Rectangle Gems The Ruana

I met the Ruana sometime in my teens. It is an amazingly simple garment that can be dressed up or left very simple. It can be short, shorter than my vest here, or floor length. What little I remember is that the original garment came from South America, the Andes. It required minimal sewing, was belted at the waist and primarily used to add an additional layer of warmth. Today’s Fashionista’s like to show it with one front thrown dramatically over the shoulder, which does nothing for warmth. The Ruana was made from 2, let me spell that out TWO lengths of fabrics, which were stitched together at the center back like so:





The Back stitching was variable, but usually started about 3 inches below the shoulder point (where I’ve drawn a dotted line) and ended at the hip. But versions were seen that show the stitch line was very variable depending upon the person. So a little bit of style or maybe the lack of sufficient thread.


My Ruana was constructed from a large scrap left over from my wool crepe pants.  I squared off the remant and then split it in half, so that I had the required 2 lengths. I still have the selvedges which I’m using as hems. I’m not certain I want this vest this long, but for now I’m content to try it out. I did want to dress it up a bit and added some machine embroidery. At the same time I did not want to lose the drape of the fabric, part of the reason for retaining the selvedges for the hems. I did not want to create the stiff square shoulders of vests typical of the Russian Steppes and Mongolian hordes. I wanted the softer Andes Ruana or even a Japanese kimono effect. Each long side was folded twice ¼” and then straight stitched. This may have been an error, because it did add some body to my garment.


I stitched up the center back starting 3” from the shoulders and all the way to my hip. I added a waist casing, to the inside which was constructed from another scrap. The casing was cut 1.5 inches by 7” for the fronts and 14” for the back. Now, if you did some quick addition there you would think that I’m a tiny lady. I am short but not tiny. The Ruana is one size fits most. The sides adjust to accommodate any, including my own, body depth.



When I placed my Ruana on Mimi, my dressform, I could tell immediately that something had to be done. The shoulder area was folding downwards in the back. It desperately wanted a dart, but I didn’t want to make one. I wanted the construction to be very close to the Andean Ruana.


And a few second later my trust seam ripper revealed:



Acceptable but still next time I’ll put the dart in the shoulders somehow.  My sloping shoulders require a sloping shoulder line if my garment is to look good over all.  If you look closely instead of a big folding flap of fabric there is more of a waterfall from shoulder to waist. Not a look I care for, but preferrable to the first.







Disclaimer: I’m taking all information about the Ruana from my memory. As I said I first ran into this garment in my teens and it has been a long time since then. I’m sure there will be conflicting opinions. I’m sure I may have mistakes as I checked nothing before starting my blog entry. I take issue to with using the term Ruana to describe any garment with a split up the center front. In my early 20’s I ran across an inspirational writer who claimed the one thing she would like to do in her life, is to require that words be used as they were defined. I am now agreeing with her. The media seems to have no regard for the real meaning of garment construction terms. A Ruana is 2 lengths of fabric, joined together and belted or tied at the waist, worn for warmth. It is not any garment that can be flung over the shoulder. I’ve seen pictures of a rectangular shawl with one end flung over the shoulder titled “….. Ruana”. Nope that’s not a Ruana. If you do a search on the term Ruana you should find information about garments very similar in construction as mine. Wouldn’t you be disappointed if you went to the groceriers asked for plums and were directed to two other fruits say  cherries or grapes? Do you want a Ruana or shawl? That’s 2 different garments.