If we can’t get kitschy at Christmas, then what a slice of fun we are missing out on. And, anyone who’s anyone in the world of Christmas kookery knows that the height of Christmas silliness is the ugly Christmas sweater. Every year groups of friends like to challenge one another, throw parties and hold contests to see who can find the worst (or best, depending on how you look at it) Christmas sweater.

Now, the general rule (or it should be) for such events is that the sweaters should be found in thrift stores, denoting that, indeed, at some point someone received and/or wore the Christmas sweater. This is a particularly good policy because it means 1. we are not supporting the ill-advised continued production of such Christmas sweaters and 2. we aren’t demanding the planet keep yielding resources (and digesting waste) from said production. Then, it’s good, clean, environmentally friendly entertainment.

Perhaps the most responsible thing to do after an ugly Christmas sweater event is to return the item to the thrift store circuit. It would poor sports-person-ship to use it again next year. That said, contestants may not want a particularly dashing sweater to go back into the available pool and challenge them in the next year’s contest.

So, what’s an ugly (or even genuine) Christmas sweater wearer to do? Upcycle! Christmas sweaters can be used to create some wonderful and even sometimes useful items.


While the prospect of turning a sweater into personally fitted mitten may sound daunting to beginning crafters, the truth is that it’s not all that difficult. In fact, we’ve been doing step one since before kindergarten: Trace your hand (the four fingers together) on a piece of paper. Once this is done, extended the outline of the tracing 1/2” on all sides. Then, cut out the extended version for a pattern.

Use the pattern to cut out four mitten sides from the Christmas sweater. Put two of the cutouts together with the outsides facing inward, then sew (and this can be unattractive because no one will see it) the edges together. Don’t forget to leave the wrist portion of the mitten open, and it’s worth making a little hem there to neaten any loose ends. Once all is sewn, turn the mittens right side out, and they are done.


Source: Stuart Webster/Flickr


For those who have amassed a notable collection of Christmas sweaters, or who are very patient, it’s possible to cut out patches from them. These patches can be squares (good for blankets) or strips (good for scarves or blankets). Once there are enough patches (one sweater can easily make a flowing scarf), sew them together for a new Christmas-y item. Sometimes an ugly sweater makes for a beautiful scarf. Holiday attire is funny that way.

Gift Bags

Particularly for wine bottles or cylindrically shaped items, the sleeves of an ugly Christmas sweater can be cut, roughly sewn with some yarn at one end, and cinched at the other to create a cozy gift bag. For the really spirited, red sweater gift bags can be decorated with felt Santa belts and jingle bells or green can be adorned as if a tree. This type of gift wrapping barely takes more time than wrapping with paper or organizing a bag with tissue paper, and it produces no waste. The recipient could be encouraged to use it again.

Gift Sack

On a larger scale, the body of the sweater could be used to make a sort of Santa sack to carry a number of presents, say, to a family gathering. In this case, the bottom of the sweater is sewn together, the sleeves are fashioned into a shoulder strap (just sew the cuffs together), and the neck can be opened a little. It’s good for a laugh. Then, the sweater/gift sack can be repurposed again as mitten or what have you.

Pillow Cases

Making some sweater pillowcases can help to tie the holiday room together during the season. They can then be stowed away without taking up much space. The basic process is not unlike mitten making. Cut out an appropriately sized pattern slightly larger than what’s being covered and twice for a front and a back. Put the outsides facing inwards, sew the edges together, then turn the pillowcase right side out. Fashion some buttonholes and buttons to close the open side of the case.

Pet Bed

Picture the aforementioned pillowcase with a pillow inside, the combination supine on the floor with a small, cozy little animal nestled atop it. Isn’t that nice?

In short, while we can simply recycle our clothes, there are many ways to keep that ugly Christmas sweater both providing holiday joy and out of the overstuffed landfill. A good upcycled Christmas sweater project might also be a quality way to commemorate a contest victory. Have fun and happy holidays.

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