Create your own Ugly Christmas Sweater: A DIY Guide

July 19, 2019

Updated Feb 2021

We make a lot of Ugly Christmas Sweaters every year, knitted from scratch on the most advanced knitting machines in the world.  We get hundreds of queries every year asking if we could create a single custom Christmas sweater - unfortunately our minimum order is 100 units.

However, when we started making ugly sweaters, over 10 years ago, we started by hand making ugly sweater so we do know a thing or two about making your own DIY ugly Christmas Sweater.

1. Grab yourself an old knitted sweater that's ready for upcycling / recycling

Knitted sweaters look best when creating your own ugly sweater.  If you have a sweater that's ready for the recycling then now's the time.  If it's damaged / got a hole in it, so much the better - it's going to get uglied up!

2. Get some great fabric glue

If you're a knitter or a sewer, you certainly don't need my help.  For the rest of us, fabric glue is our friend.  If used correctly, fabric glue really works - you can pretty much stick anything to an old sweater and once it's dry it's amazing.

Back when we started making Christmas sweaters we couldn't find anyone that would help us create 3D sweaters so we started by buying some flashing noses from eBay and using stick on velcro and some fabric glue we were able to create a flashing nosed reindeer.

Results are in the short video below

 3. Decide what you would like to attach to the sweater

You can really have some fun with this.  You can grab get some fabric and cut out some shapes (eg. Christmas trees, snowmen, reindeers or something more unique).

I'd also recommend novelty toys.  We started making sweaters because we couldn't find any - one of the most popular sweaters we ever made was "Singing Santa" where we had a Dollar Store novelty toy glued to the shoulder of a sweater.  It's so easy to create but great fun.  The santa sang a song when you pushed his belly which always raised a smile when out and about. If you have an old toy, maybe add some tinsel or some lights.  

It's worth putting some effort in to create something fun and unique - the dollar store is your friend and full of creative ideas.

Key Tip:  Get some safety pins when attaching stuff, particularly to the shoulder.  The glue is fantastic but the safety pins really help prop up and hold funny characters in place.  We always bring safety pins with us when donning a custom made DIY sweater.

Image of a Christmas Sweater with a santa on the shoulder

4. It's ok if your sweater looks terrible (in fact, it's even better)

If you use the glue correctly, the stuff you apply will stay on - just make sure to give it a few hours to dry (can't emphasize that enough).  

The best sweaters I've ever seen are incredibly ugly which is why DIY sweaters are so amazing.  If they are badly made by hand, so much the better.

5. If it flashes, it's great - please add lights

It used to be incredibly difficult to find suitable lights to attach.  Not so any more.  Again, the Dollar Store should have some amazing LED lights you can attach.  You can you oversized pins to attach the lights - it makes it easy to move them around.

If you've got the time and the patience you can even push the lights through the gaps.  If you're more advanced you can, of course, stitch in little hoops to put the lights through but to be honest, that sounds like quite a lot of work.  See below an image of one of our sweaters with hoops to put lights through

Image of an Ugly Sweater with a space for lights

6. Have you thought of going sleeveless?

It's not all about adding stuff to ugly sweaters, why not take some stuff away.  Sleeveless is, in my opinion, very underrated.  We created a sleeveless number back in the day - while it wasn't our best seller, the people that bought them, loved them.

Cutting off sleeves (or a sleeve) can be a simple and easy way to make your sweater super ugly. Add some tacky stuff to the sweater and you're sure to have a winner.

Image of a Sleeveless Ugly Sweater

7.  Glitter is your friend

Glitter is a simple way to bring fun to any sweater and don't use it sparingly.  Tip some of that magic sauce all over your sweater to bring some sophistication to your new favorite item of clothing.  

While it's a nightmare to get off your floor and yourself later, it's absolutely worth the laughs.

8. Let's make some noise - for real

If the sweater lights up, that's amazing but can you really bring the battle home by adding some noise.  A squeaker / festive tune from your sweater can bring your sweater to the next level.

We usually do this through the attachments - either a soft toy that makes some noise or sometimes the lights now play a tune - always look for the noise maker.

Suggestions for some inspiration:

We're endlessly entertained by watching what people come up with on the world wide interweb.  Some of the sweaters are absolutely amazing and the best sweaters are always home made.

When creating a DIY sweater you can get stuck easily so some of the best movies for inspiration are:  Bridget Jones Diary, Elf, Home Alone, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, etc.  Modern Family (in particular Cam) have had some truly exceptional items over the years.

If you'd like to create a sweater for your brand you can always get in touch with us.


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