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Celebrate the holidays with an ugly sweater!

Dec 21, 2009

I've never owned a holiday sweater (unless you count a plain red or green sweater a holiday sweater!) but I have a friend who finds a cute new holiday sweater each year and wears it on Christmas for all to see and admire. I think she gets them at Nordstrom. This year, I've gotten ugly sweaters in the form of photos from people who think I just have to see them, and I thank all of those people because there are some truly hilarious sweaters out there.

One of my favorites is the doggie Christmas sweater at left. What a trooper that guy is to model this beauty! I especially like the non-traditional use of blue and red plaid instead of green and white plaid. That really elevates the fashion quotient of this sweater!

My other favorite, at right,  is from, which is your one-stop shopping resource for the ugliest sweaters on the planet. The description on the website says "Black mesh sweater with beaded "necklaces" on it. Try this one with some leggings." Just think about it—no more looking through that pesky jewelry box! The necklaces are sewn right onto the sweater. Convenience + beauty = holiday style.

Ugly sweater parties have become the new retro, tongue-in-cheek cocktail party or office party theme this season, so we're seeing these classic sweaters more and more. It's not as easy as it used to be to find an ugly holiday sweater at the thrift store anymore! because so many people have snatched them up for parties.

Here's a video from to make you laugh. Fair warning—this is really hilarious, so shut your office door so you won't disturb your colleagues!

And Now, Some Totally Non-Ugly Sweaters!

As funny and kitschy as ugly holiday sweaters are, they sometimes give Fair Isle knitting a bad rap. Take "Kjersten," from The New Stranded Colorwork, for example; how about we make this the new holiday sweater?

The designer, Mary Scott Huff, recently made an appearance at one of the LYSes in Spokane and I had a chance to see many of her pieces in person. They are truly gorgeous. Mary was wearing Kjersten, and it's stunning. (See below left for a photo of Mary and me. We had so much fun together—it snowed a little for us, too, you can see the sprinkling behind us!)

Or how about Eunny Jang's Ivy League Vest done in a darker, more wintry colorway? It would be gorgeous on Christmas morning or on any winter morning. If you're new to Fair Isle, this vest is featured as a progressive project in season three of Knitting Daily TV.

Throughout the episodes, you'll learn all about stranded knitting, including tips on managing yarn, choosing colors, reading charts, and joining new colors. This vest is so versatile, too—I know a couple people who've knit more than one!

 Do you have any ugly holiday sweater to share? Please post a photo to the reader gallery! Maybe you knit a holiday sweater in the 90s, inspired by The Cosby Show sweaters?(I don't know about you, but I loved Cliff Huxtable's sweaters!) While it was oh-so-hip and groovy Not so much. Your photo doesn't have to be of a handknit sweater—just holiday and ugly!

And while you probably don't have time to make your own holiday sweater at this point, you might be able to fit in some fancy appliqué work like the Santa-dog sweater above. Just take any green or red sweater, find a holiday image you like, and sew it onto the sweater! Insta-cheer for Christmas.

On a serious note, I hope your holiday preparation is going well and that you're finding time to enjoy some knitting here and there.




Featured Products

Knitting Daily Workshop Introduction to Fair Isle The Ivy League Vest with Eunny Jang

Availability: In Stock
Price: $19.95


Learn to master multicolored Fair Isle knitwear in this video workshop with Eunny Jang, editor of Interweave Knits magazine and co-host of Knitting Daily TV.


New Stranded Colorwork

Availability: Out Of Stock
Price: $24.95


Take your colorwork knitting off the charts! Mary Scott Huff's brand-new take on classic traditions of Norwegian colorwork techniques in The New Stranded Colorwork will have you confidently working on charted colorwork designs for the modern knitter.


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on Jan 11, 2010 5:12 PM

I thought that some of the 'ugly' sweaters were OK, just dated. I rather liked the black embellished vest (rather similar to one I wear...).

IMO, the 'Kjersten' sweater will be ugly in a few years, too.

It's all just a matter of timing, and fashion (which as we know changes frequently, to keep us constantly buying, knitting, sewing, crocheting, and to satisfy our constant desire for the 'new').

mauserati wrote
on Dec 26, 2009 2:48 AM

This year, trying to be a "recessionista", I looked on eBay for my annual self-gift of a holiday sweater -- scored a tasteful oatmeal tweed from Coldwater Creek with a Santa-hatted moose; and discreet embroidered holly on the neckline, cuffs and hem.  But, boy, I was flabbergasted by the stuff that someone thinks is saleable!  

One remarkable example was a bulky pullover in eyelash yarn with Santa faces on springs! There were two faces, let's say, "strategically" placed; and they bounced and swayed right there, in front of everything.  This jaw-dropping concoction was not improved by the junoesque model who made the sweater look about a half size too small. Yikes!

Why two Santas? I could understand Santa & Mrs. Claus, or Santa & Rudolf, but . . . .

on Dec 24, 2009 3:21 PM

Speaking of ugly sweaters, I remember the time when live models were used to show those old fashioned, cookie cutter no imagination at all knitted pieces. They always looked as if they were totally embarrassed to be seen in the outfits and didn't want to have their photos taken. Our knitting has grown so much since then. Now if they could convince the models that they don't have to try to seduce us with pouty mouths, sultry eyes, silly poses. We are looking at the great looking outfits anyway.

janicemars wrote
on Dec 23, 2009 12:18 PM

I just find this all too delicious.  I may very well start making some of these for myself.  When else in the dreary year can one get past the office fashion police with something wild and hilarious?  I even know what I'll say, ":::gasp::: You don't think Sanity Clause is appropriate holiday office wear?  Do your children know this about you?"

MelissaD@20 wrote
on Dec 22, 2009 8:41 AM

These are hilarious!  Ah, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, is it not?  And really, the young delight in mocking the fashions of their elders... I'm sure you didn't mean to offend anyone!!!  It was meant as a tongue in cheek poke at a fashion that, in reality, a vast group of people see as aesthetically unpleasing!!!  I think it was delightful and perfectly respectful of ugly sweaters!

snookums4 wrote
on Dec 22, 2009 2:42 AM

Oh my goodness Ladies, they are just sweaters and I must say that I believe too they are store bought.  And if you have different taste, that is wonderful cuz it makes the world go round!  Erica P., I so agree with you.  Ladies please do not be offended.  I use to wear a xmas sweater to work that had blinking lights and I wore it just for fun, just to see a smile on someone's face!  Isn't xmas about the fun, laughter and joy .... so laugh, be happy and let's go knit !  

EricaP wrote
on Dec 22, 2009 1:18 AM

Oh come on, folks.  Take this in the humorous spirit in which it was intended.  This is hilarious.  I believe the majority of these sweaters are store bought - not the product of a handknitter's long effort.  (or so I ardently hope!) No need to get your wool all felted.

And this reminds me of the closetful of ridiculous Christmas sweaters that my mother wears every holiday season.  I think she even has one that blinks.  She's come full circle and back into fashion!

mynanna wrote
on Dec 21, 2009 10:52 PM

That Poor Dog is an Old English Sheepdog which is one of the most wonderful breeds in dogdom.  I know because I had the companionship of an OES for 14 wonderful years.  If anyone has a similar pattern to share it would be greatly appreciated.  Not a day goes by that I don't miss my loyal companion.  Oh, by the way, she was a Christmas present that fulfilled a childhoon wish.

Happy Holiday y'all.


carolina@2 wrote
on Dec 21, 2009 6:35 PM

Succah - thanks for the inspiration.  Now I know what to knit for everyone for Chanukah next year!

on Dec 21, 2009 6:13 PM

I spose I wouldn't need to say , but I don't really care for the Kjersten sweater either.   Maybe in person it is better.  Sorry.

stitchcat wrote
on Dec 21, 2009 2:56 PM

To me, this is about on a par with the "People of WalMart" website.  My mama taught me "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all," advice which has served me well.  I don't like everything that Knitting Daily offers, but have the good sense just to pass them by.  Holiday sweaters are meant to be fun, not necessarily fashion statements.  While I seldom have need of a sweater at all, I do have a pretty good collection of appliqued shirts & store-bought fancy socks for the various holidays.  

nano@5 wrote
on Dec 21, 2009 1:58 PM

My!  My! Aren't we snooty!  I'm glad that others commented on how inappropriate it is to "dis" others' taste.  I don't care for most of those sweaters. I have the impression that many of them appeal to older women. . . which most of us will become one day!  I hope people won't be sniggering at me.

daffodilpat wrote
on Dec 21, 2009 12:52 PM

I too liked several of the sweaters in the video and see those styles often at the gatherings I've been to.  Will say that the pink one with spots on the guy WAS over the top.

JudyG@43 wrote
on Dec 21, 2009 12:21 PM

I watched the little video and looked at the "ugly sweater" store's offering.  These seasonal sweaters are meant to be fun and some are actually pretty.  Everyone may not like them but someone sure must because they have been popular for a long time.  I cringe at the thought that people are being judgmental and laughing at people behind their backs for wearing them.  In fact I don't think this has been the case.  It is rather unkind for people to wear a sweater someone else loved just so it can be laughed at and called ugly.  Wearing them for fun and seeing the humor in some of them is all right, the original wearers did too, but don't put people down.  

kate4 wrote
on Dec 21, 2009 11:30 AM

Hysterical!!  I'm so glad I've kept all my old sweaters!!  I AM FLY.....  

JayelF wrote
on Dec 21, 2009 11:10 AM

Sorry, I find the colorway on the Kjersten sweater ugly.  To each her own, I guess. A lovely sweater that could be rehabilitated with a better colorway.....

SuccahS wrote
on Dec 21, 2009 11:02 AM

Fortunately, we are Jewish so I have never had to deal with ugly sweater

syndrome!   I've never seen and ugly Chanukah sweater.  SJ from Israel

MargaretK@9 wrote
on Dec 21, 2009 10:39 AM

I agree with cashgora.   I'm reluctant to publicly label someone's efforts as ugly much less ridicule them.  I realize I may be in the minority, but I don't subscribe to the "put down" as humor, especially in a public forum where we recognize there is a vast variety of tastes and preferences.  That we get amusement from something, fine.  How else could we survive in this crazy world?  But, I see no profit in the possibility of publicly humiliating someone just because their tastes don't align with mine.

B.L wrote
on Dec 21, 2009 9:57 AM

I checked out The Ugly Sweater Store, and was aghast!  I, actually, liked some of them!

Be afraid, those for whom I knit.  Be very afraid.  AH-Hahahaha!


cashgora wrote
on Dec 21, 2009 9:13 AM

i've never written in answer to one of your columns before but i truly resent anyone who feels it necessary to impose their personal tastes on everyone else. perhaps these sweaters aren't your particular "cup of tea" , just as many of the projects you love & extoll aren't mine, but other people may enjoy them. every project, whether it's an ornate toilet roll cover or an elegant beaded sweater, has a place in the knitting life of the person who enjoys it, so why don't you lighten up & realize your likes & dislikes aren't the only ones. no one should be in a position to tell others how they SHOULD or MUST think, feel, or believe!

Marianne@18 wrote
on Dec 21, 2009 9:10 AM

When I was small my mom took my brother and me to the department store and we (kids) picked out a sweater for dad--a pleasant light green with some kind of jacuard pattern on it.  When he put it on, it was clear, as it hadn't been when the sweater was folded, that the pattern was actually a picture was a girl leaning against a lamppost talking to a sailor.

That year is always celebrated as the Christmas the kids gave dad a streetwalker sweater.

KittyF54 wrote
on Dec 21, 2009 8:15 AM

well, that was amusing.   I think my preference would be a plain or simple all over pattern with a decorative edge.   None of them was necessarily ugly, but then none was anything I'd go out of my way to wear or make either.  LOL  

Ruth@7 wrote
on Dec 21, 2009 7:41 AM

Serendipity!  They just had a segment about ugly sweater parties on "CBS Sunday Morning" and mentioned, as well as another, similar website.  It was a Bill Geist segment (of course) and at one point he was modelling ugly holiday sweaters for Clinton Kelly of TLC's "What Not to Wear" (who of course was practically gagging, and saying that ugly sweaters make you look fatter and older than you really are).  

Now mind you, Clinton and Stacy would probably also try to throw out the Lopi sweater I knit!  I'm a traditionalist -- I used a pattern from the *original* Lopi sweater book, which is long since out of print (I think it came out in the 1980s).  I've looked at the more recent Lopi books and frankly, I don't like the patterns.  I want my Icelandic sweaters to *look* like an Icelandic sweater (i.e., like the ones I saw in the airport shops at Keflavik  in 1982 on a trip back from Copenhagen, which I couldn't convince my mom to buy me).  The only way I could actually ever get one is to knit my own.  Sometime this winter maybe I'll actually get the second one finished (I ripped the yoke out last spring because I was having tension problems with the pattern, which was different from the first one I made -- same book though).

The first one was designed to be light grey, with a mostly white yoke and charcoal accents -- I changed it to be dark brown with the white yoke and beige accents.  The second one was supposed to be mainly charcoal grey, but that was too dark a color on me so I'm doing it in purple with light purple accents.  

Of course neither one is ugly!

TurquoizBlue wrote
on Dec 21, 2009 7:39 AM

I love looking at ugly sweaters, but I'd burn one before wearing it!

I love Leslie Hall's Gem Sweater Museum

She also performs in her sweaters.

Tara@20 wrote
on Dec 21, 2009 7:20 AM


Did y'all see the photoshop hilarity that is Jeremy Piven wearing various Christmas sweaters on Huffington Post?