Sam Barsky is an unlikely internet star. On Instagram with 38,000 followers and growing, he’s not an influencer and doesn’t post bikini shots. He’s better known on Facebook, where he’s frozen the social media platform by maxing out on friend requests—there’s simply no more room. The 44-year-old became an internet sensation by posting selfies wearing his own hand-knit sweaters. And what’s really spectacular is he designs the sweaters himself. Most are of iconic landmarks that he poses in front of while wearing his creations. The knitting world, the art world and the social media world have embraced his talents and unique approach to creating.
Most of Barsky’s knitted art is freehanded, without a pattern or chart. You’d never know it by looking at his sweaters that have images ranging from the London Bridge to the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty.
“If I was going to a place and I had a sweater of that, I would wear it there,” he described. “I wasn’t thinking of purposefully getting pictures, but one day I noticed I had a whole bunch of pictures wearing certain sweaters around what they represented. This was completely an accident.” People immediately noticed. Then, because Barsky loves to travel, he intentionally started posting selfies wearing his works. He’s been to 33 countries and his new career has taken off.
Recently, Barsky appeared at an event in Los Angeles and took the time to visit Malibu as part of the trip. In LA, he was able to speak briefly to The Malibu Times.
The Baltimore native only started knitting 20 years ago after dropping out of nursing school. He took to the craft like a duck to water (which, of course, he has knitted). He soon advanced to complicated sweaters. His first took eight months to knit. His second, five months. Now, Barsky can design and knit a sweater in roughly one month. He’s made 142, and that’s not counting the dresses he knits for his wife Deborah or the many baby hats he knits for charity.
With nursing now out of the picture, Barsky makes a living from his knitting and social media career. He’s an in-demand teacher and lecturer. Over the weekend in Los Angeles, he taught his special techniques and spoke about his art to a group of men and women admirers. He doesn’t answer requests from fans who have offered to pay thousands for a custom sweater, but he has fulfilled requests from the cities of St. Louis, Mis., and Boulder, Colo., by knitting a sweater of the former’s famous arch and making four sweaters that went on display at the latter’s public library that were also available for checkout.
During his trip to Los Angeles last weekend, Barsky and his wife drove to Malibu to visit his favorite beach—the appropriately social media famous El Matador. Although he wore his Venice Beach sweater, he said he would eventually get to knitting a Malibu design.
Sometimes, while taking selfies, fans spot him and ask to take selfies with him as they did two years ago while he was posing in front of the Hollywood sign. One fan, 18-year-old Jessica Menuck, traveled from New York to hear Barsky’s lecture on Sunday. She said the knitting super star had no East Coast appearances scheduled soon. Barsky was on his way to Las Vegas where a company will turn his sweater designs into t-shirts that will be available soon. On his way to Vegas, Barsky posted that he appropriately spent the night in—where else?—Needles, Calif.