Saturday, August 26, 2017

What Is a Roman Stripe?

Amish Inspired Roman Stripe Quilt

The first pattern I chose to launch my project of pattern study was one often used by early quilters because of its simplicity. Strips of fabric sewn together on their longest sides to create a vivid pattern are called Roman stripes. In this first post, I would like to explain some of what I have learned about the pattern itself.

Credit PhotoPin

Roman stripes might be self-explanatory to some, but I thought it was strange that I could not find a standard definition. Was it because of the folds of a toga or perhaps the fluting in a column so common to their architecture? Further research led me to texts referring to trabea.

trabea\ˈtrābēə\ A toga with a border of colored stripes worn ceremoniously by various men of rank in ancient Rome.

This more academic explanation on Toga mentions trabea in the second to last paragraph as "...a toga with purple horizontal stripes." The paper explains all purple, purple and white, and purple and saffron were three kinds of trabeae.
You may also be interested in these photos at Pinterest and Google Images 

Togas could not be worn by anyone without political or social rank, and for some time not even outside of Rome. The color of the entire toga or color striping on the trabea was a special indication of status or ceremony. The Roman stripe was a prized early pattern. I was beginning to understand the significance of this early pattern, and perhaps how it got its name. 

The Lure of Stripes In Nature

Baby Zebra, Safari, Serengeti, Tanzania

I highly doubt the zebra would achieve the same status without their graphic stripes. Would we be drawn to them if they looked more like our common donkeys?

Stripes occurring in nature can either draw attention or create camouflage for a species whether animal or plant. The zebras stand out boldly against this lush landscape, and I was confused. It was not until I kept looking that I started to understand.

Zebra, Animal, Mammal, Wildlife, Game

In the first zebra photo above, animals would be easy prey for predators as they contrasted with the surroundings. During dry spells and times they might be more at risk from a predator, the stripes provide more protection. The zebra above blends in much more with the landscape with lower color contrast. It is only a theory.

*You may be interested that there were studies conducted (2010 & 2012) suggesting the zebra's stripes were most beneficial for repelling biting flies. White hides repel better than black, and the striped pattern works nearly as well as all white without standing out in nature. Again, we have another theory. 

The More Recent History of Stripes

UMd: A history of stripes in fashion is a quick and enlightening read about how stripes moved from signalling outcasts to high fashion.

Product Details

Patternalia: An Unconventional History of Polka Dots, Stripes, Plaid, 

Camouflage, & Other Graphic Patterns

Patternalia by Jude Stewart is an excellent little book exploring all the minutia you could seek about patterns. (I love this little book!)

Beginning My Amish Inspired Roman Stripe

This photo of early construction shows two different stripe patterns common in quilting. The blocks show typical even widths of the Roman stripe pattern, and the border shows stripes made from differing widths. The border may also be called Chinese coins depending on your local terminology. Some sources say the Chinese coin pattern is made from uneven widths of stripes as if the coins were stacked on top of each other. Many quilters use these names interchangeably. 

A Quick Note of Explanation About 
"Amish Quilt" vs. "Amish Inspired Quilt"

The quilt I am making here is patterned in the style of an early Amish quilt. Because I am not Amish, it is not an Amish quilt. Yes, I know this is splitting hairs, but in this area especially it is necessary to explain. People have a tendency to place more value--and spend more money on an Amish made quilt. I want to state that in all groups of people there are some with excellent skills and also those with very average skills. The skill going into a quilt will make it a work of art or just average regardless of who made it. Buyer and maker both be aware.

More next time about the making of this quilt and other Roman stripe projects in progress.

Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew.


  1. Thanks for the information. Very interesting. I agree...zebras would not be as pretty without stripes LOL

  2. Very informative, Julie. Thank you. Love the quilt although I am usually not attracted to quilts using solids. Really like the column like quilting in the border.

  3. Another great post full of information. I like your version of an Amish quilt.

  4. All very interesting. I love the Roman stripe quilt block. Explaining Amish inspired and actual Amish-made is so important. Thank you for all of the information :)

  5. With a son obsessed with ancient history I found this blog post interesting reading . I love your quilt , have been thinking of stripes and circles recently . But I must admit I never really thiyght about the having to distinguish between Amish and Amish inspired quilts. A very important distinction when you think about it

  6. It's really interesting about the Romans, I visited Pompai a few years ago and was amazed how forward thinking they were, they had underfloor heating, ingenious road crossings, fantastic mosaics. Interesting post Julie. I live your take on a Roman Stripe quilt, Amish inspired or not I love it.

  7. Lovely quilt, and intriguing historical background! So is the HST with one triangle made of strips the only one that is called Roman Stripe? What if it's a Lemoyne Star block with the diamond patches made up of stripes -- is that also a Roman Stripe? I've been thinking of making some of those with my leftover pineapple log cabin strips... IF I ever finish the pineapple quilt, that is!


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