niddy noddy
Sizing Up Oddballs
Part 1: Using a Niddy Noddy




The first, most mechanical yet satisfying way to measure the yardage in a skein is to use a niddy noddy.

This double-armed tool is what spinners use to wind freshly spun yarn off the bobbin. (You can read more about niddy noddies and how they work.) Niddy noddies wind yarn in standard yardage increments, commonly two yards per full rotation.

  
In This Series
  Article Home
  Part 1: Using a Niddy Noddy

  Part 2: Using a McMorran Yarn Balance
  Part 3: Using a Yarn Meter
  Part 4: Matching to Needle Size and Gauge
  NEW: Using a Kitchen Scale

So the first thing you can do with a mystery skein (especially smaller partial skeins) is wind the yarn onto a niddy noddy. When you're done, you'll have a large loop—or hank—of yarn. Grab the hank and count the number of strands you have.

If you're using a two-yard niddy noddy, just multiply the number of strands by two and voila, you know how many yards you have. (If your niddy noddy winds at a different length, say, 1.5 yards, just apply that calculation to the number of strands to get your yardage.)

Winding yarn onto a niddy noddy is also a great way to un-kink yarn if you're unraveling a project and want to a) know how much yarn you have and b) reuse it later. Simply wash the hank gently in lukewarm water and hang it under tension to dry. (I often hook a partially full spray bottle to the bottom of the hank to help straighten out the kinks.)

Tension isn't good for long-term storage, however, because it can cause fiber fatigue and degradation. So once the hank dries, simply remove it from tension and twist it gently upon itself for storage. This is perhaps the best way to store all yarn.

Of course if the yarn is already in hank form, you can get a ballpark estimate of its yardage simply by measuring the circumference of the hank, then multiplying it by the number of strands of yarn in the hank.

Swiftly Moving from Hank to Ball
Eventually you'll want to use the yarn, requiring that you wind it back into a ball. You can wrap it around a chair back (or two), or enlist the hands of a friend while you wind. Or you can be wild and daring like I am and just set the hank on your lap and wind it into a ball v-e-r-y carefully.

umbrella swiftThe other option is to invest in a swift, which is an invaluable—and inevitable—tool for most knitters. It can be an up-front investment, but you'll use it, and love it, forever. (Read more about swifts, how they work, and where to buy them.)