Eight Steps for Building Family Relationships With an Ugly Sweater

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Creating an ugly sweater can get your family laughing, talking and sharing. It’s also probably one of the easiest and least expensive fashion decisions you’ll make during the Christmas season. Take a few leftover bits of holiday sparkle, gather a few old sweaters and get started on an hour of artistic fun. Younger children won’t need much coaxing to join the party. And if you play it right, an ugly sweater-making session may even keep your teenagers home on a Saturday night.

The Goal

Create the ugliest, gaudiest or funniest Christmas sweater possible

Materials Needed

  1. One new, old or new-again sweater for each family member
  2. Material scraps, ribbons and other items to adorn the sweater
  3. Needle and thread, fabric glue, safety pins or other fasteners to attach the adornments
  4. Large crafting surface with a spot for each family member (the ktichen table will do)

Getting Started

Share your ugly sweater plans with the family in advance

While spontaneity has its value, a surprise crafting project is rarely the best way to entice teens or your partner to join you at the kitchen table. Feel free, however, to save the surprise until the last minute if you’ve got younger children who might fill your week with questions like, “Is it time yet, Mom? When is it?”

Get your sweaters ready

Save yourself time by purchasing simple, low-cost sweaters online for home delivery if you don’t have any spares hanging around at the back of the closet. Any style, shape or color will do. If you choose a temporary method for attaching adornments, you can even turn a perfectly wearable favorite sweater into an ugly one for an evening.

Gather decorating material

Gather material scraps, leftover tinsel and other potential sweater additions early. If you’ve got a tween at home, she may enjoy helping you organize the project. Now is the time to use all those scraps of ribbon, lonely sprigs of artificial berries or extra pom-poms laying at the bottom of your holiday storage containers. If you’re low on supplies, take a quick trip to a nearby dollar store or party supply retailer for a few inexpensive bits and pieces to adorn your sweaters.

Gather glue, thread and needles

Plan your preferred attachment methods in advance and gather the thread, glue or other materials you’ll need. If you’re planning to recycle the sweaters back into daily use, attach your decorative additions with thread and large, loose stitches or with safety pins that won't leave noticeable holes.

Creating the Magic

  1. Put on the Christmas music, lay the sweaters in place around your designated crafting spot and place the decorative additions within easy reach.
  2. Explain the ugly-sweater concept to your children if necessary. Consider voting on a theme for the entire family. Maybe your sweater can be decked out as a Christmas tree (the gaudier the better), and the kiddos can create sweaters reminiscent of presents. If your family is into individualism, let it go and enjoy their creativity.
  3. Keep the experience about family and fun rather than a crafting lesson. Just explain that more is definitely best when creating an ugly sweater and absolutely nothing has to match anything else. Be ready to help little fingers attach adornments when necessary, but leave the notion of symmetry and form for art class.
  4. Take time for a fashion show after everyone has perfected their sweater. Lots of laughter, clapping and pride are the rules for this parade.

If you haven’t been invited to an ugly Christmas sweater party, it may be the perfect year to organize one of your own. Sometimes the very best thing you can do for your kids is to simply spend time with them. Whether you’re a heroic single mom of one or have a spouse and four kids to manage, creating holiday traditions like ugly Christmas sweaters builds fond memories and strengthens the bonds that shape your family.