CRAFTS, FEATURE STORY

Here’s How to Make Your Own Ugly Christmas Sweater (It’s Surprisingly Very Easy!)

Ugly Christmas Sweater Day is December 17! Celebrate the occasion by making your own cringe-worthy holiday sweater. In today’s post, I’m going to show you how easy it is to make a DIY Ugly Christmas Sweater for a very affordable price!

Holiday Craft: DIY Ugly Christmas Sweater

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I don’t know why I didn’t think of this for the previous Christmas holidays, but this holiday season I got the bright idea to make our own Ugly Christmas Sweaters (UCS).

Duh, Jennifer!

I was browsing holiday decorations at the store and it just came to me– I could probably use these decorations to make an Ugly Christmas Sweater.

So I hopped onto my Pinterest app to do a quick search to see if other people have tried this, too. And sure enough, many UCS ideas popped up on my feed. (I mean, it’s Pinterest. Fun, silly craft ideas are endless over there, right?!)

I asked the kids if they’d like to make their own Ugly Christmas Sweaters and they excitedly said, Yes!

We headed to our local Salvation Army thrift store to find sweaters we could use for our holiday craft project.

We weren’t able to find actual sweaters so we ended up getting long-sleeve shirts instead. (For Travis’ UCS, I was able to find a really nice blue, fleece sweater, though!)

Then we stopped by Dollar Tree to buy Christmas decorations and a few more craft supplies.

The kids found musical Christmas plush dolls at DT, and they thought it’d be a cool idea to add it to their sweaters.

We also found the Christmas lights necklaces Dollar Tree sells so I bought a few boxes. For $1 each, you can’t beat that good deal!

WHY IS IT CALLED AN UGLY CHRISTMAS SWEATER?

Zhen asked me this when we were working on her sweater.

“I don’t think it’s ugly,” she said. “I think my Christmas sweater is pretty! So I’m going to call it a ‘Pretty Christmas Sweater!'”

Fair enough!

Not all Ugly Christmas Sweaters are actually ugly. Some sweaters can be very cute and stylish, like these cool sweaters at Target!

I read this CNN article on how the Ugly Christmas Sweater came about, and I was surprised to learn the designs of the holiday sweaters weren’t the comical and vibrant designs we see today.

Instead, Jingle Bell Sweaters, as they used to be called in the 1950s, usually had a simple Christmas pattern with geometric shapes.

I actually think the vintage Christmas sweaters are really pretty! I’d love to find one at a vintage store and buy one for myself.

1950s red, turtle neck vintage Christmas Sweater with two white deer pattern
This 1950s, 1960s Christmas Sweater sells for $40 on Etsy. (Photo credit: DoodleVintage)
vintage Christmas sweater with poinsettias
Photo credit: The Vintage Inn/Etsy

UGLY CHRISTMAS SWEATERS ARE NOW A FAVORITE HOLIDAY TRADITION

Ugly Christmas Sweaters later saw a comeback after the release of the National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, starring actor and comedian Chevy Chase.

Now you can find Ugly Christmas Sweaters at just about every major retailer from Old Navy to Target and Walmart. There’s even a popular Michigan-based online company that sells funny holiday sweaters.

People even host UCS parties! While families enjoy wearing their favorite holiday sweaters for Christmas photos.

And with today’s social media culture, Ugly Christmas Sweaters are the perfect Instagram-worthy material if you’re looking for holiday-themed content.

Chevy Chase in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. (Photo credit: MTV)
Kids' Ugly Christmas Sweaters
Zhen and Zechariah cheesing in their Ugly Christmas Sweater they created.

WHAT KIND OF UGLY CHRISTMAS SWEATER THEMES ARE THERE?

There are many types of Ugly Christmas Sweater themes you can find at your favorite retailer.

Some holiday sweaters are cute and funny. Perfect for the kids and family photos, like these fun Christmas sweaters at Kohls (I love this red Llama Christmas vest!).

While other types of UCS can be a little crude with themes that are more suited for adults, like these adult humor Ugly Christmas Sweaters.

These adult-themed Christmas sweaters would be good for an adult-only holiday gathering or if you’re going out with friends for a holiday celebration at a bar or lounge.

Light up Rudolph the Reindeer Christmas sweater
Last year, I was gifted this light-up Rudolph Christmas sweater from Joyin!

CAN YOU MAKE AN UGLY CHRISTMAS SWEATER WITHOUT SEWING?

Yes! You can make an Ugly Christmas Sweater without sewing.

You don’t need to know how to sew in order to make your own Ugly Christmas Sweater. I used my glue gun to attach holiday objects such as the garland, Christmas lights, and ornaments to our Christmas sweaters.

However, there may be some objects that would work best if you did sew them onto your sweater.

Travis sewed the Christmas plush dolls onto the kids’ sweaters because sometimes the kids can play hard. (Parents, you know what I mean LOL!)

We felt the plush dolls would stay on better this way since the kids will more than likely want to pull on their plush dolls.

He also sewed garland onto his Eddie Bauer fleece pullover because he wanted to be able to take it off easily and reuse his sweater for everyday use.

DIY Christmas Sweater Idea: a Christmas tree sewn onto a blue fleece pullover. The tree is made with green garland, a gold tree stand, and a gold gift bow to represent the star on the tree.
Travis sewed the garland onto his fleece pullover to create a Christmas tree design.
I used my glue gun to attach the Christmas ornaments, gift bows, and LED lights to my UCS.

WHAT SUPPLIES DO YOU NEED TO MAKE AN UGLY CHRISTMAS SWEATER?

Here’s what you need to make your own ugly Christmas sweater: a sweater or long sleeve shirt, holiday decorations, fabric glue, hot glue gun, Sharpie, scissors, and glitter.

You may discover you already have these supplies at home. If not, then I would recommend getting your UCS decor at Dollar Tree, a local thrift store, or a community art supply store for a discounted rate.

Materials we used:

craft supplies to make an ugly Christmas sweater
craft supplies for making an Ugly Christmas Sweater

READ: “HOW TO MAKE A FESTIVE CHRISTMAS VASE WITH LIGHTS (FOR UNDER $10)”


HOW DO YOU MAKE AN UGLY CHRISTMAS SWEATER?

The great thing about making your own Ugly Christmas Sweater is it doesn’t matter if it looks good or not because it’s supposed to look silly!

You don’t even need fashion skills to create your own UCS. All you need is a design theme, craft supplies, holiday decor, and a little creativity.

Toddler's Christmas Sweater idea
Little Zaya wearing her Ugly Christmas Sweater that I made for her.
Toddler boy's Christmas sweater idea you can make yourself!
Zephaniah picked out a musical Elf plush doll for his Ugly Christmas Sweater. He said he wanted to add colorful fuzz balls for the snow and gold garland on his sleeves. I also added craft jingle bells to the sleeve cuffs so he could make a jingle bell sound when he shook his arms.

DIRECTIONS FOR MAKING DIY UGLY CHRISTMAS SWEATERS

(There are 7 steps for this craft tutorial.)

1. PLAN HOW YOU WANT YOUR UGLY CHRISTMAS SWEATER TO LOOK.

It’s a good idea to first plan how you want your Ugly Christmas Sweater to look. This way you can decide what kind of theme you want. It will also decrease your chances of messing up your shirt.

You can sketch your ideas on a piece of paper or dry erase board. We drew on a sheet of sketch paper a shape of a shirt and then sketched how we wanted each sweater to look.

2. PICK OUT THE DECORATIONS FOR YOUR SWEATER.

This is also part of the planning process. For each sweater, I asked the kids what holiday decorations they would like to put on their sweaters.

Then I had them show me where they would like each object placed on their sweaters.

You can use a Sharpie to make small marks to remember where to place each item on your sweater.

3. WRITE ANY LETTERS, EXPRESSIONS, OR WORDS YOU WANT ON YOUR SWEATER.

Zhen wanted her Ugly Christmas Sweater to have “Merry Christmas” on it. I used a Sharpie to write the words onto her shirt.


CRAFT TIP: I used a piece of paper to measure the length of the shirt, and then I sketched “Merry Christmas” onto the paper.

I did this because I wanted to get a good idea of how big to make the letters.


3. APPLY ALL-PURPOSE OR FABRIC GLUE AND GLITTER TO LETTERS.

Trace the letters with craft glue. After applying the craft glue to the letters, we sprinkled glitter onto the letters.


CRAFT TIP: I put a piece of a poster board underneath each sweater whenever I needed to use hot glue or regular glue on the shirts. This way the fabric didn’t leak through and stick to the back of the shirt.


4. USE HOT GLUE TO ATTACH DECORATIONS TO THE SWEATER.

I used hot glue to attach each holiday decoration to the sweaters. This included the garland.


CRAFT TIP: If you decide to use garland for your Christmas sweater, then I recommend using a craft stick to use for pressing down on the garland. This way you won’t burn yourself.


REMEMBER– ADULT SUPERVISION IS NEEDED FOR CHILDREN USING A GLUE GUN!

5. ATTACH CHRISTMAS PLUSH DOLL TO CENTER OF SWEATER.

For this step, Travis sewed the plush dolls onto each sweater. He made simple stitches up the backside of the plush dolls. Choose a sewing method that works best for you.

Of course, you can use hot glue to attach the plush dolls to your sweater if you like.

6. ATTACH THE LIGHT-UP LED NECKLACE TO THE SWEATER.

I used hot glue to attach the light-up LED Christmas necklace to the sweater. I placed a small amount of glue onto one side and then pressed it gently onto the sweater. (Party City also has a variety of light-up Christmas necklaces.)

For placement, we decided to put the lights around the plush dolls. Keep in mind, the necklaces are not very long. Get creative with how you’d like to style it, though!

You can tuck the light switch into your plush doll so it doesn’t show or you can sew it onto the bottom inside of your sweater.

Dollar Tree light-up LED necklace

7. HANG UP YOUR SWEATER TO GIVE IT TIME TO DRY.

After we decorated our sweaters, I used a hanger to hang them up so they could dry. If you use glue and glitter, I suggest keeping your shirt flat so the glue doesn’t run down your shirt.

DIY Ugly Christmas Sweater craft idea

Repeat the craft steps above if you’re creating more than one Christmas sweater. This crafting guide may be used as a guide if you are creating your own design.

MAKING UGLY CHRISTMAS SWEATERS IS A WONDERFUL HOLIDAY TRADITION

The kids were so excited to wear their Ugly Christmas Sweaters once the shirts were finished drying!

Zhen asked me if we could make this a new family Christmas tradition. “I want to make Pretty Christmas Sweaters every Christmas!” she exclaimed.

She says this about any new holiday craft or fun place we visit for the holidays. And I always tell her, “I think that’s a wonderful idea, Zhen!”

I just love making Christmas memories with my kids. 🙂

Boy's DIY Ugly Christmas Sweater craft idea
Zechariah wanted a snowman plush doll for his Christmas sweater. He added sparkly, white fuzz balls for the snow and green garland and craft jingle bells to his sleeves.
Women's Ugly Christmas Sweater craft idea
For my UCS, I decided to put Christmas ornaments and gift bows on my shirt. I used an Elf ornament and my light-up LED lights to border the Elf feet.

Hope you enjoy making your DIY Ugly Christmas Sweaters! xoxo


PHOTO CREDIT NOTE: All photographs are courtesy of Jennifer Hamra for Good Life Detroit.

You may use my DIY Ugly Christmas Sweaters craft idea to share on your site, but please provide the following credit: Good Life Detroit and a link back to this post. 

If sharing on social media, you can tag me at goodlifedetroit on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and/or Twitter

For further information, you can email me at jennifer@goodlifedetroit.com. Thank you! 🙂


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