What Is a Ruana? Explore Our New Ruanas This Season

November 03, 2016

Take a stick. Tie some strings to it. Put another stick at the bottom, then weave some strings in and out. You now know why the ruana exists. The ruana, along with capes, shawls and tunics, is probably one the oldest styles of clothing still worn. 

A ruana is what I would call a technique-driven garment, which means that the technique used to create it also determines its shape and usage. Weaving, from the beginning, with a few exceptions has always followed the rectangle because of the right-angle nature of woven cloth, and classic tunic shape that originated with putting a hole in the top and sides for arms and the head is found all over the world. Taking that rectangle and draping it over your shoulders is one of the variations on the "what do I do with this piece of cloth?" theme. Compare that to a cut-and-sewn dress of the modern era, with its darts and 


Designs can be technique-driven, too. The same stairstep pattern can be found on textiles from Morocco, ancient Mexico, Ecuador and the coffee cups in Greek diners. The underlying structure of the weave lends itself to certain designs, so they proliferate. Stripes, ikat (where the yarn is tie-dyed) and checks are also technique driven. 

There’s probably another reason ruanas are still worn, though: they look great! Dramatic, flowing: there is something theatrical and a little mysterious about a ruana. This year we found three great new Ruanas. The Fiori and Aymara are hand-made with painstaking asymmetrical intarsia knitting, using yarn that our tiny artisanal Bolivian supplier plies themselves with just a touch of Pima cotton. The Megan is a jazzy black and white pattern made of pure alpaca. Take your pick! Or check out one of our classics. Any one of the three mentioned above is 20% off until November 6th with the discount code that we emailed to our subscribers.

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