Introduction: Ch, Ch, Ch, Chia Ugly Christmas Sweater

Nothing says Christmas like chia pets and ugly sweaters, so why not combine the two?

Not only is this sweater ugly, but it's damp and smells composty.

Didn't know if I'd have time for the sweater to grow, but I took a chance. Sweater didn't start sprouting until day three, but from then on it went crazy. The final photos are from day nine, so it was plenty green enough.


Chia seeds - 6 oz. is plenty

Old sweater, preferably a bulky knit synthetic

Small Christmas ornaments with hooks

Step 1: Pick Your Sweater

I had a heavy brown wool sweater with paint stains, holes and missing buttons. Still I was rather fond of it, good outdoor winter work sweater. I even went to the thrift store and bought a nice green sweater, but it was too nice to ruin, so I went back to my original ugly brown sweater. Best to have a synthetic sweater made from bulky fuzzy yarn, easier for the chia seeds to root. Plus it wouldn't weigh as much as a wet wool or cotton sweater.

Step 2: Soak Your Chia Seeds

I had no idea how much chia seed to buy, so I bought two pounds, which was about 26 ounces too much. Six ounces is plenty for a big sweater. Mix your seed with a one to six ratio seed to water. Six ounces is about 3/4 cup, so about 5 cups water. Mix in a container and let set for 1/2 hour to one hour. It will be gelatinous and slimy, amazingly so.

Step 3: Cover Your Sweater With Seeds

I was worried about the sweater kind of growing together, so I filled a small garbage bag and two newspaper bags with crumpled newspaper, taped together and attached to a plastic hanger. It might have been okay without this step, but I didn't want to have to pull open the sleeves, yuck. I soaked the sweater in cold water and squeezed out excess, didn't do a good job of it, because it was dripping, a lot. I hung the sweater on a standing coat hanger, covered the bottom of the hanger in plastic and set the coat hanger in a plastic bin meant to mix concrete.

I wish I could tell you some efficient way to implant the seeds on the sweater that isn't icky, but the easiest way is simply to take a handful of slimy seeds and spread it on the sweater. I started at the shoulders and worked down. I tried rubbing the seed in, but really the seed will stick to just about anything.

This would have been a much easier process if I had an extra bathroom with a shower. Even better if the shower had a window. Then I could have just hung the sweater in the shower, though you'd still need to seal the shower drain to catch random seeds. Don't need sprouts coming out of your shower drain.

Step 4: This Stuff Will Grow on Anything

Because I had so much leftover seed, I decided to cover a large polo shirt. I didn't hold out much hope for the shirt because it was a polished cotton shirt. I expected the seed to slide right off the shirt, but it did a pretty good job of sticking.

I threw the rest of the seed outside, so far it's doing okay.

Step 5: Grow Your Sweater

It's the middle of December, so the days are short and it's been raining. Still I was optimistic. I set up two drying racks to suspend a sheet of plastic. I was trying to create a greenhouse effect. It might have grown okay without the plastic, but I think it helped keep in the moisture and heat. Kept the sweater at room temperature in front of french doors for as much daylight as possible.

When I started to panic that it wasn't going to grow in time, I borrowed a panel of LED lights from a friend and illuminated them at night in front of the sweater. Also because I was worried about the time constraint, I only exposed the front of the sweater to daylight. Weird thing was that the back side sprouted out before the front. But eventually the front was much greener than the back. If you start out a couple weeks ahead you'd have plenty of time to rotate light exposure from front to back.

The room was warm during the day, but it was cool at night. Sprayed it with water from a misting bottle twice a day. Be sure to keep it moist. Should start sprouting around day three.

Step 6: It's Alive!!!

It's day nine, time to decorate the sweater. Bought small ornaments, but any decorations would do. Didn't want to decorate too much. Wouldn't want to take away from the chia. Be careful decorating, because the sprouts are fragile and compress easily. Don't think it'd be wise to make a pair of chia pants. But it would be interesting to grow a sheetful to cover a cubicle wall for April Fools. The options are endless.

Ugly Sweater Speed Challenge

Grand Prize in the
Ugly Sweater Speed Challenge