Wilton Historical Society reminds us In colonial times, knitting was taught to little girls as soon as they could hold the needles. Girls as young as four years old could knit stockings and mittens. Women spent countless hours knitting gloves, hats, scarves, sweaters and more for their families. Before they could knit, they had to transform their wool into yarn on a spinning wheel, and then wind the wool into skeins. That was done using a niddy-noddy, like the one pictured above.
A niddy-noddy is a wooden device used to make skeins from hand-spun yarn as it came directly from the bobbin on the spinning wheel. It was designed to measure the length of newly spun thread or yarn. One full winding around the niddy-noddy equaled two yards. Even small children could help with the seemingly endless task by using the simple tool, and reciting this rhyme:
Two heads, one body,
’Tis one, ’taint one,
’Twill be one, bye and bye.
’Tis two, ’taint two,
’Twill be two, bye and bye.
According to folklore, “niddy” comes from a nickname for grandmother, who would often spend a lot of time knitting. “Noddy” may refer to how the grandmother would often “nod off” (or fall asleep) while thus occupied. More probably the term “noddy” comes from the way the tool moved when used — the person winding the yarn would dip or nod the cross bars with an elbow-wrist movement.
The Wilton Historical Society has a niddy-noddy in its permanent collection. The society is also offering Knitting with Marietta beginning March 7.