How to Make Your Own Ruana

Finished draped ruana

How to Make Your Own Ruana

Quick – what’s a ruana? Hint: it’s not an iguana’s cousin! You may not know the name, but you have seen them – at concerts and ball games, in magazines and on fashion runways, at school and at work. A ruana is an outer wrap that resembles a cape, cloak, poncho or scarf. The rectangular garment has a slit cut up the front that you can wear open, or you can throw a front panel over your shoulder. Secure the front with a statement brooch, if you like. It keeps you warm, but gives you flexibility to move. A ruana is like wrapping yourself in a blanket, looking awesome!

Simply made from a rectangle of fabric, you can make a ruana for any lifestyle. The fabric choice makes the difference.

Fleece makes a casual, budget-friendly ruana that’s super-easy to care for. And fleece is available in so many colors and patterns, you can express just about anything when wearing it, including support for your favorite team.

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Melton wool goes from casual to dressy, and cut edges do not require hemming. The wool is felted, so it does not ravel. And you can felt wool yourself if you have another piece that you want to use.

You can hem or bind the edges of any fabric to make a ruana. Who doesn’t love silk and its drapey elegance? It makes a light summer wrap – sometimes you need just a little something on your shoulders when the AC is cranked up. Test your edge finish, though, before cutting into your special piece of fabric. Your serger may be your best friend here. You want to make sure that the edges maintain a soft drape.

If you think outside the fabric store box, then a snuggly lap robe or small blanket can become a ruana. It might even be just the right size to give you pre-finished edges, maybe even with fun fringe!

How to Make a Ruana

Start with 1-1/4 yard of 60-inch wide fabric, or 60inches of 45-inch fabric.

Fabric to make a ruana

Fold in half to be 30 long and 45 inches wide.

Cut up the middle of what will be the front of the Ruana, at 22-1/2 inches. Only cut through the top level of the fabric. You’ve now made the center front opening!

Center front for ruana

I like to cut a small oval for the neck opening, it make the Ruana fall nicer around the neck.

Cutting the ruana neck

If you are using fleece, or Melton or boiled wool, you are done! Those fabric types don’t ravel. My wool for this Ruana didn’t really ravel when I washed it, but I wanted to stabilize the sides and center front/neck edges. I sewed with a 1/4 allowance.

Stabilizing the edge of the ruana

Here is the finished Ruana!

Finished Ruana

And, it makes a great wrap!

Finished draped ruana

Here are two more versions to get you started – one from cashmere yardage and one from a Pendleton wool blanket.

Lynn’s Cashmere Ruana

I started with a lovely cashmere wool piece I picked up at the ‘Coat Sale’ in Tacoma.  The Item House continues as a coat manufacturer based out of Tacoma, WA.  They have several sales a year where you can pick up name brand coats for amazing prices . . . and, if you are a sewer, you can pick up amazing fabrics for great prices, too!  I picked up this piece of wool at one of their sales and thought it would be perfect for a Ruana!

Lynn's finished ruana

This is my first version and I measured my arms from wrist to wrist, so that the Ruana would keep my arms warm all of the way to my wrists, and measured my preferred length for dresses.  Next time, I will probably make the sleeve length closer to 3/4 length and the overall length to about pant coat length.  I love it with the full length and full arms — it keeps me warm! But, it is a lot of fabric to get in and out of the car!

It is so easy to make!

  1. Measure wrist to wrist with your arms outstretched.  This will be the width of your fabric.
  2. Measure your desired length.  As I mentioned above I did my preferred dress length, and will probably make it shorter next time.
  3. Cut a piece of fabric that is as wide as ‘wrist to wrist’ and the length should be DOUBLE your preferred length.
  4. Fold the fabric in half by length, then in half widthwise.  Now you have your fabric folded in 1/4’s.
  5. Cut up the fold ON THE LENGTH.  This will be your center front.
  6. I then took my favorite pattern and rounded out the back and front necklines.

If you have a stable fabric, you are done!  I had pre washed my wool so it was not going to ravel, but I was worried that it might stretch out.  So I did a stabilizing stitch about 1/4″ from the edge — all around the Ruana.  Then I took a hand dyed yarn I found at Coastal Yarns in Cannon Beach, Oregon, and did a running stitch around the outside edges of the ruana.

  • Tips:
  • Use fabrics that won’t ravel – a tight woven or a nonwoven work well. If you use a woven, you’ll need to finish your edges by either turning under, adding a binding or serging.
  • Add some hand or machine stitching to embellish the edges.I love the way the neckline folds back and accentuates the stitching.
Hand stitching around the edge of the ruin

Chardel’s Lap Robe Ruana

I was starting from scratch when the class assignment was to make a ruana and I didn’t know what that was! After looking it up, I decided to go from Lap Robe to Ruana.

To make my wrap/cape/poncho (which I now know to be a ruana), I started with a Pendleton wool lap robe that I purchased some time ago at the Sewing and Stitchery Expo in Puyallup, Washington. I loved the subtle palette and knew I wanted to make something with it – I just didn’t know what – until I got this assignment. The “blanket” was a nice weight for comfort and draping with four finished sides – two with woven selvedge and two with bonus fringe!

I had the neck and opening edges to finish, so I congratulated myself for purchasing wool felt binding in 5-yard lengths (also at the Pendleton booth). I sewed this with a decorative stitch and variegated thread that finished the piece nicely.

Construction was easy – slice a 5-inch strip up the middle for the front opening and round out the neck. I used the cutout piece to make ties and a gathered back treatment. I had just a 5-inch by 7-inch piece leftover, so this project was a very efficient use of a beautiful fabric.

Here is a front view of my finished ruana. It began life as a wool lap robe. I like the subtle stripes at both ends and along one side.

Revised Ruana Front

I left the selvedge on the sides unfinished. The uneven look appeals to me, and not adding to these edges maintained a softer drape for the “sleeves”.

Ruana Selvedge Hem

I didn’t like the way the back looked plain. “Does this make my butt look big?” The answer was a resounding yes! So I added some gathers.

Pendleton Wool Lap Robe Ruana

Here’s the back treatment up close. By adding this small gathered section, I can pretend to have a waist. 🙂  A scrap piece of the center cutout covers the gathering stitches.

Pendleton Wool Lap Robe Ruana Back Detail
Pendleton Wool Lap Robe Ruana Back Detail

The ties are simply tubes I made from the cutout center section. The size of the leftover piece determined the size of the ties. Very scientific.

The Bernina #10 edgestitch foot is my favorite. It kept me right on track with a decorative stitch on the wool felt binding.

Pendleton Wool Lap Robe Ruana Ties and Binding
Pendleton Wool Lap Robe Ruana Ties and Decorative Binding

Browse through other tips and tricks to making garments on Create Whimsy.

How to make a Ruana
How to make a Ruana
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