Meet Knitter Sam Barsky, Social Media Sweater Sensation

Barsky's sweaters, which he knits by hand, have blown up on TikTok and Instagram

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Sam Barsky

If you haven’t heard of Sam Barsky, that’s just because you don’t know his name. Odds are you have seen at least one of his sweaters on TikTok, where his creations have gained him nearly 200,000 followers and millions of views. Known for knitting sweaters of landmarks and then visiting them and taking selfies, Sam has posted a mind boggling amount of knitwear to the internet. Upon meeting him, Sam excitedly showed us the sweater he was wearing for the interview, which was covered in a variety of reptiles ranging from dinosaurs to turtles.

Sam’s knitting journey began over 23 years ago when he walked into a yarn shop with the aim of creating the extravagant sweaters he does today. He made a point to wear a paisley sweater to make his intentions clear, but was brushed aside by the owner and told that he was biting off more than he could chew. Sam begrudgingly began with scarves, but it soon became clear that he was progressing extremely quickly. 

He finished his first sweater after nine months, and soon after he completed a multicolor sweater based on a commercially available pattern. Once again, Sam arrived at the yarn store, feeling ready for the next step. However, he was told that he was still too inexperienced to come up with his own designs and execute them. 

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Sam Barsky

Unwilling to take no for an answer, Sam decided that he would need to forge his own path and began to design sweaters himself with graph paper. Eventually, Sam outgrew graph paper and simply began designing sweaters during the knitting process.

The first of Sam’s more elaborate sweaters features a waterfall, waterwheel, and watershed, cast on a backdrop of a cloudy sky. “I was just driving along and then thought of other elements of nature,” Sam explains. Finished in 2000, this sweater marked the beginning of a saga that would span over two decades. 

Sam began making landmark sweaters early in 2001, starting with the Twin Towers in May of that year, just months before 9/11. This sweater has gone on to become Sam’s most viral to date, racking up 11.5 million views on TikTok. After having made several sweaters, Sam decided to combine his passions for travel and knitting by visiting some of the landmarks he had memorialized through yarn.

It just seemed natural if I was going to a certain place and I had a sweater of it that I would wear it there.

- Sam Barsky

To commemorate the achievements of visiting the locations of his sweaters, Sam takes photos in front of landmarks every time he travels, ultimately creating an entirely new form of art. In the early days Sam made a point to try and visit the places that he had already made sweaters for, but now he knits them in anticipation of his trips. When making a landmark sweater, Sam claims “I don’t feel like a sweater is complete until I’ve gotten there.” In addition to replicating famous landmarks around the world, Sam enjoys highlighting the beauty of his home city, Baltimore, based on walks around his locale. A personal favorite of ours is his rendition of an art installation that celebrates and supports those overcoming addiction, known as the Forest of Hope. 

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Sam Barsky

In 2017, the city of Boulder, Colorado reached out to Sam to create special pieces inspired by landmarks in and around the city. Not one to do commissioned work, Sam had to be convinced with an offer he couldn’t refuse. He eventually signed over 41 of his sweaters, some custom made for the city. The sweaters were featured at the Boulder library, and were available to check out in the same way as books. Students and other residents would take sweaters and take their own photos in front of the matching local landmarks. The photos were later compiled into a large collection and gifted to Sam. 

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Sam Barsky

In total, Sam has made 155 sweaters throughout his career, and visited 33 countries with his wife. When asked if Sam would ever consider displaying all of his sweaters at once he swiftly rebuked the idea, saying he would have nothing to wear if he did that. Outside of knitting sweaters for his personal collection, Sam knits baby hats for newborns and sells his own line of t-shirts based on the sweaters. The shirts are intricately printed with Sam’s designs, with every fiber of the yarn visible to the naked eye. As far as what the future holds, Sam is currently working on a sweater of Ellicott City in Maryland. He also  has “a long long wishlist” of places he would like to make sweaters of, with Machu Pichu standing out as a highlight. 

To find Sam, catch up on his TikToks or grab a shirt from his online store.

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