Continuing the series on free motion quilting for beginners, this week we will explore the S shape. You remember the shape of the letter S from kindergarten, right?

Elementary school Alphabet with the S circled

The perfect S with the nice, perfect, counter-clockwise curve at the top that transitions smoothly into the nice, perfect, clockwise curve at the bottom. That perfect shape works as a classic quilting design just as it is. It’s called by many names. One name is

“Red Hot Hearts”

because it looks like hearts flipping along a border or sashing.

image of red hot hearts quilting motif repeated 3 times

Red Hot Hearts

If you’re looking for a quick sashing or border design, look no further!

It starts with an S shape just like you learned in kindergarten. Shown here in red:

Then immediately a mirror-image S (in green). Repeat as often as you need to fill your border.

There is one difference from that kindergarten S. You’ll start at the bottom, rather than the top like you first learned in school.

image showing start point of red hot hearts design with an arrow point the direction of the stitching path

Starting at the bottom is simple. The tricky part, the part that needs practice, is stitching the mirror-image S. Nobody learned that in kindergarten!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

First practice this design by drawing on a white board, paper and pencil, or electronic tablet. You might want to print out the first image in this post and slip it into a page protector to trace with a dry erase, just to get that muscle memory started in the right direction. Remember we want GOOD muscle memory.

Pro Tips

If you’ve been following along with this series, you might be guessing what I’m going to say next.

You may have noticed how symmetrical this design is. So when quilting, it would be super helpful to have guidelines to help you achieve or come close to that symmetry.

This shows my quilt border with the guidelines I like. I don’t want my design to touch the seam lines so I mark a straight line 1/4 inch away from the seam lines. That will tell me how tall to make my S shape. I use a ruler and a chalk marker. You can use any removable marking device you like, (just as long as you know you will be able to remove it when you finish quilting!)

The other guidelines I like are the straight vertical lines that tell me how wide to make my S shape. These need to be evenly spaced. The easiest way I have found to mark these is to use a line stencil and a pounce pad.

various sizes of straight line stencils

The line stencils come in many different widths. I find stencils from many sources. Here are a couple that I like: The Stencil Company and  Full Line Stencils.

You can also accomplish this using a ruler and chalk. It will just take a whole lot longer. I’d rather be quilting than marking!


You know, quilts have vertical borders as well as horizontal borders. So I need to give you a

Practice assignment

Once you have the hang of drawing and stitching Red Hot Hearts horizontally, practice drawing, then stitching the same design vertically.

And you might run across a sashing that is on an angle, if you have a quilt with blocks on-point. So move on to 45 degree Red Hot Hearts.

If you have any practice time left you can practice quilting the S shape at random angles. Next week we will explore more S shape design possibilities.

by Mary Beth Krapil

Handi Quilter