Ah, the niddy noddy. Possibly the most pleasingly named bit of kit there is. So what on earth is it? Well, this strangely shaped piece of wood helps you wind loose yarn into regular skeins, ready for dyeing or winding into balls for use.
I’ve got an Ashford niddy noddy (they’re the brand that also make some lovely spinning wheels…):
They aren’t absolutely necessary for the home dyer, as you can make do with the back of a chair or a willing/put-upon minion, but they do speed the process up. They’re relatively inexpensive or quite easy to make – you just need the offset double T bar shape for it to work.
The yarn is wound over the ‘handles’ or ‘arms’ of the niddy noddy and the usual circumference of the resulting skein is around 60 inches. Smaller examples are available but these are primarily for little sample skeins. I’ve been using skeined yarn for dyeing, but if you spin your own yarn, then you would wind it on the niddy noddy straight off the bobbin of your spinning wheel. There are lots of helpful videos on Youtube showing the winding techniques. I use mine in conjunction with my swift winder which helps keep the yarn under even tension and this seems to work really well.
If you are dyeing yarn that is already in skein form, then the niddy noddy is used for ‘reskeining’, basically rewinding the yarn into another skein. This can help sort out any tangles and neaten up the appearance after the yarn has been swooshed around in the dye pot or been dangled in dye stock. It also helps to show off the pretty colours that you have achieved, as discussed in the previous post. Obviously it helps to even up the distribution of the colours in highly variegated yarns, but is also useful with semi solids too, producing a more even blend of shade and giving a subtle effect.
And the name? Well, tradition has it that it was used to the rhyme “Niddy-noddy, niddy-noddy, two heads and one body. Tis one, Tain’t one, be one soon. ‘Tis two, Tain’t two, be two soon…”etc. By counting how many times you wrapped the yarn around the niddy noddy, you could estimate the yardage. Of course this depends on you keeping an even tension throughout, but hey, it’s better than getting a ruler out!