Sewing a Butted (or Abutted) Seam

Hey everyone! Today I’ll show you how to sew an Abutted (or Butted) seam in cotton batting. Why? Well, it’s a great way to sew flat seams in very thick or stiff fabrics, such as cotton batting!

I’ve never sewn this type of seam before, even though I always knew it existed. To be honest I thought it was a rather pointless technique, but when it came to sewing cotton batting, regular seams would be bulky and lumpy. So I’m glad I remembered about this type of seam construction!

What is cotton batting, and when would you need to sew seams in it?

As part of the inner workings of the Summer in the City Dress, I added bust padding to the bodice for modesty and for a little more curve. I did this in two parts: first a layer of padding over the bust area, and then layered padded cups on top of the padded layer.

In order to make the padded layer, I cut the bodice front pieces from cotton batting. I found the cotton batting in the quilting section of my local store, in case you have troubles locating some!

Here’s a close-up look at cotton batting – you can see the texture, off-white colour, and approximate thickness:Because the style of this dress has seams and panels over the bust, I cut just the bust pieces from the cotton batting.

Depending on the style of your dress, you may want to cut the whole bodice, just the bust pieces, or a combination.

And now here’s where today’s tutorial comes in handy: to sew the seams in the cotton batting, we need really flat, non-bulky seams. This is a great place to sew an Abutted Seam. Or a Butted Seam. I’ve seen it called both names – anyone know which one is correct?

Basically, it’s a seam without seam allowance. The two pieces of fabric are laid next to each other, touching but not overlapping, and are sewn together with a zigzag stitch or other type of  ‘joining’ stitching.

Here’s what it looks like – both the abutted seam, and the layer of bodice padding:

You’ll need:

  • enough cotton batting to cut your bodice front pieces
  • A sewing machine that can do a zigzag stitch or other decorative, wide stitch
  • Stay tape, seam binding or bias tape
  • Pattern pieces for your bodice
  • Measuring tape, scissors

To prepare our pieces for sewing a Butted Seam, we’ll first trim off the seam allowances:

I found it easiest to trim the seam allowance, sew the butted seam, and THEN move on to the next seam to trim. But you can do all the trimming at once if you like. Whatever order you prefer is fine!

Cut a piece of seam binding, stay tape or bias tape the length of the seam you’re about to join. I’ve used stay tape because it was lightweight and flexible (and I had some on hand!)

Pin the seam binding to one side of the seam, letting the fabric cover the binding about halfway.

Pin the other side of the fabric to the seam binding or stay tape, so that the edges meet. Using the stay tape makes it easier to sew the zigzag stitch, and adds a protective layer to strengthen the seam!

You can really see the cotton batting texture in this photo. If you have sensitive eyes, it does give off ‘fluff’ that floats in the air the more you handle it, so be careful! (I think I may have worn my glasses just to keep it out of my eyes. It’s not terrible, but if you’re prone to itchy eyes it may bother you. Just a heads-up!)

Now, set your machine to a zig-zag stitch. You could also use some of the fancier wide machine stitches, but I used a zigzag as I know most people have at least a zigzag on their machines!

Centre your work under the machine needle, and zigzag over the butted edges. If the edges pull apart as you sew, stop and readjust the layers so the zigzag catches both sides.

Here’s what it looks like, from the front:

And here’s what it looks like, from the back. You can see at the bottom of the seam (which would have been the start) the seam binding slipped a little:

I stitched up and down the seam a few times, to make it extra-strong. (I didn’t remember doing this, but I can tell from all the layers of zigzags!)

Repeat the trim-and-join steps on the rest of the bodice seams.

The more times I sewed this type of seam, the more tricks I picked up! Like this one – cut your seam binding a little bit longer than your seamline, on both sides. That way you can see where it is, and it won’t slip to one side.

Keep on going to construct the rest of the bodice. You can easily sew abutted seams on curved seamlines, too!

When you pin the other side of a curved seam, drape it over your other hand to form the curve. It makes it easier to pin!

You may find it easier to sew the butted seams with the seam binding side up:

When the cotton-batting bodice is all constructed, it will look something like this:

Now, depending on your dress, this might be all the padding you need! This extra layer will cushion against things showing through if the weather is cold, and add a bit of shape to your bodice.

I’ll probably consider adding a layer of cotton batting to any dress I don’t want to wear a bra with, but that doesn’t need a lot of extra padding.

Next up: we’ll add padded bra cups to this padded bodice layer!

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17 Responses to Sewing a Butted (or Abutted) Seam

  1. karen May 31, 2011 at 6:44 am #

    That’s really interesting re the seams and the cotton batting – I didn’t realise you could use it in clothes making.

  2. Nina May 31, 2011 at 6:50 am #

    This will come in handy when I try sewing a bra soon, thanks! :)

  3. caro May 31, 2011 at 7:22 am #

    Nice! What a helpful tip. One question – do you pre-shrink the batting? Would batting survive a hot bath? I try to make all my dresses “hand-wash” instead of “dry-clean” but wondering if that would work with this.

  4. elise May 31, 2011 at 7:36 am #

    Great tutorial!

    It’s definitely abutted seam. It comes from the verb abut: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/abutted

  5. Sunni May 31, 2011 at 8:45 am #

    Oh I’m so glad to see that you are going to show us more of the inner workings of this dress! Great technique! I hadn’t considered the cotton batting for this type of thing before, but I can see where it would keep the dress padded enough to not have to wear a bra. I can’t wait to see the padded bra cups! This dress has been on my short list for awhile – I even have the fabric for it. I only dread cutting out all those pieces!

  6. Catholic Bibliophagist May 31, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    I’m curious about the seam binding you used. Can you mention a brand name? Your photos look like maybe it’s a product called Seams Great which is used to finish seams. It’s sort of stretchy and curls to the inside. Was the product you used stretchy? And did you put the curl facing up or down?

    Also, I was wondering if using an edgestitch foot might be helpful in joining the two batting edges. (I’m not sure since you also have that seam binding underneath, and maybe the blade of the foot would cause too much drag.)

  7. TanitIsis May 31, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    I used this technique on the interlining/insulation in my winter coat last year. I used a 3-step zig-zag and twill-tape and ribbon because that was what I had around. It worked really well :)

    A flat lock stitch on a serger produces much the same results, though it might not work if the cotton batting is quite fragile. Basically you turn the needle thread tension way down and the loopers up, serge, then open the pieces. The loose needle thread allows the seam to pull apart until the edges are butted,

  8. Corinne May 31, 2011 at 11:47 am #

    Great use for quilt batting! Using a cotton batting is also good because it “breathes” in warm weather. Two little tips, yes, I preshrink. Before cutting your pattern pieces, immerse the batting in hot water. Leave it there until the water cools.Then lay it out on a thick towel as flat as possible then roll the towel up to squeeze out the excess water. Then lay it flat on another clean dry towel to dry. This will shrink the fabric and not distort it. I usually do a light steam press before laying out my pattern pieces. The second tip is related to the first. To achieve a nice smooth seam, press your batting fabric then cut with good straight lines, using sharp rotary cutter or scissor. The abutting seems need to lie flat against your seam binding to avoid ripples. Great post Tasia. We all like to see the inner workings of well made garments.

  9. Nancy May 31, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    That is a really useful post – and a great technique, thank you! I love this dress, one day I’ll get to it!

  10. Dilliander May 31, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    Thanks Tasia, I have this pattern and your tutorials will be invaluable when I make it up next summer — today is the first day of winter here in Sydney :-)

    I’m also interested to know more about the seam tape and where it is available from.

  11. Lucy May 31, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

    Cool, and I actually understood! I wonder if you could just use reasonably lightweight fusible interfacing instead of seam tape? Then it would hold easier when you zig-zagged. Or would it not fuse properly to something as fluffy as batting?

  12. Mary May 31, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    very good and interesting. I would have never thought to use batting for bodice shaping, now I am a quilter and do this a lot with batting pieces to make the batt the correct size.. Have you thought of using your bridging foot to put the pieces together? I do use strips of fusible interfacing to hold them together until I get them sewn.

  13. HipDroppedStitches June 1, 2011 at 5:34 am #

    Great tutorial, thanks so much! I have visions of summer dresses dancing in my head and love the idea of the cotton batting for any dress I would prefer to not wear a bra under.

  14. Tasia June 2, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

    @Catholic Bibliophagist: It’s actually Stay Tape – you can see a larger picture of it here:
    http://sewaholic.net/crescent-sew-along-11-sewing-slash-pockets/
    When i start talking about stabilizing the pocket openings, there’s a photo of the packaging. It was $5 for 10 yards, and it’s lasted me through quite a few projects!
    I also talked about it here:
    http://sewaholic.net/using-stay-tape-on-necklines-and-seams/
    It’s not stretchy at all, and doesn’t curl. Does that help? I bought it at my local fabric store in the notions section.

    @caro: I didn’t pre-shrink it but Corinne left a detailed comment on how she pre-shrinks the batting here:
    @Corinne:
    I figured this would be a hand-wash or dry-clean garment, so I didn’t prewash mine!

    @Catholic Bibliophagist: Also, I don’t think I have an edgestitch foot, so I wouldn’t know if that would be better! Worth a try if you have one and think it might help..

    @Corinne: Thanks for the tips, and for always leaving such helpful comments!

    @Lucy: You could try – and Mary says in the comment below that she’s fused cotton batting before. If I try it, I’ll post about it here! :)

    @Mary: I don’t know if I have a bridging foot either! Something tells me I should take a closer look at my sewing machine feet…

  15. Gail June 2, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

    Clever and useful tip.

  16. Mary June 2, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

    maybe I didn’t get the name right, it is the foot that looks like it has an iceskate in the middle. You can use it for topstitching moving the needle to the right or left, or use it with a zig zag or a bridge stitch

  17. Catholic Bibliophagist June 2, 2011 at 9:14 pm #

    @Tasia: Thank you for the link showing the packaging for stay tape. Now I know what to look for the next time I’m at the store or (more likely) shopping online.

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