Artistic knitter and internet sensation Sam Barsky shares how he found his flow through knitting. He creates sweaters of familiar landscapes and posts photos of himself in front of them. The feel-good effect will leave you all warm and fuzzy.
I started knitting back in 1999. I had wanted to knit for a long time before then, but I couldn’t find anyone to teach me. Until one day, I was at my local flea market and there was a new table there. There were three ladies sitting with their yarn, knitting. I asked them, “Where did you learn to knit? Could you teach me?” They said, “We own this shop and we’ll teach you how to knit for free — under the condition that you buy our yarn.” So I said, “OK,” and I’ve been knitting ever since.
When I’m knitting, I feel like I have freedom. I can create things the way I want to. I had a vision long before I even started knitting, that I could make sweaters with pictures of things on them.
Now, it feels like I have a purpose in life. I’m doing something that the world enjoys and I get to meet all kinds of people, who love knitting as much as I do. Knitting is like engineering, in that I have to figure out new ways to get things accomplished. Very often, I’ll be knitting something and I’ll discover, “Oh! I could also do it this way.” So not only does it give me something to do, but it never gets boring.
I have something to wake up to everyday and something to look forward to. And when I finish my knitting projects, I get to go to the places they represent — though that part of it was kind of an accident at first.
“My advice for anyone out there is always to keep trying, pursue your passion and tell everyone all about it.”
In the beginning, I was just knitting any idea that I liked; anything where I thought, “Oh, that would make a great sweater.” Eventually, I’d go visit the place, and I’d think, “I have to wear this sweater there.” It just seemed like a natural thing to do.
I always take pictures of places I go to. So after a little while, I realized I had 10 to 15 pictures like that, wearing the sweaters in front of the exact places. I thought, “This is a form of art in itself.” After that, I made an intentional effort to get pictures of all my sweaters in front of the places they represent.
That’s when it became a big hit. The first time I decided to do that, I posted the photos in a Facebook knitting group and everyone went wild. It was very exciting. Social media has really helped me a lot. Before social media, the only people who knew about my knitting were people I knew locally. Once social media became big, the whole world knew about my knitting overnight. I’ve gotten so much support along the way, and from the least-imagined sources.
Before I started knitting, I was in college studying to be a nurse. I’m learning disabled, and I went to special ed school. My strong point was always math, and I find knitting is very mathematical. I dropped out of nursing school about a year or so before I would have graduated, because I was having health problems at the time, that were causing me a lot of pain and weakness. It was a very hard decision, and a difficult time in my life.
I had to find something else to do. At first, I was thinking about what I could do as an alternative career. I was looking into all kinds of computer things, stuff like that, but none of it really appealed to me. But after knitting a few sweaters, I thought, “I really enjoy doing this. This is what I want to do with my life.” Having those ladies teach me really helped, because I got one-on-one instruction at my own pace.
My parents, of course, are very proud of me. They cheer me on. They’re my biggest fans, even though I have millions of fans around the world now. But even if no one cared what I did, I’d still be doing this. I did this in the beginning when no one noticed.
My dream is to one day use this for a good cause. I want to somehow help other people in this world. That’s always been important to me. That’s why I was studying to be a nurse, so I could help people. I’d love to help people with disabilities or to help struggling artists find their way.
My advice for anyone out there is always to keep trying, pursue your passion and tell everyone all about it. The most important thing in life is to enjoy what you’re doing. Don’t feel like what you’re doing is a burden; do it because you like it. Try out different things and just see what makes you happy. Don’t worry about it.
And for anyone who is not a knitter — I definitely suggest they take up knitting.