A ruana--a traditional shawl with a long back and dramatic open sleeves--is a fairly simple garment to knit. Advanced knitters can add personal detail to a straightforward pattern if they wish.
There are many patterns for ruanas on the Internet and many types of yarn available today. Choose a pattern that most resembles the garment you want to wear or that uses a type of yarn you like. Choose a pattern that fits the yarn's gauge--gauge is the number of stitches per inch of knitting. If the yarn is chosen first, find a pattern that matches the gauge of the yarn. Find the gauge on the yarn's paper label and make sure to use the size of needle specified on the label for the yarn or in the pattern so the gauge is correct. This is important so the garment ends up being the right size and shape.
It is always advisable to knit a swatch--a small square sample of knitting--to make sure the yarn and needles used produce the correct gauge. Once the swatch is complete, if the gauge is correct, begin knitting the garment. If the gauge is off, choose another size of needles to get the correct gauge, and begin the project itself.
Cast on the required number of stitches as advised in the pattern, generally about 200 stitches. Begin knitting the garment as advised. Often a ruana is longer in the back than in the front, but if you want the front and back to be even, you can change the pattern so it will be that way when complete. A ruana can be knit in stockinette stitch, where you knit and purl each row alternately. You can also choose to complete the garment in garter stitch, where every row is knitted. Another stitch pattern of your choice can also be used.
Continue for about 80 rows or until the back of the ruana is the desired length. At this point, decide if details--such as decorative stitches or cables--will be added to the front of the garment. If this is the case, be sure to add those into the piece starting at the shoulders. Now, cast off 100 stitches, leaving 50 on one side, and continue knitting this side of the garment, in pattern. This will be one of the two front flaps of the ruana. Knit this side to the desired length and cast off.
Cast on 50 stitches on the opposite side of the front of the garment and knit this side of the ruana in pattern for the same number of rows as the already completed side, leaving a series of cast off stitches for the head opening. Once the second front panel is the desired length, cast off those stitches and weave any loose ends into the garment. There are a number of different ways to finish the ruana. If the wearer desires a more coat-like garment, the front and back can be sewn together at the sides to create a sleeved garment. The wearer can also attach ties at the center front and back of the garment to keep it closed when on the body.
Once the knitting is complete, block the ruana. Do this by either spraying the knit with a water bottle or dunking it in a sink full of water. Press the ruana between two dry bath towels until the excess water is removed, and lay flat to dry. Be sure to shape the ruana to the desired finished size. Once it is dry, it is ready to wear.
There are many resources for patterns on the internet. One good Web site to look at is www.knitty.com. Another is www.ravelry.com. Ravelry is a member-driven site where thousands of knitters post patterns on a regular basis. Membership is free and open to anyone.