Introduction: How to Make a Motto Holiday Sweater With Felt Lettering

Last summer, I spotted a very interesting piece of clothing in a printed copy of Glamour magazine, so I cut it out and put it aside, believing that I would some day reference it. The piece was from a Fall 2015 Ready-to-wear collection from Dolce and Gabbana, which carried a mother and child theme as I later found out.

Winter came around and I found the perfect venue to create a piece of clothing with a similar style: my company's annual holiday party, where "ugly" sweaters were encouraged.

So I got to work and created this holiday sweater. I work for an education company (Coursera) which stands by the motto, Learners First, so my sweater spells that out.

I'll walk you through my process for making it, so that you too can wear your own motto at your next holiday party.

Materials Needed

  • Sweater
  • Sheets of felt in vibrant colors
  • Plastic gems of various colors and shapes
  • Small beads with letters on them
  • Fabric glue
  • Craft paper
  • Scissors
  • Thread and needle
  • Pins for securing felt onto fabric
  • Fabric chalk or fabric crayon

Estimated Time

  • 5 hours if wearing only once
  • 10 hours if wearing multiple times or washing

Pre-requisite knowledge

  • It helps to know how to sew, but you could learn through this project

Step 1: Gather Materials

The first step is to gather materials so that you have everything you need once you start making.

You should be able to find everything from Goodwill(or any other secondhand clothing store) and Michaels(or any other craft supply store).

At this step, you'll should have an idea of what the final "look" should be, as this will guide your material selection. There were a few things I particularly liked about the Dolce and Gabbana dress, that I kept in mind while shopping:

  • The sweater has a dark green background that lets the letters to stand out
  • The sweater has a rather elegant silhouette. While the lettering is silly and playful, I wanted the clothing itself to be flattering rather than ugly.
  • The colors and gems are over-the-top colorful, exaggerated, and even gaudy

The gems usually come in two varieties: ones with sticky adhesive back sides, and ones with holes to sew through. Sew-on gems are more dependable and long lasting but take a lot of work to sew on one by one. Adhesive gems can fall off easily even if they are meant for fabrics, but you can handle them very easily and quickly.

I opted to make my sweater quickly even though that meant that I wouldn't be able to wash it or even wear it multiple times. I went the quick-but-flimsy route because I just had one evening before the party to make it. If you have more time or would like to make something more durable, I encourage you to buy the sew-on gems.

Step 2: Try on Paper Prototype

The first step once you gather all of your materials, is to create a paper prototype. Craft paper or wrapping paper works well, since they come in big rolls that you can cut out many shapes from.

This particular aesthetic doesn't require precise lines or edges, so you can draw each letter by freehand.

Pin the letters onto the sweater with fabric pins, and try on the sweater.

You might find that some letters are placed oddly in relation to your body. If this is the case, take note, take off the sweater, and adjust. Try the sweater on after each adjustment until you are satisfied with the way it looks when worn.

Step 3: Cut and Glue Felt Letters

Once you have a paper version of the composition you'd like, you are ready to cut the letters out from felt. Using the paper letters as a stencil, trace the letters onto the felt using fabric pencil, and cut.

Since you'll be lifting the paper letters off the sweater, mark the original placement with pins or fabric crayon.

Once you have created all of the felt letters, take the fabric glue and glue each letter onto the sweater.

Step 4: Add Gems and Beads

Now that the letters are in place, you can embellish each letter with a set of gems and beads.

This is where color combinations start to shine - go for variety, sometimes using gems that are similar in color to the felt, and at others using contrasting or complementary colors.

Mix large gems with smaller ones to create irregularity and interest.

Hide fun details that only someone looking at the work very closely would notice. In this example, the letter "A" contains the word L-E-A-R-N twice following the slopes of the "A".

Here, I used a combination of sew-on gems and sticky-back gems. This is mainly because I was optimizing for the exact look I wanted even if it compromised durability (sticky-back) or speed of creation (some of the sew-on gems).

If you are aiming to make your piece durable, I would use only sew-on gems, and consider sewing the edges of the letters to the sweater. Fabric glue claims to be washing machine-proof, but it's definitely less dependable compared to stitches.

Step 5: Wear It to the Party

The style of this sweater is so colorful and bold that it will stand out and get attention. Enjoy going to meetings, running errands, having lunch, or meeting up with friends in it.

It is a good idea to bring the fabric glue and extra gems in case the piece needs repairing throughout the day.

So, here you go- A fun, colorful sweater that also photographs well!