Maryland man knits postcards from the Middle East

Sam Barsky knitter

A middle-aged man with a yen for travel is documenting his wanderlust in wool, designing and crafting dozens of unusual sweaters which he proudly wears in the exact places that inspired them, posing for photographs that are endearing and bizarre.

Spot him standing tall against the Manhattan skyline, celebrating his honeymoon at Niagara Falls, or poised in front of Stonehenge – each time sporting a bespoke sweater to match the venue. He also focuses on Jewish holidays and iconic Israeli zip codes.

See his “menorah sweater”, and catch him in front of the Western Wall in his “Kotel sweater”, below.

Sam Barsky knitter

For nearly 20 years American Samuel Barsky has been knitting sweaters that portray familiar international landscapes. He took up knitting in 1999, and – encouraged by staff at a local yarn shop – quickly elevated his basic skills into personal mission. Using the knit fabric as his canvas, and a colorwork technique known as intarsia, he creates tapestry-like pictures from inexpensive acrylic yarns.

Sam Barsky knitter

Baltimore-based Barsky poses in his twin Passover sweaters “Seder plate” (above) and “matzo” (below). 

Sam Barsky knitter

His private hobby grabbed global notice when he began posting photographs of himself on his Facebook and Instagram. Knitters are a creative and quirky demographic, constantly seeking out new inspiration on visual platforms such as Pinterest and Imgur. Inevitably, Barksy’s sweater-selfies were discovered. Stories about him appeared in the Baltimore Sun, The New York Times, and the UK’s Telegraph, and followers to his social media sites soared.

See him in his Rosh Hashanah “apple tree” sweater and his wife, Deborah, in a matching dress, below.

Sam Barsky knitter

Barksy’s sweaters have been exhibited at Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM), America’s official national museum and education center for intuitive, self-taught artistry. I risk needling readers with this obvious question: are these sweaters “art” or crafty folly?

He’s made over a hundred sweaters without using graphs, charts, or patterns, and each takes about a month to complete. The final garments are shapeless tunics, with variable sleeve and body lengths that fall loosely over his round torso. 

The sweaters do not stake claim to tailoring technique. Instead, his freewheeling designs are testimonies to fun, one man’s two-dimensional interpretation of the joy of traditions and travel. 

Sam Barsky knitter

Pictured below in Ein Gedi, on the western shores of the Dead Sea (probably the only person in a 100 km radius wearing a sweater).

Likely it’s the meta aspect of Barsky’s project that is so appealing. His quirky designs are made more eccentric by his sartorial accessorizing, pairing the sweaters with sweatpants or shorts, knee-high white socks, and a broad smile.  What’s not to love about this man?

He’s even garnered a mystery fan, who painstakingly painted versions of each of Barky’s self-portraits (below).

Sam Barsky knitter

It’s always sweater weather for Samuel Barsky. He is available for speaking engagements, exhibitions of his sweaters, and knitting workshops. Learn more about him on his website (link here), Facebook page (link here) and Instagram account (link here). 

Images from Sam Barksy’s Facebook Page


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