I can’t say that I ever participated in the Ugly Christmas sweater phenomenon growing up. Yes, I did DIY a Santa hat with lots of lights for orchestra performances in junior high, but an ugly Christmas sweater? Nope. So the past several years, I’ve seen more and more of these absurdly over-the-top creations ranging from funny to tacky to even vulgar. While I’ll pass on the last category, I’m definitely embracing the tacky and over the top with this pompom laden no-sew ugly Christmas sweater. Let me show you how I made mine and how you can make one for yourself!
Pompom no-sew ugly Christmas sweater
Find a sweater as your base
To make this sweater, you’ll need a sweater as a base to hold all the pompoms.
Any style of sweater will do! You control how many pompoms are on your final sweater, so a cardigan, vest, long-sleeved, zippered style will do. The only thing is that you want a sweater with a reasonably closely knit structure. More open-knit sweaters will be difficult to work with because the pompoms won’t have enough structure to latch onto.
I chose a short sleeved cardigan for mine. It was a little bit too large for me, so I spent time first taking in the sides a little bit and taking in the neck significantly through a series of darts. The more closely fitting your sweater can be, the better because the pompoms are going to add an unholy amount of bulk to your sweater!
Make a crazy number of pompoms. And then make more. And probably more still.
Next, you want to start making pompoms. I found this tutorial on YouTube helpful.
Get ready to go through a crazy amount of yarn. 1 reasonably sized skein yielded between 5-10 3″ diameter pompoms. Bulky yarns work really really well for this. Chunky wool and wool blends are ideal, though I liked the bulky acrylics too. My least favorite were the thinner acrylic yarns, though I used them too for the color (olive with gold flecks!!).
Consider some unconventional places like thrift stores as you’re gathering yarn. I was able to find several quality yarns (cashmere for change!) at my local thrift store and also ReCreative in Denver.
In total, I think there’s close to 100 pompoms on my sweater. I initially estimated about 60, but they really take up less space than you think. The good news is that while this sounds like a big undertaking, it’s pretty mindless work. You can wrap and tie them up in the dark while you’re watching a movie. Trim several up at a time while you’re waiting for water to heat up for your tea.
All this yarn reminds me of my favorite sweater refashion of all time!
Get the pompoms ready
This is a no-sew project, but you’re still going to need a needle with a large eye. An upholstery or darning needle will do the trick. It’s not for sewing, it’s for helping thread the pompoms through the sweater base so you can tie them.
If you made your pompoms the right way, there should be some long tails that survived through all the trimming process. If you cut them off or forgot to put them on, let me show you how to fix it.
First thread your needle with about 12″ of yarn. You want to use a yarn that’s of the same weight or heavier than the pompom itself. This way it’ll support the pompom no problem. Put the needle point through the center of the pompom and pull it through so the yarn is centered in the pompom.
Make a nice square knot (right over left, then left over right). You want to have 2 of these strands through the middle for a total of 4 long threads in each pompom.
Now we tie!
Thread one of the tails through the needle, then poke the needle end through the sweater. Repeat with another tail, making sure that the second tail is at least 1″ away from the first. This will give the pompom a wide base of support. On the wrong side of the sweater, tie a very secure square knot. Repeat with the second set of tails.
Trim the tails on the inside, leaving about 1″ away from the knot. If you want, you can tie some of the tails to other tails from other pompoms for more security.
Add the next pompom right next to the last, covering up all the surface of the sweater. Keep tying on more pompoms until you’re thoroughly satisfied.
Tips for pompom tying
- Use a dress form or a really patient model: It’s pretty difficult to know how the pompoms are going to sit. What’s covered on a person might have big holes when you’re working on the floor. Tying is going to take a couple of hours, so a dress form will really help you see where pompoms are going to sit when you’re wearing your creation.
- Square knot: At some point you’ll have to tie square knots upside down. Some parts of the sweater will just be awkward like that. Be sure you’re still tying proper square knots. I lost a couple pompoms and had to redo them when I accidentally tied the similar but totally unsecure granny knot instead.
Make it your own
The variations on this kind of pompom ugly Christmas sweater are endless. Make it in several shades of the same color or vary several different colors for a colorblocked effect. Or place pompoms at random as I’ve done.
This is not a serious garment! Be as crazy as you want!
The over-the-topness of it all is a bit like this totally 80s refashioned sweater!
Styling tips for your pompom ugly Christmas sweater
- Keep it simple and fitted: your pompom ugly Christmas sweater has a crazy amount of volume. Balance it out with a simple t-shirt and slim fitting jeans or leggings. I’ve paired mine with some olive motorcycle leggings, a cream t-shirt, and black boots. There’s a long necklace in there too somewhere!
- Be ready for reactions: Fair warning–people will want to hug you or poke you/otherwise get in your space when you don a sweater like this. Have a good sense of humor about it and defend your space if it’s weirding you out!
Go big or go home
So while this look is a little bonkers, sometimes it’s okay to go way over the top.
So by now, you’ve got a good idea of how to make your own pompom ugly Christmas sweater. We’ve talked about what sweaters work well for this project, you’ve seen how to tie all the pompoms on your sweater, and now you have some ideas ideas about how to wear it. Whatever you do, own this look, and most of all, have fun with it!
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.