Survive the season of festivities by crafting some DIY Ugly sweaters. Learning how to make an ugly Christmas sweater is a good way to relax by making use of scraps and leftover décor to create something quirky and funny. There’s one rule to follow when looking for ugly sweater ideas, ‘you do you!’
DIY Ugly Sweater Tutorial
Take a break from your checklist to unwind and enjoy making a DIY ugly sweater. You could have your best friends come over, and together you all can just have a good laugh while you got through these ugly Christmas sweater ideas.
You will just be needing glue guns, fabric glue, other crafting supplies, and a bunch of random Christmas-themed goodies.
What is an Ugly Sweater?
An ugly sweater is also known as an ugly Christmas sweater and is a type of knitted sweater that is decorated or printed with a tacky, over-the-top theme or design. They might have bold, lasting colors, sewn on ornaments, sequins, pom poms, or anything that is festive and quirky.
The more creative and innovative the sweater decorations are, the better. The more mixed up and crazy the sweater is, the more fun is had by making a Christmas Sweater. It is a way to use up all sorts of Christmas decorations and add some glitter and interesting attachments to your sweater. Think about all the traditions of Christmas, snow, bells, reindeer, snowmen ringing bells, and more.
Ugly sweaters have been around as a Christmas trend for some time but gained popularity in the US in the 1980s.
How to Make an Ugly Sweater
Supplies for Making Ugly Sweaters
What is needed to make an Ugly Christmas Sweater?
- SWEATER: This can be an old sweater from a thrift store. The brighter the color the better.
- DECORATIONS: Raid your Christmas decoration box for tinsel, glitter, felt, Christmas tree ornaments, bobbles, ric-rac, and anything that you think has a Christmas flair or is a Christmas memento. It does not matter if the decorations are old or damaged. They will just fit into the Ugly Sweater mold.
- SEWING SUPPLIES OR GLUE: Craft paint, glue, or sewing by hand and machine will be the method you use to attach your Christmas decorations.
Other sewing materials:
- Embroidery cotton
- Wool in Christmas colors
- Sewing thread
- Dressmaking pins
- Iron and ironing board
Ugly Sweater Ideas & Themes
You may like to have a theme for your sweater, like Christmas angels, reindeer and Santa, cute little gnomes, or a gingerbread house.
You can applique Christmas images using felt or fabric onto the front of the sweater. Add names and writing to welcome the season to be jolly. A Christmas tree shape is always popular because you can decorate the tree design with ornaments on your ugly sweater.
How to Attach Ornaments to an Ugly Sweater?
The answer to this question depends on whether you plan to reuse your Ugly Sweater after the party or holiday season is over.
Step 1 - Plan the Design
Before you start sewing or gluing, lay out your items on the sweater to see how they will look. Go overboard as that is the whole point.
Step 2 - Attach the Decorations
- GLUE: If it is a once-off occasion, a hot glue gun is a great way to fix objects onto a sweater. Apply glue to the item and hold it in place for a few seconds after gluing to allow it to cool down.
- SEWING: If you want to wash and keep the sweater, then you will need to stitch the ornaments and decorations onto the sweater with thread. The easiest hand stitch to is a running stitch which is a simple up-and-down stitch. Even first-time sewers should be able to master this. Heavier glued on decorations may need a few additional stitches to hold them in place.
Step 3 - Try it On
Once the glue is completely dry, try on your DIY ugly sweater.
WASHING - Make sure any lights or items with batteries or electrical components are removed before washing. Some glues may not hold up to washing either.
DIY Ugly Sweater Ideas
Here are some DIY Christmas sweater ideas for you to try:
#1 DIY Ugly Christmas Sweater Tropical
If the dropping temperatures have you freezing and wishing you were celebrating somewhere warmer, then this pattern will hit home. Make and wear this ugly Christmas sweater and make-believe that you are celebrating on a tropical island. You can even make a bunch and host a tropical island-themed Christmas party. DIY Ugly Sweaters from Aww Sam
#2 DIY Christmas Ugly Sweater with Lights
This is such a fun DIY Christmas sweater idea. You will be crocheting Christmas lights onto your sweater and walking around as a festive lamp post. Make sure to walk past your special someone. Who knows, they might just tell you that you ‘light up their world’. Now that sounds like some motivation to get into action and make this fast. DIY Ugly Sweaters from Studio DIY
#3 DIY Ugly Sweaters for Your Squad
If you’re obsessed with playful and ‘candid’ photoshoots, then this picture might have you already inspired to recreate it. The idea behind this DIY project is to host a party for MAKING DIY ugly sweaters and end it off with a photo shoot. You can put together a bunch of random supplies, get some bright but old sweaters out and craft some ugliness. From Jenny Cookies
#4 Tinsel DIY Ugly Sweater
It doesn’t get any tackier and gaudier than this. This idea is one that looks pretty simple to create. You take an older cardigan and cover it in tinsel and other festive yet gaudy décor. Once done, steal the show at your DIY ugly sweater Christmas party. If ugly is the keyword on the memo, all the thunder shall be stolen with this. DIY Ugly Sweaters from Biglots
#5 Snow Globe Ugly Christmas Sweater
Here is an ugly sweater pattern that even a younger one can help you with. You don't even need a needle and thread to put together this clever ugly sweater. You will be needing pom poms to make the globe look like snow is escaping from it. The pattern will show you how to make a working snow globe to add to an old sweater. DIY Ugly Sweaters from The Craft Patch
#6 Children’s DIY Christmas Ugly Sweater
I’m having a hard time calling this an ugly sweater. It’s fun and so quirky, and the kind of sweater that you must sport at least one Christmas. This sweater is really easy to make, and you will only need supplies that you must already have with you at this time of the year. DIY Ugly Sweaters from Amy Latta Creations
#7 Ugly Christmas Tree Sweater DIY
Here’s another quirky idea for an ugly DIY Christmas sweater that will turn heads and make people gasp at your idea. Wearing this sweater, you will be carrying the Christmas spirit everywhere with you. If you like this for yourself, then starting now, don’t throw away any scraps and leftover holiday décor bits – everything is going on into this sweater. DIY Ugly Sweaters from xoxo jackie
More Christmas Crafts
#8 Light Up Ugly Christmas Sweater
The DIY Light Up Ugly Christmas Sweater is bound to get you the award for the ugliest sweater at the party. Accept the tacky crown with the biggest of grins – that’s the whole point of this fun craft, isn't it!? Maybe add some leftover stuff to your footwear and take the gaudiness to a whole new level!? DIY Ugly Sweaters The Samantha Show
#9 Ugly Sweater Ornaments
Ugly Christmas sweater parties have become quite the rage over the years, so if you’re planning on hosting one, then don’t shy away from the décor. When you’re done making ugly sweaters for yourself and the crew, you can use the leftover leftovers to make some ugly sweater ornaments that would be the perfect décor for your party. DIY Ugly Sweaters from Crafts by Amanda
#10 Easy Reindeer Couples Ugly Sweater
Do you and your significant other enjoy wearing couples’ merchandise or do you make fun of those who do!? Either way, this would be a fun ugly sweater idea to make and flaunt with your sweetheart. One of you will get to be the head while the other gets to be the rear. If you’re the one making it, we know who gets to be what. DIY Ugly Sweaters from Instructables
#11 The Applique-Laden Monster Sweater
Here is a somewhat girly take on ugly sweaters. Like the name says, it’s an applique-laden monster sweater, so apart from the cute little monster at the front, you can pretty much applique any and every bit of holiday décor scrap onto this. This could be all that you’ve been looking for in an ugly sweater. DIY Ugly Sweaters from Sweater Image
#12 ‘Ya Filthy Animal’ Ugly Sweater
How many Christmases of the past have you spent watching reruns of Home Alone? Anyway, if you are a home-alone fan, then you might have read the line on this sweater just the way it was said. You can greet everyone at a party simply by pointing at your sweater. It will be such a great icebreaker, and we all know you need those at this time of the year. DIY Ugly Sweaters from Sadie & Stella
#13 Easy DIY Ugly Sweater
Construction paper was used to make this DIY Christmas sweater. This is a great idea if you just need a temporary idea that is fast to make. From Diana Rambles.
More DIY Christmas Sweater Ideas
Ugly Sweater FAQs
What makes an Ugly Sweater a good Ugly Sweater?
The unexpected detail makes the Ugly Sweater stand out in a crowd. Add in anything suited to the theme and add other items out of the ordinary to make a contrast. The Christmas theme can be exaggerated with a dinosaur in the mix or a tiger and a strange alien. The more strange and different, the better for your Ugly Sweater.
Think of different novelties like a squirt gun hidden at the back to squirt water out of a flower on the front. Weird noises sounding out from a pocket are interesting. Add entertaining words that go with the theme. Most of all, cover the front of the sweater with as much as you can to really make an impression.
If you decide to enter an Ugly Sweater competition, then you need to investigate the categories to get the best results. The competition may be looking for the funniest sweater or the most festive sweater. If in doubt, just pile on as much festive decoration as you can.
Do Ugly Sweaters have to be ugly?
The name Ugly Sweater does give the impression the sweater would be ugly, but there are Ugly Sweater fans who would rather take on a more beautiful version of the sweater.
If in doubt, think about the quote from Victor Hugo, one type of beautiful but thousands of ugly. Using the mantra of ugly will give you many more opportunities to look and feel different.
It really is a personal choice, but the fun behind the theme is really about the ugly variation.
What makes an Ugly Sweater ugly?
Making an ugly sweater really ugly is all about collecting random decorations, slogans, and images to add to a sweater. Take an old sweater or get one from a charity shop, and you won’t mind adding on the decorations.
Think of the surprise element too. A Halloween ugly sweater would be such fun to make with a beautiful princess in the mix or a cauldron of pretty daisies. A Christmas ugly sweater with a witch, wearing reindeer antlers would certainly surprise anyone looking at the sweater. It is the unexpected that makes the ugly sweater ugly.
What counts as an Ugly Sweater?
Here are some points to consider for the best ugly sweater:
- Brightly colored and over-decorated.
- Cluttered with all kinds of interesting objects.
- Slogans to read expressing the theme of the sweater.
- An out-of-place icon or motif that looks a little crazy in the theme.
- Over-decorate with paint, craft glued items, tinsel, and even lights if you can add them on.
- Have fun with your theme, and don’t be shy to overdo the decor.
Why are Ugly Christmas Sweaters popular?
Ugly Sweaters are popular because they are a great way to use up all your old Christmas decorations. They make a statement in the theme you are dressing up for and are a talking point at most theme parties. The Ugly Sweater can become the basis of a competition with prizes and a way to show off the efforts made to create the sweater.
What bottoms do you wear with an Ugly Sweater?
The choice is really up to you. The Ugly Sweater party could be casual, and leggings or jeans would do. If you wanted to wear a skirt or make something to match the theme in a bright color, then that would look good too. Keep the clothing simple because you want to show off the Ugly Sweater.
How do you win the best Ugly Sweater Competition?
Winning the competition is all about being the most gaudy and colorful Ugly Sweater. You need to stand out in the crowd if you are competing. The sweater with lights shining or bells jingling is going to attract the most attention.
The competition may have categories for the judging of the sweaters. Make sure you have a sweater worthy of being the funniest or most inventive or whatever the categories may be.
DIY Ugly Sweaters – In Conclusion
Now is the time to make yourself a tacky and super gaudy DIY ugly sweater and not even be embarrassed about it. Decking yourself up in an ugly and hilarious ensemble might just be the hearty laugh you need.
I’m in love with this Christmas ugly sweater tradition, and if you are too, you must put to use all the inspiration you’ve found here to stun everybody with some ultra-ugliness and walk with your head held high. It's the season to flaunt your DIY ugly sweater!