Speaking to Broadsheet from his home in Coburg, 33-year-old Andrew Chan says his passion for offbeat knitting began in March 2019 when he started learning the skill by watching Youtube videos.
Chan works as a consultant in the finance industry and the self-taught knitter began selling his creations on a commission-only basis. Now, with thousands of Instagram followers, the fibre artist is casting on and binding off decorative woollen wall art, cable-knit vests and flares, and conceptual (yet still wearable) cardis, cropped vests and jumpers inspired by ocean creatures, forests and memories of trekking in the Himalayas.
“A lot of my clients come from Instagram,” says Chan. “I usually follow them back and do some stalking, if not I get them to send me a photo of themselves. This way I get to imagine that person wearing the piece while I knit.
“I want them to feel like it is made specially for them (and it really is). I also try to dig deep on what inspires them, what they enjoy doing and so on. I’ve had amazing responses so far, from musty books to lichen on trees, potpourri and RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Sasha Velour.”
Chan has a “catty questionnaire” for all prospective commissions – he asks for customers’ favourite colours, size and whether Beyonce is the best ever. (“Yes”, “Obviously” and “100 per cent” are the only acceptable answers). “It’s a good ice-breaker,” says Chan.
Each piece is crafted from sustainably sourced wool, or from woollen items found at op shops and Facebook Marketplace. “I try to use natural fibres as much as possible and only buy acrylic or manmade fibres if they’re secondhand.”
An order for a custom vest ranges from $180 to $250, jumpers and jackets are $280 to $500, depending on the complexity of the item. All Chan’s profits are donated to charity. “I donate most of my profits to Aboriginal not-for-profit organisations, such as Black Rainbow and Yalari,” he says.
Chan’s favourite commission so far was for a chaotic cardigan inspired by “the smell of musty books and Edgar Allan Poe”. Its sleeves are puffed and there are large cable-knit patterns in purple, gold, black and red. The same person also ordered a knee-length chaotic jumper inspired by deceased British painter Francis Bacon.
“I spent a week or two watching documentaries about him and his art to create a piece that was inspired by him,” Chan says. “I love getting challenged by my clients because I get to learn new techniques at the same time.”
The Cat Who Knits accepts commissions from all over the world. He also sells knitwear and other woven tapestries at Rose St Artists’ Market in Fitzroy.
Why the name? “I always joke that I’m like a cat; I love to laze around, be by myself and do my own things,” he explains. “I needed an outlet to channel my creative energy and I found knitting to be the perfect avenue for me.” As it says on his website, “most products are one-of-a-kind and have their quirks. It’s not 100 per cent perfect because I am only human/cat.”