Busy hands, happy hearts: YO Mamas knitters group in fine tune

By LANCE ARMSTRONG, Valley Community Newspapers writer

When one retires and continues life into the unfamiliar territory of having additional time to spend in leisure activities, oftentimes such a person opts to enjoy new or neglected hobbies. And such is the case of a group of retired ladies who meet weekly at the Pocket area business, Caffé Latté.
Pocket area residents Fran Jaksich (left) and Carrie Parker are original members of the local knitters group, YO Mamas. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Pocket area residents Fran Jaksich (left) and Carrie Parker are original members of the local knitters group, YO Mamas. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Calling themselves, the YO Mamas after a type of knitting technique known as a “yarn over,” the group actively participates in various knitting projects, many of which provide clothing for charities.

YO Mama member Diane Denman said that one of the group’s charity projects is assisting one of the region’s medical centers.

“My daughter-in-law’s dad (Danny) passed away from myeloma and so we’re donating (knitted) hats to Sutter Roseville for Danny’s mother in memory of (Danny),” Denman said.

The group has also joined in creating items for American troops such as knitted squares that were donated for the creation of blankets and knitted helmet liners.

Other group projects have included making knitted “market baskets” or shopping bags that were sold at the Sacramento Buddhist Church Bazaar and knitted items for the Clarksburg Volunteer Fire Department Bazaar.

Fran Jaksich, one of the group’s longest term members and a resident of the Pocket area since 1966, said that she has dedicated many hours of her time to creating tote bags for the Shriners Hospital for Children in Sacramento and Maryhouse, a local, daytime hospitality shelter for homeless women and children. To date, she has made about 2,100 bags for this project.

Knit Pickers members (left to right) Jane Nakagawa, Janis Furuta, Sandy Nishimura-Yee and Carrie Parker perform at Caffé Latté on Greenhaven Drive. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Knit Pickers members (left to right) Jane Nakagawa, Janis Furuta, Sandy Nishimura-Yee and Carrie Parker perform at Caffé Latté on Greenhaven Drive. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Consisting of 22 members – their present limit – the group evolved from another knitting group that formerly met on Friday afternoons at the now-closed Pocket-Greenhaven area coffeehouse, Buckthorns, which was located at the corner of Rush River and Windbridge drives.

Another YO Mamma member, Carrie Parker, who resides within walking distance from Caffé Latté, which is located at 7600 Greenhaven Drive in the Riverlake Village Shopping Center, recalled the moment she met the Buckthorns knitting group, which originally consisted of mostly teachers from John F. Kennedy High School.

“One time (in July 2004), a friend of mine had finished (working out) at Curves (gym for women) and we went over there (to Buckthorns, which was located next to Curves) and this lady was doing something really weird with yarn,” Parker said. “She was thrumming and that’s when your knitting and you put a piece of roving in between the needles and then you slip it in (during the knitting process). So, we were there talking and (the woman who was knitting) was waiting there for a knitting group and she invited us (to stay for the group’s gathering) and by the time we got through with our coffee, it was 1 o’clock and we (met the group).”

Soon afterward, Parker joined the group, which continued to expand before breaking off into two groups.

Parker, who carries personal cards that include her name, telephone number, a cartoon-like character of a knitting sheep and the words, “To knit or not to knit, there is no question,” said that with the closure of Buckthorns, the group had to seek out a new meeting place and eventually moved to Caffé Latté.

The Yo Mamas knitters group is shown at one of their latest gatherings. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

The Yo Mamas knitters group is shown at one of their latest gatherings. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Although knitting is naturally the main objective of the group, since it is, after all, a knitting group, music also plays an important role during the members’ gatherings.

Among the group’s members are musicians who perform for their group.

Known as the Knit Pickers, a ukulele band whose members all studied under ukulele instructor Glenn Watanabe at the Asian Community Center at 7311 Greenhaven Drive, these local musicians perform ukulele music toward the end of each week’s gatherings at Caffé Latté.

And all YO Mamas members agree that the inclusion of this music has enhanced these gatherings by putting smiles on their faces through the use of a type of instrument that has a tradition of creating “happy music.”

Despite the Knit Pickers ability to perform a wide variety of songs, there is one song that has become a tradition for the band to play.

Yo Mama members often perform what could be described in their circles as their hit single, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Knit” – a lyrically reworded version of the popular song, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (in Perfect Harmony).”

By permission of the Knit Pickers, the lyrics to this song are presented as follows:

I’d like to teach the world to knit
In straight and even rows
Knit Afghans, scarves and vests and hats
And socks to warm the toes

Cast on, knit, then purl, repeat
My project starts to grow
The needles click, I drop a stitch
Don’t tell, no one will know

That’s the call I hear
Let the world knit today
A call for yarn that echoes on
And never goes away

Increase, decrease, check that gauge
I’m proud of what I’ve done
That’s why I want the world to knit
It’s fun for everyone

(Song ends with repeat of third stanza)

Parker, who Jaksich decribes as the “sparkplug” of the group, said that although most people typically think of women when they think of knitters, history tells a different story.

“Men knitted before women,” Parker said. “Soldiers, fisherman and shepherds were the first knitters. But you know how we (women) are. We took over pants and everything.”

Sandy Nishimura-Yee shows off one of her latest knitting projects, a small child’s jacket. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Sandy Nishimura-Yee shows off one of her latest knitting projects, a small child’s jacket. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

YO Mamas is composed of about 50 percent Pocket-Greenhaven area residents and members from as far south as Elk Grove and as far east as Fair Oaks.

The group’s members note that although spending time in a knitters’ environment is entertaining for them, one of the most important things that they value in being a part of the group is the friendships they have made with other members.

Jeannie Regal, who joined the group three years ago, said, “I just love it here. You get to make products and you aren’t wasting your time watching some stupid TV show.”

And Parker added her own theory on the value of knitting in four short words: “Busy hands, happy hearts.”

lance@valcomnews.com

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