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Stranger Things Ugly Christmas Sweater

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

My husband and I are major Stranger Things fans! As soon as a new season is released, we binge on Netflix until we’ve seen all of it.

So this last Christmas, I was in need of an ugly Christmas sweater. I looked online for different nerdy options, and came up empty-handed. There’s a lot out there, but nothing struck my fancy. So what’s a crafter to do, but create her own!

I set to work brainstorming exactly what I wanted my sweater to look like. I was intrigued by the scene in Season 1 of Stranger Things where Joyce Byers paints her wall with the alphabet and hangs Christmas lights so she can communicate with her son, Will, in the Upsidedown.

I felt like that scene with the flashing Christmas lights seemed like a perfect fit for my ugly Christmas sweater. I made a list of what I would need to make this work:

  • Black sweatshirt

  • White fabric paint

  • Thin paint brush

  • Christmas lights that used batteries

  • Thin black elastic (for the front of my sweater, that way I could remove the lights when I washed the sweater)

  • Picture of the Stranger Things scene (that way I could easily replicate the correct letter shapes and placement)

  • Scissors & tape

  • Needle and black thread

  • Painters tape

I started out by creating the Alphabet Wall image I would use for painting my sweatshirt. I made sure it was sized to the correct dimensions for the front torso of my sweatshirt. I printed it out and taped the pieces together.

Next, I checked to make sure the lights I bought would fit correctly over the alphabet. I laid both the alphabet image and the lights overtop the sweatshirt to make sure everything looked spaced correctly.

I used painters tape to mark out where the top and bottom of each line of alphabet would lay on the sweatshirt. This created a "lined paper" effect, which made it easier to paint the letters confidently in the right place.

I used a thin, stiff paint brush to apply the white fabric paint to the sweatshirt. I started with the top line and moved downwards, that way I didn't have to wait for each line of paint to dry separately. When painting the letters, I kept the alphabet image right below where I was working for easy reference. I didn't use the image as a stencil, rather I used it as a visual reference. You could probably make the image into the stencil, I just didn't want to take the time to cut out each of those letters.

Here's the finished result of the painting stage! I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. I definitely wanted it to have that spray-painted effect like in the show. So if your letters aren't perfectly crisp, that's ok. I think it adds to the effect. Make sure your paint is fully dry before moving to the next step.

Next comes the lights. I laid my lights out again overtop the alphabet to confirm their placement. There are two things you need to pay attention to - 1) where will you need to make a hole to hide away the battery pack for your lights, and 2) where will you need to attach loops to hold the lights in place.

Since I had two strings of lights, I had two battery packs to hide. However, instead of creating two holes, I made one hole in the middle that both battery packs could share. This hole was located above K/L in the alphabet. After cutting a small slit, I reenforced the fabric by sewing around the opening using a whip stitch.

Next, I determined how many loops I would need to create and attach in order to hold up the string of lights. I ended up deciding on 9 loops (roughly 3 loops per line of alphabet). To create the loops, I cut about 1.5" of elastic per loop. I created the loop by overlapping the elastic ends and hand sewing them together. After creating the 9 loops, I then hand sewed them onto the sweatshirt where I had determined they needed to go.

Here are some snap shots of the final result. I've gotten a lot of compliments from wearing this to various Christmas and Halloween events. Check the video below to see the lights in all their blinking glory!

Have you made your own ugly Christmas sweater? Please share below, I would love to see it!


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