Ugly Christmas Sweater

Create your own Ugly Christmas Sweater

The ugly Christmas sweater is a holiday staple!  The ugly Christmas sweater first became popular in the 1950s.  At the time, they were known as “Jingle Bell Sweaters” and were typically made of itchy acrylic wool and featured festive designs such as reindeer, snowmen, and Christmas trees. In the 2000s, ugly Christmas sweaters experienced a resurgence in popularity. This was due in part to the rise of irony culture and the popularity of vintage clothing. Ugly Christmas sweater parties became a popular way to celebrate the holiday season, and the sweaters were also featured in popular movies such as Elf and Bridget Jones’s Diary.

And today…

Ugly Christmas sweaters are a popular holiday tradition. They are worn to parties, family gatherings, and even work. There are now a wide variety of ugly Christmas sweaters available, from traditional to over-the-top.

These specialty sweaters can be pricey if you buy them at the department store but there’s no need to spend all your hard-earned cash when you can make your own. Let’s ‘tis the season and make an ugly Christmas sweater.  It’s the perfect project to spread some yuletide cheer.

There is no right or wrong way to make an ugly Christmas sweater. Using your Brother sewing and embroidery machine you can add embroidery and appliques to create whatever you find the most festive. I made a Grinch theme using one of my favorite embroidery files, but you can steer your design wherever you want it to go. The best part about being creative is that you get to decide everything about the design.


Brother sewing and embroidery machine
Adhesive stabilizer
Thermoweb Heat n Bond Iron-on interfacing
Sweater or sweatshirt  (I recommend anything gently used from the closet or thrift store)
Holiday themed embroidery design
Holiday themed appliqué design
Old t-shirts that have silkscreened words and text on them
Fabric scraps
Straight pins

As a Brother Sews Ambassador I get to create all kinds of sewing projects using the best sewing and embroidery machines on the market. This post was originally created for my work with Brother Sews. 

Make it:

Prep the sweater by marking the location for the top of the design.

Ugly Christmas Sweater - Measure front -

Cut the sides of the sweater open so you can use add designs to the entire front (and back) of the sweater. Ugly Christmas Sweater - Cut -

Using adhesive stabilizer in your hoop, lay the front piece of the sweater on the hoop. Secure in place.

Ugly Christmas Sweater - Hoop and Stabiliazer- JaneClauss.comUgly Christmas Sweater - sweater placement -

On your Brother embroidery machine, set up your selected holiday design. Start with the main feature of your design and add the smaller components to it. You can do all embroidery, or you can do all applique, but I like the idea of the different textures a mix of embroidery and applique provide to the look.

Ugly Christmas Sweater - create design -

As it’s being laid out, be mindful to leave some empty space where you will add your holiday greeting to the sweater using those old t-shirts.

Start the embroidery process with the main holiday theme. I placed a piece of light stabilizer over the top of my fabric so the design doesn’t pucker.

Ugly Christmas Sweater - embroidering -

Finish the embroidery and add your appliqué pieces.

Ugly Christmas Sweater - adding applique - Ugly Christmas Sweater - snowflake applique - Ugly Christmas Sweater - trim applique -

Ugly Christmas Sweater - finish applique -

Once the embroidery and appliqué processes are complete, un-hoop the sweater and tear away the stabilizer.

Time to add more to your “ugly” Christmas sweater using those t-shirts.

Cut out letters from the old t-shirts to spell out a greeting or phrase.

Ugly Christmas Sweater - cut out ransom letters - Ugly Christmas Sweater - create a word or phrase -

Add Thermoweb Heat n Bond fusible interfacing to each letter making sure to follow the package directions.

Ugly Christmas Sweater - place letters on Heat n Bond - Ugly Christmas Sweater - Placement-

Place the letters on the sweater and iron them on , then top stitch around each letter using a brighter colored thread than the fabric and a longer stitch length.

Ugly Christmas Sweater - Press with an iron -

Ugly Christmas Sweater - top stitch -

Now, add even more “ugly” décor to your sweater by adding some pop-art embellishments using your fabric scraps. I added a Santa hat to my grinch by folding and creating the shape I want from my scraps.

Ugly Christmas Sweater - fabric scraps hat -

Pin it on your sweater and sew it in place.

Ugly Christmas Sweater - embellish hat stitching on -

If you want extra credit, hand stitch pom-poms or jingle bells to your design.  To finish the look, pin the right sides of the sweater together and sew up the side seams.

Ugly Christmas Sweater -

You’re finished. With a little inspiration and some imagination, you can create a handmade, ugly Christmas sweater.  Just put it on and you’ll be ready to sleigh the holidays!

Ugly Christmas Sweater - project completed -

Wear your handmade Ugly Christmas Sweater to a party and add some creative decorations to go along with it!

Jane Clauss is a 2-time Emmy Award winning television host for the Creative Living Show. She is is inventive and creative when it comes to sustainability in fashion, home decor, and tablescaping.

This post may contain affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services that I believe in and use myself. 



About Jane

Hi I’m Jane!
A television host by day and a creative maker my entire life. I spend most moments of the day thinking about what I am going to make next, whether it be in the craft room or kitchen, I always have the urge to create.

My favorite things include fitness, fashion and food and my goal is to spread love everywhere I go. Yellow is my signature color because it always makes you smile, and I love to turn the camera on you to showcase your creative genius!

At you will find projects that anyone can make from beginners to experts. I share step by step tutorials and videos to get your creative juices flowing! I am also peeling back the curtain on other creative makers to showcase what makes them tick!

I always say Happiness is Handmade. So spend an hour a day with me and then go do whatever else you want, I promise you’ll feel better for doing so. I am so HAPPY you are here!

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