In DIY, Holiday on
December 21, 2013

DIY Ugly Christmas Sweater

It seems like I’ve heard more about Ugly Christmas sweaters this year than ever before. My husband had the idea to throw one this weekend and my office had a contest for the “ugliest” yesterday (which I’m proud to announce I won!). In preparation, I scoured the racks at the Goodwill and other thrift shops only to come up empty-handed. Sweaters on Craiglist were going for $20 a pop on average and sweaters on eBay wouldn’t deliver on time. Rather than continuing to search, I decided to just do it myself. Who doesn’t love a holiday craft, anyway?

First, I had to find my canvas. I needed something that looked like it landed in my closet straight from the 1980s (think thick wool with lots of pills). I found the perfect cream sweater at a local thrift shop for $4.99.

Next, I needed to find tacky stuff to add to it. The dollar store had an awesome selection of junky Christmas stuff like garland, ornaments, and even a stuffed Mrs. Claus.

Tacky Garb for Ugly Christmas Sweater

DIY Christmas Sweater

You’ll need:

  • Vintage sweater (preferably from the 1980s)
  • Tacky Christmas garb (found at dollar stores and/or craft stores)
  • Needle and all-purpose thread
  • Yarn in a holiday color opposite to your sweater color
  • Plastic yarn needle
  • Piece of felt
  • Twist ties
  • Piece of cardboard or poster board
  • Battery operated Christmas lights (optional)

While your ugly Christmas sweater won’t turn out exactly like mine (you’ll want to let your own imagination run wild), the following steps are how I made my sweater and are merely suggestions.

1. Wash your second-hand sweater. If wool, do not put in the dryer (it will shrink substantially). Once dry, lay out your sweater on a flat surface. Arrange your Christmas decorations that will need to be attached to the sweater. Take a picture for your reference.

2. Place the cardboard or poster board inside the sweater to avoid sewing through the back. Start from the top center and work your way out/down. Tack on any plush items first (in my case, Mrs. Claus) with the needle and thread.


3. Add the smaller items. Tack them with needle or thread or use twist ties to secure them (just be sure to wear something underneath the sweater to avoid poking).

Twisty Tie

4. Add some flair to a solid color sweater with some embroidery or additional stitching around the color or wrists. I added a pop of green to the neck of the cream sweater.

YarnCollar Ugly Christmas Sweater

5. Add a pocket for candy canes. Cut a square out of the felt and sew both vertical sides and the bottom to create a pocket.

6. Try it on and see how it looks. Is it missing anything? Add it! My sweater way missing that extreme tacky factor, so I decided to add Christmas lights. I poked them through the sweater, starting with the bulb closest to the battery pack near the waist so the battery pack could sit in my jean pockets. Each strand had 10 lights. I worked my way up from the bottom left into the left arm. Then I repeated on the other side with the second strand of lights. {Obviously, wearing electricity should be done with caution. Don’t do so if you have a health condition or are pregnant or any other reason you can think of.}

LightUp Christmas Sweater

Viola! A super-duper tacky ugly Christmas sweater than you can guarantee no one else will have!

DIY Ugly Christmas Sweater

I’d love to see your Ugly Christmas Sweaters (DIY or store-bought). Head over to my Facebook page and show me what you got!

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Ashley traded Prada for pacis in 2012 when she became a member of the elite club of motherhood. She is married to her high school sweetheart of nearly 15 years and together they have two toddlers – “Bear” and “Little Man.” She spends her days as a marketing professional and nights writing this blog. In her [not so] spare time, she enjoys reading trashy tabloids, large glasses of buttery chardonnay, and shopping clearance racks.
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  • Reply Leila

    Oh my goodness! How fun! I have never done an ugly sweater party, but I wouldn’t have thought to make my own! I love it!

    December 21, 2013 at 3:44 pm
  • Reply Danielle

    Love it! We were going to make them this year as well but just ran out of time.

    December 21, 2013 at 5:07 pm
  • Reply J Shallow-Miller (@jshallow01)

    Great idea to make your own. i wonder hoe long the ugly sweater craze will go on.

    December 22, 2013 at 9:24 am
  • Reply Alexandria Kerlow

    This is SO awesome, haha. Definitely going to try it out.

    April 14, 2014 at 4:13 pm
  • Reply alona y

    It’s hilarious how expensive ugly christmas sweaters are now at thrift stores or online!! You did a fantastic job, you may have inspired me to give someone near and dear to me the best present they’ve ever gotten! Bwahaha.

    May 22, 2014 at 2:20 am
    • Reply Ashley

      Thanks, Alona! And you can guarantee no one else will have the same one – and possible win a killer “best ugly sweater” prize at a holiday party. 🙂

      May 27, 2014 at 9:53 pm
  • Reply 15 Do It Yourself Ugly Christmas Sweaters - Oh My Creative

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    December 7, 2014 at 3:12 pm
  • Reply Krishna

    WOW, I love the ugly Christmas sweater! Way to have that Christmas spirit! We have an ugly sweater day at school this Friday and I needed an idea! Definitely going to do this!
    Merry Christmas!

    December 4, 2016 at 2:30 pm
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