DIY Ugly Christmas Sweater

Ugly Sweater

Megan Graney

Get Tacky

With ugly sweater parties serving as a rite of passage for entering the holiday season, it may be time to retire your worn-out pullover and create a new and totally unique model. While there are many different ways to achieve peak sweater ugliness, consider clearing your Christmas decorations bin of older stuff that needs retiring, and put it to use adorning a plain sweatshirt. Try old ornaments, upcycled gift wrap, and stale candy canes as used here. Or, you can get creative with stencils, glitter, and paint. No matter the craft supplies, sticking to red, green, and gold will give your DIYed sweater those treasured vintage Christmas vibes. 

This project is especially quick and easy, so tackle it in a single afternoon this winter to be 100 percent ready for the holiday season. Just be sure to keep this piece out of the washing machine and stick to spot cleaning as needed—the ribbon and candy components don’t stand a chance in a wash cycle. 

So this Christmas, skip the store and bypass the internet to instead create your own absolutely original ugly sweater to show off all season long.

Gather Materials

Megan Graney

These are the items you'll need for creating the cutest ugly sweater possible.


  • Plain Sweater or sweatshirt
  • Garland
  • Ornaments
  • Gift wrap bows
  • Miniature candy canes
  • Ribbon
  • Fabric paint
  • Glitter


  • Hot glue gun
  • Scissors

Trim the Sweatshirt With a Garland

Trim with Garland
Megan graney

Snip the metallic garland into workable lengths, then measure the collar, cuffs, and hem of the sweatshirt and cut the garland exactly to fit. Attach the garland with hot glue, making sure to add an extra dab or two to secure the ends completely. Fluff the garland to maximum fullness and clear any stray tinsel from the sweatshirt.

Pro tip: Leave a small gap where the garland would meet to allow the neck, cuffs, and hem of the sweatshirt to stretch over the wearer's head, hands, and hips. 

Arrange the Gift Wrap, Bows, and Ornaments

Arrange the Gift Wrap Bows and Ornaments
Megan Graney

Place the bows and ornaments across the front of the sweatshirt, scattering things strategically for that perfectly haphazard effect. Once you have a look you love, hot glue each piece to the sweatshirt thoroughly. As soon as things are dry, decorate the sleeves and the back of the sweatshirt in a similar way.

Attach the Candy Canes

Attach the Candy Canes
Megan Graney

Unwrap the candy canes and scatter them across your sweatshirt. Adhere with the hot glue, filling in the space between the ornaments and bows. For a sweatshirt that’ll last for multiple holiday seasons, treat your candy canes with a clear coat of shellac or clear nail polish before gluing them down. Don’t forget to add candy canes to the sleeves and sweatshirt back as well.

Make Ribbon Bows

Make Ribbon Bows
Megan Graney

Snip a few lengths of patterned ribbon and glue together to form simple bows. Fluff the loops with your fingertips by squeezing them toward the center for maximum fullness. Make plenty of bows in a few different colors of ribbon and set aside for later use.

Glue on the Bows

Glue on the Bows
Megan Graney

Lay the bows onto the sweatshirt, again filling any gaps between the decor. Attach with a bit of hot glue, pressing the ribbon down to ensure a lasting hold. Don't skimp on the sleeve area either—be sure to add plenty of bows to make sure the sweater becomes perfectly busy.

Paint Snowflakes

ugly christmas sweater
Megan Graney

Using a fine-tipped fabric paintbrush, freehand a few simple snowflakes. Sprinkle glitter over top to add a little sparkle, then allow to dry thoroughly before flipping to repeat on the back of the sweatshirt. Not super confident in your freehanding abilities? Opt for a stencil and white paint, or even source a snowflake rubber stamp to apply the perfect shape every time.

Pop It On

Ugly christmas sweater on woman
Megan Graney

Pair your completely DIYed ugly sweater with an understated bottom (nothing should compete for focus when you’re wearing this creation), and maybe a festive headband or Santa hat. Then you’re ready to head to the nearest holiday party to celebrate in style. 

Or, shake things up this December and host your own ugly sweater creation party. Provide plenty of creative craft media and a working glue gun, then encourage your guests to design and create their own couture ugly holiday sweaters to wear all season long. Hot chocolate and holiday cookies make for an extra special night of crafting.