Niddy Noddy, an Old English Tune and Christ

niddynoddy1A niddy noddy (pictures of mine at right) is, simply, a hand reel for yarn.  The name?  Merriam Webster suggests it may come from an obsolete word meaning to nod to and fro unsteadily.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the niddy noddy was used to the rhythm of a song.  Here’s the song:

Niddy-noddy, niddy-noddy, two heads and one body.
 ‘Tis one, tain’t one, t’will be one soon.
 ‘Tis two, tain’t two, t’will be two soon.
 ‘Tis three, tain’t three, t’will be three soon.

(etc.)

niddynoddy2You can estimate yardage from unlabeled skeins.  First, take a length of yarn and make one complete wrap around the niddy noddy, and then measure the length (LY).  Now take your mystery yarn and start winding.  As you wind on lengths, keep track (by song or some other  method), of how many complete wraps you’ve made (CW).  Then it’s basic math:  (LY)(CW) = estimated yardage/meterage.  (Remember, it’s an estimate and the estimate becomes less accurate the more wraps you make:  You need to keep the yarn under sufficient tension to wrap, and as your skein gets fatter [more wraps on top of wraps], each CW increases slightly.)

niddynoddy3Now you can weigh your new skein and and, with the weight and length, determine how much much yardage/meterage a 50g (1.75 oz) or 100g (3.5 oz) skein would contain.  This allows you to classify your yarn (e.g., worsted, DK, etc.).

You may be wondering where “Christ” in the post title comes in …

daVinciChristYarnwinderOn the left is a picture one of two paintings by Leonardo da Vinci titled Madonna dei Fusi  (Madonna of the Yarn Winder, 1501).  In this painting, the Christ child is holding a niddy noddy, though one of the cross bars is held parallel to the long bar.  (Pic source)

madonnayarnwinderlansdowneOn the right is a second painting by da Vinci, but this time the niddy noddy has the cross bar.  According to the authors of Universal Leonardo, the niddy noddy is a symbol of the crucifix and thus of Christ’s death.  (For a detailed comparison of these two pictures, click here.)

If you like to spin and/or dye samples, a small niddy noddy works very well for making little skeins.  🙂  My grandchildren found another use for niddy noddies:  I caught them playing “swords” (fencing) with them after removing one of the small cross bars.  🙂

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About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
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15 Responses to Niddy Noddy, an Old English Tune and Christ

  1. And, according to my grandchildren, they can double as weapons. 🙂

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  2. Fascinating, I’d want a niddy noddy just for the name alone! 😉

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  3. yarnboi says:

    No, she wasn’t. 🙂

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  4. That’s great – LOL – though probably some might consider the crucifix-dagger a tad irreverent. 🙂 I once read a blogger’s post where she shared her pattern for a “princess” crown for her daughter. Looked just like the lad with the king’s crown, except the princess crown was pink. 🙂

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  5. Was she by chance a spinner?

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  6. And the niddy noddy is so simple, too!

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  7. Not surprising as, per your blog, you’re doing a LOT of spinning nowadays!

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  8. You’re welcome. I first heard about the niddy noddy years ago at a spinning class I participated in taught by Judith McKenzie. Of course I rushed out and bought one! I got the smaller a little later when I was attending a dye workshop.

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  9. And they’re fun to use – especially if you are just skeining up some odd bits. 🙂

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  10. Wow. This is a really fascinating post. I never heard of a Niddy Noddy before. As for kids and swords check out this little chap pretending the church crucifix is a dagger while he pretends to be a King with a wooly crown. I
    http://annabranford.com/making-things/final-fete-post-i-promise-yesterday

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  11. yarnboi says:

    My mother used to call me a niddy noddy when she was exasperated with my much younger self. I suppose I just wouldn’t sit still. 🙂

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  12. Curls & Q says:

    Q – Just wrapped a tiny skein on my niddy noddy last night. 😎 Perfect timing.

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  13. Tracey says:

    I had never heard that before either. That’s very clever.

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  14. Thanks for sharing I had never heard this before!

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