What Is Waste Yarn in Knitting? (And Ideas For Using It!)

ball of yarn

What Is Waste Yarn?

Waste yarn is any leftover pieces from a finished project that are not enough to make anything by themselves. This applies to any sized yarn used for any type of yarn work, including knitting, crocheting, or other yarn crafts.

I am a project person, a sewer, crocheter, occasional knitter, embroiderer, and crafter. That means I always have plenty of scraps around my work area.

I’ve learned over the years that these scraps make great source material, a supply of parts and pieces like a carpenter’s drawers of miscellaneous screws and nails. When you need them, they’re there. Without them, you may spend more money and time on small details than you’d like.

Waste yarn is easy to define. But maybe a better name for this article would be “What to Do With Waste Yarn.” If you’re like me, knowing the current price of yarn you may feel a qualm about all those scraps piling up in the trash, especially if you change colors frequently during a particular project. 

Instead of throwing out the bits and pieces, or if you have a leftover bit that can be made into a ball larger than a large marble, keep the scraps in a ziplock bag or other container. I recommend one container for really short scraps and another for the small balls. And here are some ideas of how to use them.


This idea is for those short pieces, 3-6 inches long, that seem to have no value.Plastic or metal yarn markers can be purchased at most stores with a crafts department. But they can seem pricey if you’re working on a large project.

As an example, I made my mother a large crocheted blanket consisting of many motifs, each of which was yarn-embroidered with flowers. Each motif could be marked with contrasting colored yarn to show where to begin embroidering. Just don’t tie these markers too tight, as you must remove them later.

There are other reasons to mark knitted or crocheted pieces. You may be making a repair or other adjustment that requires marking rows. Or you may be adding a different medium embellishment and want to mark so that the addition will be properly centered. A small piece of contrasting yarn can also be used to hold a stitch so the pattern doesn’t unravel in more complicated designs. 

Texture embellishment

Small pieces of yarn can be added to a piece, such as a child’s hat or scarf, just for the stimulating fun of having a tactile surface. Work the pieces into random places as you would work a hooked yarn rug or wall hanging. Random colors and lengths will only add interest to a solid-colored piece. Or create a short, colorful fringe that will make a gift more unique.

You could use this method to add an initial or create an animal outline as well. Yarn scraps can be used to add whiskers to a cat applique or highlight other details on clothing or decor. Trimming the pieces to differing lengths adds even more depth to the pattern.

Scrap projects

Small balls of yarn can be accumulated for as long as you like. I don’t like them to pile up, so I usually use them once my sandwich-sized ziplock begins to fill up. Since one of my ongoing projects is making hats for charity, I generally use mine for that purpose. 

I recommend using similar yarn weights in a single project. However, there have been a few times when I’ve not followed that guideline. If you change from a smaller sized yarn to a larger one, or vice versa, you may need to adjust your stitch count to keep a uniform project size. If that’s not possible to do for your project, then stay with the same weight/texture for the sake of accuracy.

Another suggestion is to use your scraps in tandem with a solid color. The solid color will add continuity, no matter how many other colors you may use. This idea won’t work well with bulky yarn unless the bulkier yarn is your base as you add a very lightweight yarn, such as 1- or 2-weight. Two 4-weight yarns or a 3-weight and 4-weight will work well together and make a hat or scarf extra thick and warm.

Stuffing material

I also save fleece material scraps, cutting them into small pieces for stuffing small crocheted animals or other crafts. If my short yarn scraps begin to pile up, I add them to my stuffing bag. With so much waste in the world, it’s just nice to know I’m adding as little as possible. Fleece and yarn are both soft and washable for durable craft projects. 

Be creative. Scrap yarn offers endless possibilities to an innovative knitting or crocheting artist. Who knows, you may start your own lucrative scrappy trend. Have fun recycling your bits and pieces. Now you have plenty of ideas to keep them from going to waste.

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