool, don’t you think?

This pattern also appeals to the developmental process of infant vision. Babies are born color blind, and with very poor vision (about 20/400 for a normal infant at birth. They are naturally attracted to high contrast, black and white images, since these are more distinct to them. From a distance of a foot or so, a newborn will be able to distinguish only the larger stripes on the edge of the blanket, with the thinner ones fading away into a solid gray, as the baby matures, the thinner stripes will become distinct. To an adult, however, it’s a fun, funky pattern with an optical illusion of a square tunnel spiraling away. The yarn, Knit Picks Swish DK is a very soft, superwash, merino wool. I used slightly larger than recommended needles, both to allow for severe blocking, and to make sure the blanket wouldn’t be too warm. The breathable, absorbent, and antibacterial qualities of wool make it an ideal fiber for infants, and the fact that it’s machine washable is fantastic for new parents. If the parents are interested in art, vision, or infant development, it’s even better!

This pattern is written for knitting in the round on 2 circular needles. If you prefer, it can be started using double-point needles, or using one long circular needle and the Magic Loop method. However, as work progresses, it will be necessary to use two long circulars to accommodate the large number of sts.

Errata from Designer: Errata:
The smaller size blanket should end after the line:
Work 16 rounds B. 552 sts.

working the additional 2 stripes results in running out of yarn.

Don’t be alarmed when the blanket comes off the needles looking all wonky. It will require fairly severe blocking to achieve its square shape.