What is a Niddy Noddy and Why Would You Want to Make One?

by Ragtimelil

If you spin your own yarn, you need some way to put it in a skein. You can wind it around chairs, but the niddy noddy is a convenient and traditional tool. Here's how to use one.

You’ve just spun your wonderful yarn and perhaps you’ve plied it. Now you need to take it off the bobbin and either wash it, dye it, or store it until you’re ready to use it. If you roll it into a ball the yarn won’t wash well, dye evenly and, if you store it, the wool will stretch and lose its elasticity. That might be fine if you’re weaving with it, but not so good if you want to knit or crochet with it.

Making Skeins

skein of yarnYou can use two chairs and wind the yarn around the chair backs. You can put two or more stakes in the ground and wind around those. You can wind it around your foot and back up around your knee. Or you can use a traditional tool called a niddy noddy.

This skein has been gently twisted back on itself for storage.

Using a Niddy Noddy

niddy noddyWebster's dictionary states that the term "niddy noddy" came from the motion of nodding unsteadily.

A niddy noddy is traditionally made of three wooden sticks, one center handle, and two cross bars or horizontal ends turned at 90 degrees from each other.




The yarn is tied with a slip knot to one horizontal end close to the handle, and wound down around a lower end of a cross bar, back up to the other side of the top cross bar, and down around the other side of the lower cross bar and back to the knot. This process is continued until all the yarn is wound on.It feels awkward at first, and it certainly will be nodding unsteadily,  but it doesn't take long to get a good rhythm going.

Make a Turkish Style Drop Spindle

So now that you know what a niddy noddy is, and how to use one, you can now learn the song that goes with it. Keep adding one until you have used up all your yarn. Then you'll know how much you have.

Niddy noddy, niddy, noddy

Two heads, one body,

Here’s one, t’aint one,

‘T’will be one, by and by,

Here’s two, t’ain’t two,

‘T’will be two, by and by.



Tying the Skein

tying skeins

The two ends are tied together and several ties are added, usually around in a figure eight pattern. Then the skein can either be slipped off a smooth end, or the crossbar can be completely removed. Look at the photos above.

The most common size for a niddy noddy is one that will give you two yarns with one wrap. There are others made larger and smaller. Some are made very small to make tiny samples so that spinners can see if what they are spinning is what they want.

Make Your Own

A simple way to make one out of wood, is to take a large dowel or closet rod for the upright. Use two smaller dowels for the cross pieces. Drill two holes through your upright near the ends and at 90 degrees from each other so that the crosspieces will slide through.


I made mine out of PVC pipe. You can see that there are four shorter pieces and one longer one for the handle. I have a t-connector at each end. I found that after years of use, the pipes were loosening up. I could have used a bit of tape to tighten them but couldn’t find the tape. I put a strip of yarn in the connector and I don’t pull these ends out. I pull the entire cross bar off each end for easy storage. This makes it a totally portable tool to take with you.

Another advantage of the PVC niddy noddy, is that some like to twist one cross piece parallel the the other and lay the whole thing with yarn still on it, it the dye bath. This saves some steps skeining and re-skeining. I can't say I've tried it but it certainly sounds like it would work.

Have you thought of getting a spinning wheel and relaxing to the feel of wool turning into yarn? There are a few things to consider before putting out money for a wheel.
Is your dog shedding and you wonder what to do with all that hair? Spin it into some lovely Chiengora.
Once you’ve spun your yarn, you must decide whether to leave it as is or whether to ply it. Here's some ways to make two or three-ply yarns.
Always thought you'd like to learn how to spin, but didn't want to spend the money on an expensive spinning wheel? Try learning on a spindle first.
Updated: 09/08/2012, Ragtimelil
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?

Got a Good Yarn?

Ragtimelil on 09/04/2012

You're welcome. Yes, most spinning workshops stop at the spinning part. There's more to do once you've spun your yarn.

BrendaReeves on 09/04/2012

I'm a knitter and even took a workshop on spinning, but I've never heard of or seen this tool. Thanks for enlightening me.

Ragtimelil on 09/03/2012

It is indeed. And rather fun to use.

katiem2 on 09/03/2012

I had no idea what a niddy noddy is and yet now I do. Very cool and useful tool for yarn. :)K

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