Beginner's Guide to Quilting

Roman Stripe Quilt Block

Finished Block Size: 6" -- Block with Seam Allowances: 6 1/2"

The Roman Stripe block is a perfect beginners block. With no points to match and no intersecting seams this block goes together easily and lets the beginner work on cutting fabric strips and perfecting the 1/4" seam allowance. When several blocks are combined, an elegant pattern is created. This is an excellent block for showing off those wonderful fabrics that quilters collect.

Fabric Selection

This block requires three different fabrics:

A light colored fabric

A medium colored fabric

And a dark colored fabric

These fabrics do not have to come from the same color family, but should be of the light, medium, and dark color values.

Cutting the Fabric

For this block, you will need to cut three 2 1/2" strips, one from each of your chosen fabrics.

Wash and dry all the fabrics for the block. Next, press the fabric using a hot iron and a generous amount of heavy duty starch. Starch keeps the fabric from stretching and makes it easier to work with.

Note: The following directions are for those who are right handed. If you are left handed, please reverse the directions.

Fold the fabric - After pressing the fabric, fold the fabric in half bringing the selvedge edges together. If the folded fabric has some wrinkles or appears to pulling, move the top layer of fabric slightly left or right, keeping the selvedge edge even, until the fabric lies flat. Don't worry if the raw edges of the fabric do not line up. Fold the fabric a second time bringing the folded edge up to the selvedge edge. Be sure to keep the folded and selvedge edges even and to watch out for wrinkles.

Straighten the raw edge - Place the fabric on the cutting mat with the selvedge edge facing you. Place the ruler on the right hand side of the fabric being sure that the ruler is perpendicular to the folded fabric edges. The easiest way to be sure that the ruler is perpendicular to line up one of the crossways line on the ruler with the folded edge of the fabric.

When the ruler is lined up carefully open the rotary cutter blade, if necessary. Placed your left hand on thee ruler to hold it in place and take the rotary cutter in your right hand and place the blade next to the ruler's edge at the edge of the fabric closest to you. Pushing down lightly on the rotary cutter, run the cutter along the edge of the ruler being sure to push the ruler away from you. This will trim off the raw edge of the fabric. Remove the trimmed fabric and close the rotary cutter.

Safety Note: ALWAYS close the rotary cutter every time you put it down. The blade is VERY sharp.

 Cut the strips - For this step, the just cut fabric edge must be on your left hand side. Since you do not want to move the fabric and possibly cause the fabric edge you just trimmed to become unaligned, either move to the other side of the cutting board if you are lucky enough to have the cutting board on a surface you can move around or turn the board itself around being careful not to move the fabric.

With the cut edge of the fabric on your left hand side, take the ruler and line up the 2-1/2" mark with the cut edge of your fabric. Holding the ruler in place with your left hand, take the rotary cutter in your right hand, opening it first if necessary. Place the rotary cutter blade against the ruler at the edge of the fabric closest to you. Pushing down lightly, push the cutter away from you along the edge of the ruler cutting a 2-1/2" strip of fabric.

 If the fabric was folded correctly, you should now have a straight fabric strip. If your fabric resembles the one shown, try refolding your fabric and follow the steps above to cut another fabric strip. Once you have one good 2-1/2" strip cut from one of you fabrics, repeat the above steps with your other two selected fabrics so you have three 2 1/2" fabric strips. You will then be ready to sew your strips together to make the Roman Stripe block.

Note: You should be able to make six or seven Roman Strip blocks with your three fabric strips. If you wish to make more blocks, you will have to cut more strips. Once you have straightened the edge of your fabric, you should be able to cut several strips before you have to straighten your fabric again. Check your fabric strips as you cut them. If the last strip cut is wavy, refold your fabric and straighten the edge again before you start to cut any more strips.

For more information on cutting fabric, see the Rotary Cutting how to page.

Sewing the Block

The first step in sewing your Roman Stripe blocks is deciding in what order you want your strips to appear in the finished block. The example shows the strips sewn in the traditional lightest to darkest pattern, but you can sew your strips together in the order that pleases you.

Scant 1/4" seam allowance - when sewing your strips together it is important to use a seam allowance slightly less than 1/4. This is because a slight amount of fabric is take up in the fold when the seam is pressed to one side. For more information on machine piecing, see the Block Piecing how to page.

 When you have decided how you want to sew your strips together, take the first two strips and place them right sides together with the long sides aligned. Don't worry if the short edges to not match. It is very rare to find two different fabrics that are exactly the same width and you will be trimming the ends of the sewn strips off. Just chose one of the short strip edges to align and forget about the other end. Pin the strips together about every 6" to 10". This will prevent the top strip from being pushed forward by the presser foot as the strips are being sewn together. Starting from the short edge that you have chosen to align, sew the first two strips together using a scant 1/4" seam allowance, removing the pins holding the strips together as you sew.

When pressing quilt blocks, do not slide the iron, but instead lift the iron up and move to the next area to be pressed and put the iron back down on the fabric. Sliding the iron can cause the fabric to become distorted. When pressing the sewn strips, first press the strips together. This will help to eliminate any slight puckering that may have occurred while sewing the blocks. Then place your sewn strips with the darker color strip on the top. Then open the sewn strips, using the tip of the iron to help you, and press as you open the sewn strips. This will insure that the seam allowance lays toward the side of the seam with the darker fabric. Pressing from the right side will elimate the pleat that can form along the seam line if the strips are pressed from the wrong side. After pressing the strips, turn the sewn strips to the wrong side and make sure that the seam allowance hasn't become twisted. If it has, just press the seam to the darker fabric side with the iron.

For more information on pressing your quilt blocks, see the Pressing how to page.

Note: For illustration purposes, the pressing is shown as taking place on the wrong side of the fabric strips while, in reality, pressing will be done from the right side of the sewn strips.

 Next, take the sewn strip and the remaining cut strip and place them right sides together with the long edge of the cut strip aligned with the long edge of the sewn strip. Align the short edge of the cut strip with the short edges you have previously aligned. Pin the strips together approximately every 6" to 8", again to prevent the upper strip from being pushed ahead by the sewing machine presser foot. Sew the strips together using a scant 1/4" seam allowance.

After sewing the third strip into place press the newly sewn seam first together, then toward the darker fabric from the right hand side, as has been previously shown. The strips have now been successfully joined together.

Now is a good time to measure the width of the sewn strips. The sewn strip should measure 6-1/2" wide, 6" finished width plus two 1/4" seam allowances. If the strips were not cut right at 2-1/2" or the seam allowance varied from the scant 1/4" the strip may be more or less than 6-1/2" wide. If this is the case, then write down the actual width of the sewn strips and use that measurement in the following step rather then 6-1/2" measurement specified in the next step.

 Now, take the three sewn strips, and place then on the cutting mat. Line the ruler up so that the straight edge of the ruler is at a 90° angle to the short edge of the strips as shown in the illustrations. Lining one of the horizonatal ruler lines up with the long edge of the cut strips will insure that the edge of the ruler is at the required 90° angle. Make sure that the edge of the ruler is to the left side of the selveges of the short edges of the sewn strips. This will make sure that all the selvedges will be trimmed from the block.

Once the ruler has been correctly placed, place your left hand on the ruler press down to hold the ruler in place. Take the rotary cutter in your right hand, open it, and cut off the short end of the strips just as was done to straighten the edge of the fabric when cutting the initial strips.

 Take the trimmed edge of the strip and place it on the left hand side of the cutting mat as shown. Place the ruler so the edge is 6-1/2" from the short edge and the ruler is at a 90° angle to the long edge of the sewn strip. The grid on the cutting mat can be used to help measure the 6-1/2" if the grid is true. Check the grid with the ruler first to see if it is correct.

Once the ruler has been placed correctly, place your left hand on the ruler to hold it in place, and cut along the edge of the ruler with the rotary cutter. Repeat this step and keep cutting 6-1/2" sections from the sewn strip until there is no longer enough fabric in the strips to cut another 6-1/2" square.

 You have now completed your Roman Stripe quilt blocks. Stand back and admire your handy work and be sure to brag to all your family and friends. Now, see the projects below for some ideas on how to make things with your new blocks.


Coming soon

Quilting Suggestions

Coming Soon

Other Ideas

 A block very similar to the Roman Stripe is the Rail Fence block. The only difference is the Rail Fence block is composed of four slightly narrower strips of fabric. If you want to make this block, you will need four different fabrics and will cut one 2" strip from each fabric. The block is then sewn as shown above with four strips beening sewn together instead of three. The block is then cut as the Roman Stripe.

© 1999-2000 Susan E Traudt - Feel free to use the patterns and instructions given here for personal or instructional use, but please, if use the information for instruction, you must give credit to the WWQP and provide the URL

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