Eco-Friendly Crafting: Resources for Creative Re-Use & Upcycling

Today, we share a few of our favorite tutorials to help you re-use and repurpose what you have on hand. Also known as "upcycling," these creative ideas are a great way to give new life to everyday items. We hope this inspires you to try something new.

Take a look through your WIPs—you might have a few unworn sweaters destined for the thrift store. But what if you could unravel them to re-use the yarn for another project? Hint: A ball winder or nostepinne is very handy for winding the yarns you unravel into balls!

If you have a lot of old t-shirts that also found their way onto the donate pile, why not turn some of them into yarn? T-shirt yarn is great for making rugs, pillows, baskets, bags and more. Click here or watch the free tutorial below to get started!

Fabric scraps can also be used for knit and crochet projects, and Vickie Howell shows 3 ways to join fabric scraps into "yarn" in this episode of Ask Me Monday.

After you've joined your fabric scraps together, check out Vickie's free pattern for a crocheted fabric basket, found here.

Plastic bags have been banned in many cities and states, but if you have a lot of them on hand, keep them out of the landfill by turning them into plarn (a combination of plastic + yarn)! This tutorial shows 3 different ways to upcycle plastic bags into a hardy, waterproof option for knitting and crocheting.

Although newspapers aren't as prevalent as they used to be, this is a fun idea for anyone who has a stack of newsprint lying around that would otherwise just get recycled. This free tutorial shows the step-by-step process for hand spinning yarn from newsprint, or you can watch the video tutorial below (you will need to have a spindle or spinning wheel for this one!).


Thank you for everyone who shared their tips for using up leftover bits of yarn with us—we got a lot of great suggestions! Our lucky winners are:

1. "I tie my scraps into a mystery ball and crochet catnip mice for local shelters." - shared by Orangerussian

2. "I keep a stash of smaller bits for provisional cast-ons and to make stitch markers as needed. Longer pieces go to felting bags for walking the dog." - shared by caffeine72

3.  "I use scraps to tie off sections of a hank when I'm dying yarn with long color repeats." -shared by KittenWhiplash

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5 Clever Ideas to Use Up Leftover Yarn

Whether you're cleaning out your yarn stash, or just looking for ways to use up leftover bits of yarn while spending more time indoors, today's blog post shares 7 ways use up leftover yarn and make sure that no yarn goes to waste! 

Idea #1: Make Wool Dryer Balls

Many traditional dryer sheets contain chemicals and fragrance, which can irritate sensitive skin. Try making your own dyer balls with leftover bits of wool yarn to reduce drying time (wool fibers are able to absorb a surprising amount of moisture!) and also reduce static electricity. Knitwear designer Louise Tilbrook has a fabulous tutorial on making your own dryer balls with leftover yarn. 

Tip: Use our nostepinne to start winding your dryer ball to create a perfect round shape!

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Idea #2: Use As Stuffing

The next time you're run low on poly-fil stuffing, mix in your leftover yarn snippets to fill your toy or pillow projects!

Idea #3: Decorate Gifts

Make pom poms, tassels, or simply wrap yarn around your package several times to add a bit of color to any gift!

Idea #4: Make a Magic Ball

Pick several coordinating colors of the same yarn weight to join together into a "magic ball" that changes colors and textures as you work! Find the free tutorial here from Shiny Happy World.

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Idea #5: Make Do and Mend

Repairing small holes in your knitted or crocheted garments doesn't require a full skein of yarn— typically just a yard or two will suffice. Choose a coordinating (but contrasting) color of yarn to visibly mend your next project; click here for tips from Spin-Off Magazine or watch a helpful video shared by @bookhou on Instagram.

Image source: Spin-Off Blog

Perfect Patterns for Leftover Yarn

There are so many patterns that are written for leftover bits of yarn, many of which are available for free. Here are a few of our favorites.

Free Knitting Patterns

Leftover KAL by Tina v/d Berg is an any-weight, any yardage pattern for a brioche scarf. For those who prefer cowls, check out I Love Trash by C.B. Williams for an in-the-round cowl that you can easily customize. If you have lots of leftover sock yarn, try Dr. Frankenscraps by Fran Singer to make a unique mismatched pair of socks. Keep hands warm with the Drops of Spring Mitts by Quinn Reverendo, which uses small amounts of Aran-weight yarn to create a pixelated design. Mash it Up by Babs Ausherman uses two strands of fingering weight yarn held together to create endless color combinations. 

Free Crochet Patterns

Magic Monday by Brenda Grobler uses fingering weight yarn and several crochet stitches to make a delightfully wearable cowl. Elizabeth Pardue's Scrapadelic Scarf coordinates with her Stripey Mitts pattern to put your leftover worsted weight yarns to good use. The Scrap Buster Beanie by Esther Thompson is a great way to practice a few new-to-you crochet stitches while also using up leftover yarn. Casapinka's Blanket of Calm can be easily adjustable depending on what yarn you have on hand and how big you'd like your blanket to be.

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