How can I reuse or recycle small scraps of yarn?

We’ve had an email from Lauren:

I’m a knitter but I can’t throw away the ends of yarn, not matter how small! I’ve got a carrier bag full of ball ends, some a couple of yards long, most less than a foot. Any ideas?

The longer pieces could be used for the inner rings of granny squares if you crochet too or mini-crafts both knitted or crocheted – if you’re on Ravelry, on the advanced search you can specify projects by yardage — I just did a search for projects using 5yards or less, and got over 400 results (including, I kid you not, a penis shaped chapstick holder!). The shorter pieces could be used for the odd few stitches of decoration such as eyes & noses on soft toys or tapestry/embroidery work. If you had lots and lots of shorter pieces, they could be used as stuffing for small toys.

Away from sewing & crafts, I used pretty yarn instead of string for tying up parcels etc and for clothes repair/enhancement – a little colour-clash darning, sewing on chunky buttons or used for adding hanging loops onto scarves/light jackets that come without them.

Any other suggestions? If you knit/crochet, what do you do with your scraps?

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26 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle small scraps of yarn?”

  1. Katie says:

    I like to use yarn scraps to stuff amigurumi toys.

  2. Bellen says:

    Multicolored Fringe or tassels.
    Tie all pieces end to end, then knit or crochet a shawl or lap robe where the
    random colors will be cheerful. Probably could be felted for a more muted look and solid piece.
    As you can do with thread pieces – sandwich between 2 pieces of dissolveable
    backing, randomly sew all over in continuous ‘seam’, dissolve backing and you have a piece of “material”. If done in squares they can be sewn together and can be a pillow cover, shawl, lap robe or lined to make a purse etc.

  3. anna says:

    I love using them for crocheting toys for my cats.
    These are all with different yarn ends in each. I also make other than mice toys – bunnies, carrots, balls etc. The cats love them. And even really short scrapts can be used this way.
    If you have a lot of yarns to use this way, you could donate the toys to some friends with cats, or to an animal shelter.

  4. Leanne says:

    1) You can send them to me! I do a lot of scrap yarn projects.

    2) Use the scraps, holding two strands at a time, to knit squares on the bias, piecing the squares together to make a gorgeous blanket.

    3) Knit small mitred squares and piece together into a gorgeous blanket.

    4) Wind each piece into a single ball, tying each end together and then knit a funky project such as a poncho style caplet with the ends sticking out.

    5) Make children’s cardigans with a bag full of half balls.

    Did I mention that I’ll take your scraps? :)

    mom cast at gmail dot com

  5. The really small pieces are good for nesting material for birds, but anything longer than a foot gets woven or knitted into a scrappy potholder or scarf in this house. If it isn’t co-opted by the kids to make necklaces or cat toys!

  6. Oraxia says:

    Granted, I’m a newer knitter, so I don’t have a huge collection of scrap balls, but I display them. I have a pair of apothecary jars and I’ve been putting my meager small scrap balls into the one (it’s barely 1/4 full right now). I’m planning on putting my large scrap balls (larger than 2 in. diameter) in a basket in the living room and using that as decor, too, until I come up with ways to use them (with the hope that this means the decorative balls will rotate and change over time).

    I plan on using the little scrap balls for toys (amigurumi, mostly), accent colors (fair isle hats or mittens would probably be great for the more-than-a-yard scraps), and stuffing the smaller scraps into the toys. Until I have enough to really do much with them, however, they wait and look pretty in the jar (which keeps dust out). Bigger scrap balls are bigger scrap balls and may find their way into color block scarves and other larger projects, and will probably get used sooner :)

  7. Melinda says:

    I think my grandmother used them all as stripes in our annual Christmas mittens. Thus the mittens were decorated and were easy to identify and thus she used her scraps. She put stripes in hats, too.

  8. wongworks says:

    Make a scarf by just knitting up the lengths and then leaving 2 or 3 cm loose where you stop and start each piece of yarn.

    The scarf (or handbag) will be multicoloured and have lots of interesting loose ends.

    It you have heaps of yarn then you could knit squares and sew them together for a rug.

    if yo have a lot of some wool then make that the background colour and then add rows of the multipieces with the ends hanging off

  9. Kayci says:

    One year my girlfriend and I collected scraps from our knitting projects and put them inside clear Christmas ornament balls. They looked spectacular.

  10. C. Johnson says:

    Yarn scraps can be carded back into fiber and used to make interesting art yarn if you spin. I’ve got a long term spinning project using reclaimed fiber that includes some yarn scraps that have been pulled back apart and turned into spin-able fiber in addition to scrap sewing thread and other odds and ends.

    • I love using yarn scraps in my spinning, but I have found that some commercial yarns don’t card well. The snips and tails (along with my fabric and thread trimmings from sewing) make for some interesting novelty yarn, though!

  11. Su says:

    I absolutely LOVE Oraxia’s idea, about storing the yarn prior to reuse. So much so, that I now have an old fashioned glass sweetie jar full of small balls of yarn & a basket of bigger ones. Just sorting them out for this made me realise that I had enough bits to make a wrap that I particularly like. Also the fact that they are out on display means that they don’t get forgotten.

  12. Cindy says:

    Have a bird house in your yard? Leave a pile of various lengths…the bird will use them for nesting in the spring!

    • Patti says:

      Great idea! I saw a squirrel pulling the landscape fabric from around my tree, that stuff is tough and he couldn’t tear it loose. I ended up cutting some for him and leaving it hang on a branch on the tree where his nest is. He took it up and lined the nest with it. Birds will pull on threads that are hanging on old towels and rags on a clotheslines just to get some nest material. If you clip it somewhere easy for them to get to, they will find it.

  13. Nicole says:

    Embellishments – embroidery can make good use of small lengths!

  14. Petra says:

    This weekend I made some yarn balloons with my children.
    Like this one:
    But unfortunately without reading all instructions on the Internet. 2 of the 3 balloons stuck to the yarn and were ruined. They were made of non-cotton yarn and without covering with vaseline. The last one survived and is very nice. A good project to use up small scraps of yarn.

  15. Medeea says:

    I was thinking of a scarf.

    But I liked so much the kid sweater idea..

  16. Myrina McCullough says:

    Some of the yarn I have gotten in thrift stores (i.e. probably pretty old), is strangely cut inside the skein. Sometimes I end up with 4-5 balls made of one broken skein. Sometimes, the whole skein is in strips of 12-38 inches, obviously deteriorated. My question is: are these yarn strands safe to use as stuffing or has the skein been infested by some kind of moth or bug? If I do use it for an item or stuffing, will it keep breaking and ruin by final product?

    Please answer by email: Thanks.

  17. mary says:

    bird nesting material… this shows a good way to set it up

  18. Kirsty says:

    I noticed some replies suggesting using scrap yarn as bird nesting material. Please please don’t do this. Any yarn, string or twine will end up round beaks, necks, feet etc causing immense suffering and death. I am a wildlife rescuer and I have seen the damage that yarn can cause.

  19. Luke says:

    Knit scarfes, plads, shoes for the dalls.

  20. Jane Smith says:

    I knit blankets for Battersea Dogs home. I use up all my scraps in the blankets as it doesn’t matter what the blankets look like.

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