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Eighteenth Century Linen “Jumps”

I wanted a corset that didn’t feel like a corset. Why? I love the shape a corset gives, but on certain days, something comfier is called for.

I have owned Jill Salen’s ”Corsets” pattern book for a few years now, and the hand-sewn linen “jumps” project at the back of the book always appealed to me. “Jumps” are a comfy, corset-like garment from the eighteenth century. This particular pair of jumps ends just under the bust, but many other pairs are waist or hip length.

Counterintuitively, when I have a lack of “sew-jo”, a hand sewing project is easiest for me to tackle. Hand-sewing itself is natural and intuitive: you can do it lying on the couch watching a movie, or with a troop of wild children running laps around you. It is also easier to fit “bite-sized” sewing sessions into a busy day. Much of this may just be a mental trick, but it nonetheless enables me to get projects done efficiently when I otherwise would not have had the energy to machine sew.

Creating the Mock-Up and a Critical Error

I traced off the jumps pattern using one-inch graph paper. This was likely the most difficult part of the whole project. Not that it took the longest, but it was too mathematical for my then-tired self to easily accomplish. There were only a few large pattern pieces however, so it was soon finished.

I measured across the bust width of the pattern and found it to be the same as my own bust measurement, so didn’t make any changes to the pattern. I was intending to make a mock-up but sadly my dishevelled brain conveniently forgot that part until after I’d begun cutting into my good linen. This came back to bite me later. I had not added seam allowances to the paper pattern pieces but rather traced around them onto my fabric with pencil, and then cut around that adding a rough 1.5 cm seam.

Piecing the Panels Together

First I trace-basted the sewing line of some of the pattern pieces, for accuracy and to make it easier to match them all up perfectly.

Loosely following the book’s written instructions, I back-stitched the panels together. These jumps are comprised of two layers of front, side, and back pieces. The back stitching was surprisingly neat because of having the pencil/baste outline to follow

exactly. After pressing and trimming these seams I laid the two layer of the jumps on top of each other, right sides together, and sewed around the border to attach them. The book said to use a back stitch for this but I didn’t see the need for it and so used a running back-stitch to save time. Even so, this step took me the longest because of having to sew around the straps and all of the bottom tabs.

Turning and Top-Stitching

After pressing and trimming the seam allowances, I turned the jumps right-side out through a centre-front seam which I’d left open. This took a lot of fiddling with a knitting needle to get all the corners of the tabs and the straps turned crisply. I actually ended up using my loop turner tool for the straps.

Finally I top-stitched around the border using a stab-stitch, which is like back-stitch except the stitches on the right-side of the garment are the size of a pinhead. To save time, I used slightly larger stitches on the underside of the jumps.

Marathon of the Hand-Stitched Boning Channels

Back-stitching those boning channels proved tedious. I have never hand-sewn fully boned eighteenth century stays and don’t think I ever will, as just these eleven boning channels took so long. Once done, I added a buttonhole to the top of each boning channel so as to be able to slide the boning in and out (these jumps are washable).

I have only sewn one other garment with hand-stitched eyelets and that was a terrible experience. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how quick and satisfying it was to sew the eyelets onto these jumps. For the boning I used reed, which I have not been too impressed with. It is very brittle. I first cut the “bones” to length and then soaked to help them be more flexible.

When Not Making the Mock-Up Comes Back to Bite You

I ended this project with tired fingers but was immensely satisfied with how the jumps had turned out. All that changed when I first tried them on: they were too big. The bust measurement may have been the same to my own, but I hadn’t accounted for the “squish” factor, or for having any lacing gap in the front. I had to lace the front practically overlapped to get a decent fit, and even then these were loose in the wrong places and offered no support. Basically the eighteenth century equivalent of a sleep bra. Suffice it to say, I felt terribly burnt out that evening and told my husband not to mention the word “sewing” to me.

What if I wash the jumps on hot and run them through the dryer? I had not pre-washed the fabric, which usually works fine for other corsets because they are not washable but I’d forgotten that these jumps are washable. So in this case, two “wrongs” added up to make a right because thankfully washing and drying these shrank them sufficiently.

What About You?

Do you ever get away with not making a mock-up? Have you sewn a unique historical garment before? Let me know in the comments below!

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