How to Make an Ugly Christmas Sweater

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Ugly Christmas sweaters are funny and a great way to spread some merriment during the holidays. If you want to give someone an ugly and unique sweater, but don’t want to ruin a perfectly good sweater, make one that has a removable appliqué. Here’s how to craft an ugly Christmas sweater that can be returned to its original pretty condition after the holidays are over.

Select a Sweater

The first step to creating the ugly Christmas sweater is to select a sweater that would make a nice present and can be worn the rest of the winter. Think about the recipient of the ugly sweater. Do they prefer a crew neck, turtleneck or hoodie? Is their favorite style a cardigan, a pullover or a vest? Popular colors for Christmas sweaters include:

  • Red
  • Green
  • Blue
  • White
  • Black


Add an Attractive Decoration

Once you’ve selected an appropriate sweater, give it a small but decorative embellishment that will turn a plain sweater into a fabulous, personalized gift. Here are a few ideas for attractive Christmas sweater decorations:

  • Paint a few glitter snowflakes on one shoulder using 3D fabric paint.
  • Embroider poinsettia flowers or holly leaves around the collar.
  • Attach pearls to the front of the sweater to look like snow.

Design the Appliqué for Removable Tackyness

Ugly Christmas sweaters are decorated with silly pictures of Santa Clause, his reindeer, Christmas trees and Christmas wreaths. Instead of painting, embroidering or sewing an ugly decoration to a sweater, make an appliqué that can be temporarily attached to the sweater and removed at the end of the season. Here are some tips for making an appliqué:

  • Make a sturdy base for the appliqué. Cut a piece of fabric the size of the appliqué and use fusible interfacing to make the fabric stiff and easier to work with.
  • Cut the base fabric into the desired shapes. The shape could be the outline for a Santa or snowman.
  • Decorate the appliqué. Use fabric to make faces, candy canes and other decorations. Give the appliqué dimension with 3D paints, buttons and beads. Add sparkle and shine with glitter and beads.

When the appliqué is complete, it is time to sew it onto the fabric. The appliqué can be attached using hand stitches that are used when sewing a patch on a piece of clothing. Here are some decorative hand stitches that make it easy to cut off the appliqué and not damage the sweater or the appliqué:

  • The backstitch is a secure stitch where the stitches show on the top side of the fabric. It is used to hold fabric pieces together securely.
  • The buttonhole stitch can be used to finish the edge of an appliqué.
  • The blind catch stitch will not show on either the top side of the appliqué or on the inside of the shirt. The stitch is between the appliqué and the sweater fabric.
  • The felling stitch is a slant stitch that is also used to attach appliqués.
  • Running and basting stitches are easy to hand sew and can be used when it is not necessary to have a durable stitch for the appliqué.

In addition to decorating the sweater with a silly appliqué, there are other adornments that will make your ugly Christmas sweater special. Here are a few embellishments that can be easily removed from the sweater and turn a sweater from glam to campy:

  • Plaid is a favorite pattern for ugly Christmas sweaters. On a loose knit sweater, weave ribbons through the holes to make a plaid pattern.
  • Use Christmas buttons and broaches as adornments. These items can be pinned anywhere to the sweater and taken off when the party is over.
  • Deck the Christmas tree on the sweater. Christmas garlands, such as gold beads and tinsel strands, can be attached to cuffs and collars. Small round ornaments can also be hung on the sweater with care.

Giving the gift of a homemade ugly Christmas sweater is a gift of creativity. There are millions of ideas for ugly sweaters but the true talent is creating an ugly sweater that makes the perfect present and can be worn the rest of the winter.

Last Updated: December 7, 2012
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About Coletta Teske Coletta Teske has 25 years' experience in tech journalism, as well as home and gardening topics. She has freelanced for Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, published more than two dozen computer books for Prima Publishing and Macmillan, and worked as a freelance correspondent for West Hawaii Today. Coletta has been an avid gardener since she was 2 years old. While living in Hawaii, she achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a certified master gardener.

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