How to Make a Holiday Sweater (Quickly)

The only reason I’ve stalled on knitting a sweater is the time commitment, but that’s precisely why I find the holiday sweater so intriguing. It’s the perfect opportunity to use my crafting skills to make a fun outfit I’m happy to wear just once a year. The secret is to make a holiday sweater quickly. I don’t have enough time before the holidays to start to knit a whole sweater, so I’ve come up with small, speedy projects to affix to a thrift-store find.

My first attempt to make a holiday sweater was as gift for my sister. She wore it to the family Hanukah party for her entrance and a whole 5 minutes afterward. In her defense, I made it with on-sale party supplies and attached it all with a hot glue gun, so the fact that she wore it out of the house is incredibly kind. Thankfully, I’ve learned from my experiences and have since learned to knit, so my goal is to make a holiday sweater worth real merit the second time around.

How to make a holiday sweater:

Step 1: Pick your base.

I suggest visiting a Goodwill or other thrift shop; there you can find a sweatshirt to adorn or a great knit sweater to add your crafty touch to.

Step 2: Make a plan.

Draw out your ideas, or test the arrangements on the sweater before you affix them. Hot glue is almost impossible to get out if you decide to move something.

Step 3: Nail it down.

Use a hot-glue gun or handsew your embellishments on. Both work great, but depend heavily on the aesthetic you’re going for.

Decorating Ideas

AlterKnit Stitch Dictionary

The Alterknit Stitch Dictionary by Andrea Rangel has 200 new motifs in stranded colorwork; it’s perfect for a creative knitter looking for fresh and imaginative motifs.

1. swatches

Affix old swatches in a pattern on the sweater (like a patchwork tree), or use them to make borders and edgings. Use up old swatches or practice your colorwork with the Alterknit Stitch Dictionary.

Take it from us – your yarn leftovers could lead to this! And all of it would look great on a holiday sweater, right?

2. 3-D objects

You can add just about anything onto your sweater: ornaments, small stuffed animals, toys, and even holiday décor like garland and bows. You can make them yourself or purchase premade items from a party supply or hobby store.

3. leftover yarn

Embroider, make pom-poms, or use duplicate stitch for quick colorwork.

The Mini Sock Yarn Sweaters pattern by Janet McMahon is knit in one piece from the top down; it’s a perfect project to use up leftover sock (or any) yarn.

4. knitted or crocheted ornaments or tiny sweaters

Turn your whole sweater into a holiday tree, or be the ghost of sweaters past (knit some tiny unfinished sweaters). Bonus: you get to add the ornaments you like best to your home decorations.

The Felted Holiday Ornaments patterns by Colette Smith are delightful gingerbread people, Christmas trees, and an ornament.

5. felting

You can felt flat masterpieces or craft 3-D embellishments for the sleeves and neckline. Learn how to felt!

Just keep in mind: It’s called “ugly holiday sweater” for a reason. You don’t make a holiday sweater to make it perfect; you’re gluing things to a sweater. It’s about having fun making it and wearing it.

Have any of you made a holiday sweater? How did it turn out? Let us know in the comments, or show us on Instagram @InterweaveCraft or Facebook!

Happy holidays,


Check out these perfect after-holiday projects.

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