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This Instructable will show you how to make a simple ugly sweater/poncho featuring a light-up Christmas tree.


A couple days ago my fiancee and I attended an ugly sweater party to celebrate the holidays and the end of the fall semester. We decided to make her an ugly sweater using materials we had sitting around our apartment. What we ended up with was an ugly Christmas poncho featuring a light-up Christmas tree, complete with a star.

You are likely wondering what an ugly Christmas poncho is. Well, we lacked a sweater we wished to sacrifice for the project so we began searching for materials we could use to make one. What we found was an old, cheap tree skirt. For fun my fiancee put the tree skirt over her head, and it actually looked like a poncho, complete with hook-and-loop fasteners in the back to make putting it on quick and easy. So we decided to make an ugly Christmas poncho.

Step 1: Materials

When my fiancee and I made the ugly Christmas poncho in this Instructable we were able to reuse many old items from around our apartment. But, I did a little shopping and you can pick up the supplies needed for this project at any major department store.

Materials and Equipment:

  • A red tree skirt, preferably one with hook-and-loop fasteners to make putting on and taking off the ugly Christmas sweater much easier.
  • Some green garland. I opted for some very ugly shiny garland with large plastic disks.
  • A battery-operated string of blinking, multicolored lights.
  • A star-shaped ornament of some kind.
  • Some silver or gold ribbon or decorative string.
  • Sewing supplies - needle, thread, scissors, etc. 
  • Optional but recommended: a sewing machine.

Step 2: Sew Arm Holes

Although ponchos don't typically have arms, sewing arm holes into the ugly Christmas poncho accomplishes a number of things:
  • arm holes make the poncho hang properly on your body since it is much heavier in the front than it is in the back
  • arm holes make the poncho warmer (when my fiance went to the ugly Christmas party it was 2oF outside)
  • arm holes limit the extent to which the poncho puffs out away from your body when you walk
  • arm holes help make sure the poncho stays centered with the Christmas tree on the front of your body
Sewing the arm holes is pretty easy but having a second person to help you makes the task even easier still.
  1. Put the poncho (tree skirt) on and make sure the hook-and-loop fasteners are in the back.
  2. Put your arms up about 45o away from your body.
  3. Have a friend pin the tree skirt from the bottom going about three to five inches (depending upon how tall you are) vertically towards your shoulders.
  4. Carefully take off the poncho without stabbing yourself with the pins. Keep your helper around to assist with this.
  5. Sew a three- to five-inch seam along the area you pinned to create arm holes.

Step 3: Arrange the Garland Into Tree Shape

In this step we will plan the shape of the tree by arranging the garland into a tree shape on the front of the poncho. Simply wrap the garland in layers from the bottom of the poncho to the top with each successive layer slightly narrower than the one below (this makes much more sense in the pictures). Remember to leave some space under the neck hole of the poncho so that the garland does not tickle you under the chin. That would be annoying.

We chose to leave some space between the layers of the tree for two reasons. First, the gaps let the lights shine through better. Second, leaving space means you need to do much less sewing and saves a lot of time. But, if you want a more dense-looking tree, feel free to bunch up the layers of garland.

Step 4: Sew Down the Garland

Now that you have the garland arranged in a tree shape on your poncho, it's time to sew the garland down. There are doubtless many ways to do this, but the technique my fiancee and I used was to thread a needle with a four to six inch piece of quadrupled thread and simply made a loop around the garland and tied it down. So what we ended up with was a bunch of loops of thread to hold the garland. 

When you are sewing down the garland, remember to pay special attention to the two ends, as well as all of the bends in the garland where it goes from one layer to the next. Also make sure to always double check that you are not accidentally penetrating both sides of the poncho and sewing it shut.

When you are done sewing, hold up the poncho to make sure there are no parts of the garland at risk of sagging or falling out of the thread loops. You may need to add a couple extra ties for reinforcement.  

Step 5: Attach the Lights

If you've checked to make sure the garland is securely attached to your Ugly Christmas Poncho, it's time to add the lights. Again, there are certainly many ways to attach the lights to the poncho, I'll share the technique my fiancee and I used, which was to make loops out of the poncho fabric itself.

Starting at the end of the garland at the bottom of the tree cut a pair of parallel slits, about 1/2 inch long and one inch apart. Then, staring from the end of the string of lights opposite the battery pack, feed the wire down through the first hole and up through the second hole. Be careful when you put the light bulbs (LEDs actually) through the holes. For the first hole, continue feeding the wire through until the light closest to the battery pack is just on the other side of the hole. This should leave enough wire above the battery pack for you to put the batteries in your pocket while you wear your Ugly Christmas Sweater. 

Then, create another two slits, again about 1/2 inch long and one inch apart, this time 1/3 of the way across the bottom layer of garland. Repeat the process of feeding the string of lights down through the first hole and up through the bottom.

Continue this process by creating a pair of slits every couple inches, following the garland with the lights. Make sure you place a fabric loop at the end of each layer where the garland curves.

Step 6: Make a Star Necklace

The last piece of the Ugly Christmas Poncho is a star for the tree. Instead of sewing the star to the poncho, my fiancee and I thought it would it would make the poncho uglier to make an ugly star necklace to go with it. 

The star necklace is very easy to make. First, cut a piece of string or ribbon long enough to wrap around your neck with just a little bit of slack. Obviously you should still be able to breath.  Then, just thread the string through your star necklace and tie it in the back. When you put on your Ugly Christmas Poncho, just make sure the star hangs at the top of the tree.

Congratulations! You're done! Now go out and have fun in your Ugly Christmas Poncho!
Wonderfully ugly! :D

About This Instructable

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Bio: Hello, my name is Toglefritz. That’s obviously not my real name; my real name is Scott, but on the Internet I use the nom ... More »
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