Speaking to...Samuel Barsky

Here at Wavey Garms we love a good knitted jumper. We even made our own in collaboration with AGRKnit which is obviously very banging, as you've all seen. So we love a good knit, and to be honest we love a good knitter. And that's why when we stumbled across our guy Sam Barsky, lowkey one of the biggest dons in the knitting game, we were amazed at his skills with the needle and thread. 

To break it down for you, Sam travels the world knitting jumpers of all the landmarks he visits, then he gets a snazzy photo of himself in front of said landmark so you can admire his handiwork. Simple? Yes. But to be honest his jumper design and overall look in every pic are extremely strong. If anything I'd go so far as to say stronger than anything that modern fashion is conjuring up right now. 

Always ones explore the cutting edge of knitwear, we decided to sit down with Sam and have a chat about how he got into knitting, and his unique landmark based style. 

WG: So how did you get into knitting jumpers? 
Samuel Barsky: I had wanted to learn how to knit jumpers for several years before I learned how to knit. After the first yarn shop I visited taught me basic knitting, the second shop taught me how to knit a jumper.
What gave you the idea of knitting the landmarks you went on to visit? 
I had already been knitting a variety of jumpers for many years that included some famous landmarks. I discovered by accident I liked wearing them in the locations, so now I do it intentionally.

Do you ever sell your jumpers? 
No. It takes me a month to make one. It’s not practical for me to be a human jumper mill. I am hoping to have them mass produced someday.
Do you use a knitting machine or do it by hand? 
By hand.
Ok cool, can you give some tips on how you do it?
I use yarns that resemble things in the real world. I do not use patterns and I estimate where different elements of the design go in my best attempt to replicate the real thing.

So you don't follow follow a set pattern? 
No. I freehand everything. 

How did you learn how to knit? 
I learned to knit from the owners of two yarn shops. Shop 1 I visited taught me the basic knit stitch, useful in making scarves. Shop 2 taught me how to make solid coloured jumpers. I taught myself after that how to make multicoloured jumpers.

Do you plan the design before you go to the landmark, like do you plan jumpers around trips or trips around jumpers? 
At first, I was knitting whatever I felt like, without thinking of whether I would visit the landmark. Today, I knit jumpers in advance of places I have serious plans to travel to, with in mind that I will take my picture wearing it there.

Do you knit a whole collection of jumpers before each country you visit? Like do you bring multiple jumpers with you per country? 
I try to knit as many jumpers as possible for any trip I take. Since I often know about a trip just 1-2 months in advance, I don’t have time to knit that many jumpers. Therefore, I choose which landmarks I would like to cover most.
For example, I took a trip to the Baltic in 2014. I would have liked to have jumpers of many landmarks I saw there, such as some in St. Petersburg. But I didn’t have time to make them. The only one I got done was Stonehenge, which I visited during that trip while in UK. And I already had done a long time before two of the Tower Bridge and one of Cape Cod, which resembled Norway. And I have a castle jumper, which I wore around several castles in UK and Denmark.

The best luck I ever had was with Vegas last year. I booked the trip two months in advance and got 3 Nevada-themed jumpers made. I also had lots of jumpers from the past that resembled Vegas landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower, the Egyptian Pyramids, and Venice. And I had one of the Hollywood Sign and I got to wear it when I went to Los Angeles on the same trip.

What was it like being in Vogue?
It was a very enjoyable and rewarding experience. I really liked meeting everyone who I did, getting to see talent and artistry like never before, and sharing my story and skills with others. It is something I hope to do a lot more in the future.
What's it been like with the media attention generally?
For the most part, life has been like it always was. I still feel like the same person and my friends are still my friends. I spent a little of my time giving interviews and doing activities related to this. And I get requests to make appearances in different places all over the world, which I try my best to fulfil.

I’m still quite anonymous in a Walmart. But the places where I really draw a lot of attention are knitting events. In these locations, I am well known by a significant number of people and get approached by one person after another wanting to exchange greetings and take selfies. Walking just a short distance is an obstacle course of people wanting to meet me.
What do your friends and family think of your knitting hobby?
Very positively for the most part. My parents are very proud of me. My friends all tell me they enjoy knowing a celebrity. They call me a ‘rock star,’ even as I feel like my same old self. For the most part, everyone is very supportive of my endeavours.
My fans are crazy about me. I have lots of people telling me which jumpers of mine are their favourites. Seemingly, every jumper of mine is someone’s favourite, even if I don’t think much of the job I did on it. I get requests all the time to knit all different places around the world.

It looks like you wear the jumpers in the warm, is that why you make short sleeved ones too? 
Yes, exactly! When I realized I could only wear my jumpers in the winter, I had to think of a solution to be able to wear them all year long. That’s when I thought of a short-sleeved jumper. I knew commercial ones existed for women, but I never saw any for men. It hit me at the point that I would probably be the first man to wear a short-sleeved jumper.
Who are your style icons? Like who do you look to for inspiration clothes wise?
I make all my jumpers in a style in which they are practical for me to wear. I have explored the fashion industry as a place to get involved, but what I have found is that what I do fits art more than fashion. I tried taking a fashion course in college one time, long after finishing college, and I found it was not the field I belonged in.

What has knitting landmarks into your jumpers taught you about life in general?
It has given me a desire to come see some of those places. While I have always enjoyed travel, having a jumper knitted of a particular place makes me feel like I must go there. 

Since that is not always feasible in the immediate  future, as some places are very far away, it has made me look for substitute sites closer to home. For example, since I’ve never been with my Eiffel Tower jumper to Paris, I substituted the Vegas Eiffel Tower. I haven’t been to the Mendenhall Glacier with my jumper of it, so I took a picture in front of a waterfall an hour from home. And since Hong Kong is halfway around the world, and I made a Hong Kong jumper after my visit there, I took a picture in a part of Baltimore that resembled it. In a twist of irony, I substituted Norway, an overseas location, for Cape Cod, a place in my home country.

Cheers Sam.

Follow Sam on Instagram here.

Written by: Tom Usher
All photos by Sam Barsky


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