How to Sew a Beggar's Block (or Roman Square) Quilt Block - a Free Tutorial

Posted by Elaine Huff on

The Beggar's Block (or Roman Square or Cats and Mice) is a very easy quilt block. With only rectangles and a square, the block goes together so quickly! While it is simple, there are many ways to change it up to create completely different looks. I especially like it as a scrappy block!

beggars block quilt block

Historically Beggar blocks were so named because it was the fad to only use a fabric once in the quilt and quilters had to "beg" and trade with their quilty friends for different fabrics. Also known as "Charm" quilts, typically there was only one shape used throughout the quilt - like triangles, hexagons, diamonds, etc. The version I'm using in this tutorial has a central square and the rest of the pieces are same size rectangles - so not quite a true charm quilt.

Fabric Requirements for a 9" Finished Beggar's Quilt Block:

  • Light/White: 1 - 3.5" square, and 8 - 1.5" x 3.5" rectangles
  • Dark/Burgundy: 16 - 1.5" x 3.5" rectangles

If you are cutting from yardage, I recommend that you cut 3.5" strips across the width of fabric and then make your 1.5" x 3.5" rectangles. This makes the length of the rectangle going with the lengthwise grain of the fabric and it won't stretch so much. 

beggars block fabric requirements

While the sewing directions are for a 9" finished block, here are the fabric requirements for a 13.5" and an 18" block:

13.5" Finished Block:

  • Light/White: 1 - 5" square, and 8 - 2" x 5" rectangles
  • Dark/Burgundy: 16 - 2" x 5" rectangles

18" Finished Block:

  • Light/White: 1 - 6.5" square, and 8 - 2.5" x 6.5" rectangles
  • Dark/Burgundy: 16 - 2.5" x 6.5" rectangles

Sewing Directions:

Roman Stripe Units:

Step 1:

Using the picture below for reference, sew two of the Dark/Burgundy 1.5" x 3.5" rectangles to opposite sides of a Light/White 1.5" x 3.5" rectangle. Press the seam allowances away from the Light/White fabric. This is a basic Roman Stripe block.

I recommend sewing only one unit together to start. This is so you can make sure you have an accurate 1/4" seam allowance. The unit should be 3.5" square. If you need more information about getting an accurate seam allowance, you can check out this blog post:

beggars block 1

Step 2:

Repeat Step 1 for a total of eight Roman Stripe units.

beggars 2

Putting It All Together:

Step 3:

Lay out all the Roman Stripe units and the Light/White 3.5" square like in the picture below. From here the block goes together like a basic Nine Patch block.

beggars 3

Step 4:

Sew the units into three rows as shown below.

beggars 4

Step 5:

Press the seam allowances in opposite directions from row to row. You can see in the picture below that I've pressed the top and bottom row toward the outside and the middle row toward the center. 

beggars 5

Step 6:

Sew the three rows together to complete the block (well, except for the pressing).

beggars 6

Step 7:

Press the seam allowances toward the center of the block. That was quick and easy!

beggars 7

I just had to do a scrappy version:

scrappy block

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Layout Ideas:

Here's the typical 4 x 4 layout. Not my favorite. I really don't think this is the way it was intended to be sewn together.

quilt 1

Here's that same layout only every other block is rotated a quarter turn. What a difference!

quilt 2

This example shows a scrappy block with narrow sashing and cornerstones.

quilt 3

Here I started playing with color changes. I think this would be a great three-color quilt!

quilt 4

Back to a scrappy version only with some dark blue taking the place of some of the white.

quilt 5

This version is simply the same scrappy block but black fabric is substituted for the white fabric.

quilt 6

This is an on-point example with the light blue used in the setting triangles too.

quilt 8

This version is the same as the one before but with sashing and cornerstones in a third fabric.

quilt 9

One more on-point layout. For this one I used black instead of white in the center rectangle of the Roman Stripe units. Then I put a purple in the center square and added pink sashing and purple cornerstones. This is my favorite!

quilt 10


The Beggar's Block, or Roman Square which is a more accurate name, was so easy and quick to sew together. I really had fun coming up with different layouts too! 

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Happy Quilting!


P.S. Looking for more beginner-friendly quilt blocks? Check out this roundup post:

P.P.S. Need a quilt pattern in a hurry? Check out my easy downloadable PDF patterns at

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