12 Smart Ways to Use Leftover Yarn

wall of colorful yarn variety
Victoria Pearson

Leftover beads, ribbon, yarn, and pieces of fabric from bigger needlework projects all lend themselves wonderfully to inventive creations. One of the most versatile? Yarn.

Even your mending basket will likely turn up a trove of dwindling balls, hanks, and skeins that can be transformed into any number of wearable crafts. Try knitting a statement necklace, a pair of booties for the newest addition to the family, or a set of mittens in color-blocked colors. If you don't knit, weave mohair into a set of small brooches to add to your lapel. But don't limit yourself to recycled fashions. Yarn can also be used to make bags, cards, frames, and even a few easy-to-sew stuffed toys. Giving a gift? Wrap a package with strands of colorful yarn and top it with a pom-pom. Think in terms of color and texture: You can use a fuzzy yarn like mohair to give packages a cozy in-hand feel. You could also combine different yarns for colorful striations—this is put to good use in projects where you would otherwise need to find a yarn substitution.

If crafting isn't a pastime of yours, consider donating your scraps to a church, a retirement home, or a charity that collects them for knitting or other projects. Whether you have a few small scraps or a piling stash of skeins, if you're in need of ideas, there is something for crafters of any skill level. Here, a number of ways to use old yarn to create something new—waste not, want not.

01 of 12

Wrap Gifts


Gifts get unexpected panache when leftover yarn is used in place of ribbon. Wind cotton or wool yarn around presents (solid-color paper looks best) a few times for thin stripes or several times more for thick ones. You'll want to knot strands tightly on the bottom of each box for a clean look. If desired, add a crocheted bow or pom-pom on top.

02 of 12

Add a Pom-Pom

Matthew Williams

Show off these fuzzy tufts' sophisticated side, using pom-poms to bring bursts of color and texture to bedspreads, lampshades, pillows, and more. For your smallest scraps, craft a pom-pom to adorn a knitted scarf or hat.

03 of 12

Decorate with Textile Art


Create a multicolored yarn ball: Knot the ends of your strands together into one long thread. Then wind the thread around a small ball until it's covered, adding more strands as needed. Finish by tucking the remaining end into the ball. Use it as a decorative object on a shelf or desk.

04 of 12

Knit a Pair of Mittens

Bryan Gardner

If you have enough yarn in assorted colors, chances are you can knit a pair of mittens. They come in playfully mismatched color-block patterns and our row-by-row patterns for women's mittens (and for kids) make them easier to make than you might think.

05 of 12

Mark Someone's Seat at the Table

embroidered leaves
Chelsea McNamara Cavanaugh

Guide dinner party guests to their seats—and give little hands a fun project in the days beforehand—with easy embroidered table cards. Stitch each name onto a sturdy leaf (these are magnolia), and let nature's paper spruce up the feast.

06 of 12

Make a Friend


Give a small child a soft and sweet companion. The doll pictured here is made from little more than fabric and yarn, but it's full of personality. Use scraps to embroider facial features: A few back stitches create eyes and a mouth. Make the hair: For ponytails and braids, cut 20 to 30 strands of yarn about 12 inches long. Drape sideways over head of doll, and sew at center (or slightly off center) to create a part. To leave hair long, stitch onto doll across the back of the head. For ponytails, clasp sides, and secure with a piece of yarn; stitch onto the head at that point. For pigtails, braid the ponytails, and secure ends with another piece of yarn. For short hair, embroider all over the head using small back stitches.

07 of 12

Adopt a Pet

pom-pom animals
© trikotri / Yuko Fukui

One look at those fuzzy faces, and they're simply irresistible. Make your own collection of charming critters-plump little parakeets, fluffy hedgehogs and house cats, and smiley Shiba Inus—our favorite is the red panda.

08 of 12

Tie a Tassel


Like pom-poms, tassels aren't going out of style soon. Tassels can be made easily using yarn and a winding board from heavy card stock, cardboard, or foam board. Make them in all colors, textures, and sizes, and they make a lovely pair of earrings.

09 of 12

Customize the Window Shade

Joseph De Leo

The neck on this 5-inch-long linen tassel pull serves as a grip; gold and burgundy threads were wrapped around the neck at the same time to create a striped effect. Pick a contrasting color for impact and a sturdy fiber to ensure longevity.

10 of 12

Pin It Together

Burcu Avsar

Cut several 5-to-6- inch-long pieces of thread. Fold a piece in half; feed through a ring of a charm kilt pin. Feed both tails through loop of thread and pull to tighten.Repeat 2 or 3 times per ring. (For this pin, we did 4 on each.) Trim tassels to an even length.

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Personalize Your Pillows

embroidered pillows
Alpha Smoot

Those handcrafted throw pillows? No need to spend the price for a designer version. Instead, buy a few affordable wide-weave cushions and commission your favorite artisan—that's you—to trick them out, simply by working yarn right into the weave with a tapestry needle.

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Gift Something Handmade

woven bracelets and necklace
Chelsea Cavanaugh

This jewelry can be made with scraps of thick yarn, thread, or cord such as alpaca yarn. Tell recipients of these gorgeously textured accessories that you relied on kumihimo (translation: "gathered threads"), the ancient Japanese braiding technique, to create them.

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