5 uses for leftover yarn tails
When I first taught myself to crochet I remember seeing some posts where people talked about using “scrap yarn” for various projects. In my naive-new-to-crochet way, I ignorantly thought that meant things to do with tails from weaving in ends or maybe lengths of yarn that were slightly longer - eg up to about 1-2 m long. Of course, in hindsight, I suspect those were indications for what to do with several metres or so of leftover yarn from a project. However, I didn’t really like the thought of throwing away all my little bits of yarn, whether really short bits from weaving in ends, or slightly longer bits from amigurumi projects where the pattern recommended leaving a “long tail” to sew something together and I had been too generous with the amount that I left (and still am). Therefore, I decided to find some ways to use up those little bits of scrap yarn.
The photo below shows some of the little containers I have in my crochet bag to hold my scraps of yarn. The scraps are sorted approximately by length though sometimes it just depends on which bag I find first as to where I place my scraps.
Here are a few ways of using these that I’ve found so far. I suspect there will be more blog posts on this once I've found a few more things to do with my scraps (though not of those will necessarily be crochet related).
Yarn tails as stuffing for amigurumi projects
Any little scraps of yarn that are too small for doing anything with (even too short for my yarn needle) I collect up into containers labelled roughly by colour and keep to use as stuffing in my amigurumi projects. It can take a while to collect enough ends to fill an amigurumi project so I often stuff my amigurumi with a mixture of yarn tails and fibre fill. I also have several friends I meet once a week who knit and crochet and they all collect up their yarn tails to give to me because they know I’ll use them as stuffing.
The photo below shows yarn tails used to make amigurumi truck wheels being used as stuffing. In this case, I didn’t trim the yarn tails first but simply secured them on the inside and then stuffed them in before finishing off the wheels.
Yarn tails as stitch markers
Some projects call for the use of stitch markers. I don’t actually own any stitch markers. However, I’ve found that if I have a short length of yarn I can use that as a stitch marker. Generally, I find that a 10 cm scrap will suffice for making a stitch marker. Although, if I'm working with thicker yarn (eg a worsted weight yarn) then I might need something slightly longer.
To add it to a stitch, I simply fold it in half, insert my hook where I want to place the stitch marker, pull through a loop where the yarn scrap is folded.
I then yarn over with both tails and then pull them both through.
The stitch marker then stays in until I remove it using my crochet hook at a later time. The photo below shows a project where I have used several stitch markers and left them in until the project is finished. As you can see, they’ve stayed in quite well. In the example below I added the markers onto the post of the stitch rather than the top (which was where I placed the marker in the first example above) so you can see that they can be used in different ways.
Yarn tails as running stitch markers
When I’m working on an amigurumi project in continuous rounds I like to know where the end of a round is. I don’t like having to count each stitch if I can help it - especially if there are many stitches in the round since I tend to get distracted and lose count. A running stitch marker could probably be done with a small length like the stitch marker example above. However, I tend to use longer scraps so I don’t have to keep pulling my stitch marker up each round or every few rounds as then you risk pulling the stitch marker out and losing your place. Adding a running stitch marker is really easy. Simply place the yarn under the first stitch of the round as you’re about to make it and when you get back to make the first stitch of the next round do the same thing with the longer end of your yarn scrap. Repeat until you’ve finished all your rounds. If you’re running low on your yarn scrap as your project continues, simply pull it through until you have a bit more to work with. The photo below shows an example of a running stitch marker. In the example shown I’m actually not working in continuous rounds but slip stitching to close each round and then chaining up. However, the principle is the same and you can see it almost looks like there are orange embroidery running stitches going up the side of the amigurumi project. The scrap of orange yarn was pulled out just before the project was sewn up.
Yarn tails for embroidery
With most of the amigurumi vehicles I have designed, I’ve added in French knots to indicate the headlights and taillights. I usually cut a 30-40 cm length of yarn (or find a scrap of yarn about that size) in the appropriate colour (generally white or yellow for headlights and red or orange for taillights) and then add the French knots, tie them off and trim the yarn and keep it for use in the next set of headlights or taillights until the yarn scrap is too small for embroidery (and gets used as amigurumi stuffing).
The photo below shows 2 headlights embroidered onto a vehicle I made for a friend’s son for his birthday.
I use slightly longer portions of yarn when making eyes on some of my amigurumi dolls - about 1 m is typical for embroidering 2 eyes onto a doll’s face (at least for the pattern I use). The photo below shows an example of some embroidered doll’s eyes. I have made doll’s eyes using embroidery thread and yarn scraps and I think I prefer using yarn to embroidery thread, at least in this size of doll because there is less filling in with satin stitch to do at the end.
Russian join scraps to crochet with
I'm pretty sure that the reason you would normally use a Russian join in crochet would be for joining 2 skeins of yarn together rather than lots of little scraps of yarn. However, it is definitely possible to add longer scraps of yarn together to make a small ball of yarn. The main thing to keep in mind if you're going to do this is that you lose a bit of your yarn at each end if you're joining it together so you only want to do this with longer scraps of yarn. The other thing to keep in mind is that the joins are a little thicker than other parts of your yarn so you don't necessarily want to do something important with them. I'll be adding a tutorial for doing Russian joins for yarn at some point but I did want to share a photo of something that I made using some longer scraps of yarn (all about 0.8-1.4 m long). I think in the end I had about 12 m of yarn once I'd joined it all together and cut off the little excess bits. The photo below shows the little ball of yarn from joining together about half of my scraps. The variegated yarn was too pretty not to do something with it.
I'm part of a local yarn bombing group in my city called Wooly Riot (I accidentally found myself joining after a friend invited me to a 'stitch in public' event) and we were making a bunting to go up in a local park so I thought that the yarn would be a perfect candidate for making a bunting to add to the collection of knitted and crocheted items for the yarn bombing. The photo below shows the little part of the bunting that I made using the yarn. Unfortunately, the photo isn't great so you can't see the lovely pattern. The stitch pattern that I used was one designed by Dedri Uys from lookwhatimade.