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Styling and Wearing a Ruana

Christine Jonson Patterns

Sewing a Ruana Lesson 4 | Sewing Accessories for a Ruana Lesson 3 | Embellishing a Ruana Lesson 2 | Making a DIY No-Sew Ruana Lesson 1 (and basic ruana construction)

A ruana is a great garment that can dress up a sweater and jeans and go elegantly overa black-tie dress or wrap over your work suit on a chilly day. Depending on your fabric and how you style it, it has endless possibilities:

The casual ruana:

In plaid, (wool or fleece), or a reversible knit, the casual ruana looks fabulous over jeans and ballet flats or leggings with tall boots. Layer it over a turtleneck sweater, a tunic or even just a long sleeved tee shirt for instant upgrade of your outfit. Toss one tail over your shoulder and secure it with a pin. If you want a cape look, toss one tail over one shoulder and the other tail over the other side, securing the second side with a brooch or pin and it’ll look like a cape. This cape look is fabulous over a cozy sweater and jeans with boots on a fall day.

We LOVE the ruana over the Shirred Turtleneck from the same pattern envelope - it really highlights the shirring when you wear it draped over one shoulder or open in the front. Or make a mixed print raglan tee shirt and layer over a coordinating ruana - try a black floral print, with black striped sleeves and a black and white plaid ruana - mixing prints is fun if you pick a base color to pull it all together!

Ruana with shirred turtleneck

The work ruana:

Besides keeping one permanently at your desk for those chilly overly-air conditioned or under-heated offices (we recommend black or charcoal gray), you can wear it over a sleek knit top and knit pencil skirt, belting the ruana at the waist with a wide or skinny leather belt. Wear this look with dressy short or tall boots.

You can also layer a ruana over a suit jacket. Most women wear ‘mixed’ pant suits, where your jacket is a different fabric from your pants. The ruana as a finishing touch adds a distinctive layer. Secured with a pin, you can take this outfit to a business lunch on a cold winter day.

Fleece rounded circular ruana ruffled edges

Try the ruana tossed over one shoulder, belted inside the back cape, and outside the back cape, pinned in the front with a jewel brooch. You can also choose to put in sewn-on toggles, and big buttonholes in both fronts and back and thread a self-fabric belt (worn like a cape). You can make it double-layered, from knit, woven or fleece fabric, coating, sweater knit. Bind all the edges, leave them raw, fringe them. Directional prints (like blanket/Southwestern prints) look fabulous. You can also wear it sideways, with buttons and buttonholes down the front / shoulder (worn over one shoulder for a poncho look, and down the front for a cape look.) 

The Cape:

Wearing a ruana as a cape is an easy and stylish update. To do this, you'll mark four large buttonholes in your cape at the points shown on the drawing. You'll also cut out a belt 76" x 4" (38" x 4" on the fold, x2). Work the belt buttonholes and cape as shown (click on the image to enlarge). To wear, thread one end of the belt through one of the front buttonholes, through a back buttonhole, outside the back (like a belt) between the two back buttonholes, back inside the back buttonhole and out the front buttonhole on the other side, tying in front. 

Check out our Ruana-turned-tie-front cape video: 

Click on the image above to see our live video on turning a ruana into a cape!

Click on the image above to see our live video on turning a ruana into a cape!

Ruana as a Cape Instructions.jpeg

Design options and finishing options for the cape and ruana include:

  • Add a band along the edges. Sew a folded band 1-4" wide, mitering at the corners.
  • Sew a band along the bottom edge only.
  • Consider a navy base fabric with cream edging, or a cream base fabric with navy edging.
  • Use a blanket-print fabric.
  • Fringe the edge by zigzagging about 1-2" in from all edges, then pulling the long threads until you have fringe left
  • Make it double layered fleece for a heavy, warm cape
  • Make it in wool or cashmere with hemmed or bound edges
  • Sew it double-layered in stretch velvet or rayon velvet
  • Make it in sweatshirt fleece fabric

The evening ruana:

Besides styling this over your date-night combo of jeans and a great sweater or top for movie night, you can dress up the ruana over an evening cocktail gown (the ruana looks best with a slim fitting long gown or knee-length cocktail dress) and stay warm at those evening theater galas or fall and winter weddings. Go with a gorgeous sweater knit, or try double-sided (reversible) stretch velvet or even a decadent cashmere woven flannel with silk fringe. If you're terrified of cutting into a two-yard length of cashmere, the ruana is a great, easy project to convince you of the need of this luxury. Go ahead, splurge - you'll own this for decades and you'll wear it all winter long!

The sideways ruana becomes a poncho:

You can turn your ruana into a poncho with a bateau neck and a long asymmetrical side tail by simply turning it sideways, so the open edge is along one shoulder and down your arm. If you like, you can sew buttonholes in one side of the inner neck front edge of one, and buttons on the other, and button up the side (or front) of your ruana. Or you can simply use decorative pins (small ones) down the open edge for a temporary poncho look.

They make great gifts!!

You probably can’t have enough of your own, and when you do, you can make gifts for your BFFs, your sister (and, sisters in law especially), your mom, your aunt and your neighbor as a thank you for taking your mail in while you were on vacation.

Visit our Pinterest board at for more great ideas.

Show off your creations at our Facebook Group (free, and private):

Travel Trio Three 226
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