Introduction: Wooden Niddy-noddy

A niddy-noddy is a tool used to make skeins (basically just big coils of yarn). This niddy-noddy was made as a gift for my mother. I was looking for instructions, and could only find them for PVC niddy-noddies. I knew my mum would not be happy with this; part of the joy comes from working with beautiful natural materials, which PVC is definitely not!

There are several reasons for making skeins:

  • You can easily measure out how much yarn there is, for example if you have 40 loops of 1.5 yards each, you have 60 yards.
  • The loose coils allow you to wash and dye the yarn, something you can't do with a tightly wound cone or ball.
  • You can make attractive looking twisted hanks for display purposes.

This is a general guide, rather than an exact step-by-step. It's pretty simple, so feel free to improvise!

Step 1: Tools and Materials

This niddy-noddy was made from beautiful recycled rimu, which used to be framing in an old house. I had a piece left over measuring 28 by 20 mm, about 1100 mm long (about 1-1/8" x 13/16" x 43").

Any similar dimensioned wood will do, it's not rocket science! It should be a comfortable size to hold on to.

Other materials

  • 2 Wood screws, about 45 mm (1-3/4") long (brass is nice!)
  • Wood glue

Ideally the wood screws are similar to the one in the picture. One will act as a pivot, so having the thread start partway down prevents the hole from wearing.

Handy tools

  • Hand saw
  • Block plane
  • Work bench
  • Sand paper and block
  • Drill
  • Ruler, pencil

Step 2: Connecting Arm Dimensions

The niddy-noddy consists of a connecting arm and two cross arms. Basically the length of the connecting arm determines the size of the skein. Multiply the total length of your niddy-noddy by 4 to get the approximate skein length.

This niddy-noddy has a 430 mm (17") connecting arm, and an overall length of 490 mm (19-1/4"). This is quite big, giving a skein of almost exactly 2 metres (2.2 yards). I think a typical small skein would be about 1 m (42"), an average one 1.4m (1.5 yards) and a large one 1.8m (2 yards). But I am no expert!

As you can see the total skein length is slightly more than 4 times the length, because the yarn follows a diagonal path across the niddy-noddy. If it's important to you, you could maths this out exactly. But remember the length also changes depending on how tight you wind it, and also dying and washing can change the length of the skein.

In use, one of the cross arms is at right angles to the other. For this reason the connecting arm was tapered to have square ends. The middle was well rounded to make it comfortable to hold.

Step 3: Cross Arm Dimensions

The size of the cross arms determines how much yarn fits on there. This niddy-noddy has arms of about 300 mm (1'). This fits plenty!

For the smallest portable niddy-noddy I might make the arms as small as 200 mm (8"). But I think 250 to 300 mm is a better length (10 to 12").

As you can see the arms are also tapered, but only on the outside face. This prevents the yarn from sliding towards the middle of the niddy-noddy, and makes it easy to remove when done. A wider, shorter niddy-noddy will need a bit more angle than a longer skinnier one. (If you consider the path of the yarn, it should approach the outer surface it wraps around at approximately right angles.)

On this niddy-noddy the cross arms taper down to square ends. The middle 40 mm (1.5") or so were left un-tapered.

Sand everything so there are no sharp edges for yarn to catch on.

Step 4: Joining the Bits Together

This is the tricky step! We are attaching the cross arms to the connecting arm. One of them will be fixed, while the other rotates. This allows the niddy-noddy to fold flat for storage.

Drill through the cross arms into the connecting arm ends, using a small drill bit that allows the screw to grab. Get someone to help you align everything!

Then drill through just the cross arms using a bit the same size or slightly bigger than the screw diameter.

Finally use a bit slightly bigger than the head of the screw, and drill down 5 to 10 mm (1/4") into the cross arms, allowing the head of the screw to sit below the surface. This guarantees there won't be a screw head for yarn to catch on.

Go ahead and screw it together.

Most likely, at least one of the holes won't be perfectly centred * (you'll notice when you rotate the cross arms). Make this the fixed arm! Rotate it back to it's initial position, add some glue and tighten the screw.

Tighten the other screw so it can still rotate, but not too easily.

All done!

* Drilling perfectly straight is very hard! If this turns into a disaster, you can always make both cross arms fixed and just glue them. You can also make drilling the first step so you don't waste too much effort on shaping if it doesn't come out right the first time!

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