Refashion 'Ugly' Christmas Sweater into a Cute 'Ugly' Christmas Sweater

California Issued Stay At Home Orders

The thrift stores in my area are still open. Management monitors the number of people in the stores, so it's never crowded. And lots of people staying home.

I don't leave my house unless it's for a thrifting foray or grocery shopping. I am limiting my exposure overall, but still at risk right? I wear 2 masks, and refuse to get my hands anywhere near my face. And douse my hands in sanitizer all the time...when I get into the store, to apply to the shopping cart, before I open my purse, and after I pay, before I put my hands on the steering wheel.

Technically, I am at some medical risk just based on my age. But overall I am healthy--no breathing issues, no allergies, no high blood pressure, and no cholesterol...and not overweight per the health standards--but I did put on 10 lbs. during these past 10 months and want to lose the 'vanity weight'.

Based on my medical chart (now you know it!), I feel comfortable rolling the dice and do my best at great hygiene and try to avoid getting Covid. And if I did, crossing my fingers that my body can handle it. But we don't really know? Do we?

My Husband said My Sweater is Ugly

After I came home from thrifting today, I scrubbed my hands as if I were going into surgery. Following my home-grown aseptic, I took that towel I wiped my hands, dropped it off in the laundry room and finally sat down with my husband and daughter for dinner.

I work up an appetite when I thrift!

Today I put a little effort into dressing up in my latest creation: an Upcycled 'Ugly' Christmas Sweater into a CUTE "Ugly" Christmas Sweater. When I sat down at the table I asked my family how they liked my new sweater!

First words out of my husband:

"That's a really Ugly Sweater"

Daughter chimes in:

"Yeah, mom, it's really Ugly"

My reply:

"Then I did my job! It's supposed to be Ugly....

,,,you should have seen it before I Upcycled it!"


Ok, so let's just jump into my Upcycle.

Below, I present 'The Before'--an Ugly Christmas sweater. And what's really ironic, is that I actually bought it because I LIKED IT! But did I like it because it was Ugly? No, I bought it because I LOVED the Poinsettias and the Vintage Santa.

This charming (and I am being genuine) sweater is actually a super long sweatshirt? (weird length), Has a 'mock' turtleneck--maybe this was an 80's sweatshirt?? The sweatshirt itself was high-quality Hanes Brand--nice and thick. And the inner fleece was fluffy still, not matted--to me this meant it was either worn once or never worn. Hand-created. not a commercially made 'wanna-be' Ugly sweater. SOLD!

The motifs were cut out from holiday fabric, backed with Iron-on interfacing, and then tastefully glued down with gold glitter glue on the poinsettias and that pearlized white glitter glue on the white snow part of the Santa.

I thought the whole thing was stinkin' cute. But as they say, my tomato is your tomahtoh. Or beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I have never worn an Ugly Sweater as fashion, but with my Upcycling skills, I thought at the very least, I could Refashion Ugly into 'Less Ugly' or even "Cute Ugly'.

Ok, it does not look too impressive in this mirror shot (below), but give me a moment to explain what I did, and maybe we can agree at the very end, that at the very least, I elevated the look of this sweater--LOL!

Step 1--Decide What To Do

  • Think what to do.

  • Think what to do.

  • Think what to do.

At this point, I still had no idea how I was going to Refashion this sweatshirt. I knew for sure the sweater needed to be re-sized. With 5 years of Costume Design under my belt, I can re-size armholes with my eyes closed. This wasn't something I learned over night, rather an altering skill I honed after many frustrating attempts when making my colonial jackets for my local historic costume rental business

Step 2--Remove Sleeves

  • Cut with scissors or use a seam ripper to remove sleeves.

First step, I needed to remove the sleeves so I could work on those armholes. As you can see in the picture below, the shoulders are way too big for me--as sweatshirts normally fit--it's a sweatshirt's style right?: comfy, oversized and loungey.

Step 3--Cut Some Length Off the Sweatshirt

1st Refashion Decision

  • Mark your body where you want need sweater waist to hit.

  • Chop away!

  • Serge the edge with a 3-thread overlock stitch.

Here was my first styling decision--what kind of waist did I want to create? gathered? or keep it boxy like a crop top, but not make it a crop top (heaven forbid at my age I would wear a crop top! gasp!

I am a short-waisted, but high-waisted gal, and I am not too tall, but not too short either. I am 5' 4" tall.

I couldn't see how a gathered waist would look good with a sweatshirt and the stiffness of the Father Christmas Motif (being ironed on, with glued edges) did not lend itself to a poof-waist.

I had to keep it boxy style, but not cropped to be cropped...just looks cropped on me. Crop to me is a little peek-a-boo of skin. I probably have not worn something 'cropped' since I was 16 years old when I recall an Esprit top I owned in the late 80's--wrapping the top of my head with a Madonna-inspired bow. And my mid-driff did show--and rightfully so (to the chagrin of my conservative parents) at that perfect body age.

To clean off that edge, I used my Babylock Imagine, (not paid for or supported by this company), which is permanently set to the 3 thread, overlock stitch--yep! I don't use this machine for any other thing because I do this stitch so much.

Step 4--Cut Some Length Off the Sweatshirt

2nd Refashion Decision

  • Mark your body where you want need sweater waist to hit.

  • Chop away!

  • Serge the edge with a 3-thread overlock stitch.

Here was my first styling decision--what kind of waist did I want to create? gathered? or keep it boxy like a crop top, but not make it a crop top (heaven forbid at my age I would wear a crop top! gasp!

Step 5--Lift Motifs

3rd Refashion Decision

Roadblock #1

  • Score the edges of the motifs with the tip of an Exacto Knife.

  • Use seam ripper to cut the edges of motifs.

Since the shoulders were way oversized, I need to take them in for sure. But the lovely Poinsettias were in the way. The only way to keep the Poinsettias were to lift them in some way. I could see that the motifs were already lifting in some areas of the sweatshirt.

Remember, these were iron-ed down first, then the edges glued down. She missed a few spots. My original idea was just to simple lift with my fingers which was easy to do, but when I hit those glued edges (you can see by the glue marks highlighted with the white arrow), not all was coming off and I risked tearing the edges of the fabric. Refashion Roadblock #1.

The only way to circumvent the removal issues was to employ the use of a sharp exacto knife and seam ripper to remove the edges from the glue in a neat way.

Then the 3rd Refashion Decision was made! I would leave the Poinsettia edges lifted for the final look, creating a 3-D effect.

Step 6--Cut New Armholes

  • Chalk new armholes on mannequin/dress form---front and back.

  • Cut along chalked lines.

Here's where my 5 years of Upcycling Costumes comes in handy.

I can free-hand my armhole lines. Yep. I can do this now. I know the shape. Also, the display mannequin I use for my photography has almost the same dimensions as I do--especially the shoulders (I have narrow shoulders).

I simply chalk along the line of the edges of the armholes...nothing fancier than that.

Nice to have at least one break from the Sewing/Upcycling/Blogging/Website/Photography learning curves that I never seem to master.

Step 7--Take In Side Seams

  • Align the new corners of the armhole (exacto knife pointing to that corner).

  • Chalk new seam line.

  • Pin along chalked line.

  • Sew along pinned line.

  • Cut off excess.

  • Serge the edges for a clean finish.

If you look at the first picture with the exacto knife pointing to the corners, you can see how far up the new armhole will be.

I eyeballed to see where the new seam should come in keeping in mind that I like the idea of the boxier finished look. Therefore the angling of the new seam did not need to be too drastic.

Style Check-In

In the pictures below, you can see how charming the new style can possibly be! I almost wanted to leave it as it was, but it's Winter and cold. Maybe I could get away with a style like this in the Southern Hemisphere this time of year?!

Taking in the sides and cutting new armholes was the right move to give the end look a more neater silhouette versus sloppy sweatshirt.

Step 8--Attach Sleeves

4th Refashion Decision

  • Invert sweater.

  • Place sleeve right-side in and align armholes edges.

  • Pin edges.

  • Sew the edge.

Another thing I am good at is attaching sleeves! Again, the kazillion of sleeves I have sewn for my Colonial Costumes! It was rough going at first start. And then I started to see the pattern (no pun intended) in how to cut arm hole and attach sleeves. Like any other skill it took practice, practice, practice.

After I got the sleeves back on, I stood back and observed how plain the style was--even with my new lifted Poinsettias. That's when the ruffled sleeve concept came to mind! I had extra sweatshirt fabric.

Ruffles on a sweatshirt???!!!

Why not? I could always try. Worst case scenario, the Ugly Xmas Sweater will just get Uglier. Absolutely nothing to lose with my original $3.oo investment.

Step 9--Make Ruffles