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!
What’s the best fabric to make a ruana cloak?
Simply made from a rectangle of fabric, you can make a ruana cloak 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!
What’s the difference between a ruana and a poncho?
A ruana is a version of a poncho and has a center front opening. A poncho has a neck hole and then slips over your head. With a ruana you can wrap it over your shoulder or leave it open. A poncho has no front opening. Both a poncho and a ruana can be made from a large square of fabric.
What’s the difference between a ruana and a shawl?
A shawl is either a rectangle or square of fabric that is all one piece and wrapped around your shoulders. A ruana can be a rectangle or square, but has a center front slit, which keeps the back fully covered if you choose to wrap one of the sides around your shoulders.
Does a ruana have sleeves?
The ruana covers your arms and keeps them warm (if using heavier fabric), but does not have seamed in sleeves or sleeve closures. The fabric drapes over your shoulders and arms.
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!
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!
- Measure wrist to wrist with your arms outstretched. This will be the width of your fabric.
- Measure your desired length. As I mentioned above, I did my preferred dress length, and will probably make it shorter next time.
- Cut a piece of fabric that is as wide as ‘wrist to wrist’ and the length should be DOUBLE your preferred length.
- Fold the fabric in half by length, then in half widthwise. Now you have your fabric folded in 1/4’s. Where the folds intersect will be your ruana’s center – your neck placement.
- Cut up the fold from edge to center ON THE LENGTH. This will be your center front.
- 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.
- Use fabrics that won’t ravel – a tightly 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.
Chardel’s Lap Robe Ruana
I was starting from scratch when I got a class assignment 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). Then 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. Then 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.
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”.
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.
Here’s the back treatment up close. By adding this small gathered section, I can pretend to have a waist. 🙂 Then a scrap piece of the center cutout covers the gathering stitches.
The ties are simply tubes I made from the cutout center section. The size of the leftover piece determined the size of the ties. So it was all very scientific.
The Bernina #10 edgestitch foot is my favorite because it kept me right on track with a decorative stitch on the wool felt binding.
Browse through other tips and tricks to making garments on Create Whimsy.