While living in Argentina, making friends became one of my main priorities, not only because (duh) it gets lonely without friends, but because I wanted to speak Spanish! In my experience, the Spanish teacher often becomes a friend, because I'm sharing life with them, and they with me. I'm butchering their Spanish language, and they're deciphering my Spanish verbal code...you get the idea. So, I'm paying you to teach me Spanish and receiving basic human needs of connection and validation? Great, I'll take it! I spent the last few months learning from Carolina, going to her house, drinking mate, and forming a friendship with this lovely lady. After having class 2 or 3 times a week for 2 ½ months, we definitely covered a broad range of life topics. You know those days when you are abroad alone and have the day free but wait, you have a Spanish class later? Yep, sometimes the Spanish class saved me mentally.
So clearly she was the perfect candidate for me to conduct my first Spanish interview. (I then translated it to English.)
This is Carolina Dalmastro. My Spanish teacher and knitting extraordinaire.
When did you begin to knit?
I began when I was a little girl with my mother and grandma. I tried it again in high school but because I was left-handed, I quit for a while. My mother discovered a new technique that allowed me to knit left-handed and I began to learn again.
When did you begin to teach Spanish?
I began to teach Spanish in a school in 2012.
Was there a moment when you realized that you could be your own boss?
It was an idea that was growing with time. After I finished school, I was working in an office and realized it was not for me. I worked a 9-5 job and then after work would give knitting or Spanish classes in my home. I was very tired in the beginning.
When did you begin to teach Spanish and knit as your job?
In 2013, I began to teach Spanish at home and sell items such as mittens and cowls for family and friends. I had two students in the beginning and the following year, more students joined.
How do you find your students?
I find most of my Spanish and knitting students through recommendations from other students. I like when travelers live here for more time because then I can pass on cultural phrases, recommend places that I know—things specific to Buenos Aires.
Why did you begin to dye wool?
I began dying wool in 2014, because I had three options for colors. I spent a lot of time researching how to dye other colors.
What do you use to dye wool?
I use vegetables, spices, and dried cochonilla. Cochonilla is exported from Chile and makes a beautiful red color. Also I use a mordiente, so the color will stay.
What do you enjoy making?
Sweaters, but they are not easy to sell. Stocking caps, because I can change colors, textures, and I get to see the end product quickly.
Is it difficult to have a passion for knitting when it is your profession?
When there is a deadline or a project for another person, it becomes work. It is also difficult when I am sick and I can’t work, or something such as this. There is more pressure when you are your own boss—it is your work and livelihood. But, it is much better than being in an office.
Do you know other people that give knitting classes in Buenos Aires?
It is common in (yarn stores) but with an older generation. Out of ten yarn stores, two offer knitting classes, while the others focus on crocheting. My students are all in there 20s or 30s and the majority are women. They knit as a hobby for their children or boyfriends.
What are you desires for the future?
I would like to go to Iceland and learn different knitting techniques. The children learn knitting in school when they are young. It is very much apart of the culture. Also, I’d like to go to Peru or Ecuador because there is so much knitting history and they use indigenous colors. While Peru and Iceland are across the world from each other, they have a technique that looks quite similar. The idea is to travel while working and be able to mix the two.
Check her out at Soy Sauce - Laboratorio de Lanas
Carolina, what a pleasure to spend time with you, and I look forward to your future endeavors.