A Discovery of Stitches



Katy Bradley


(click images to to enlarge)

Other Credits

creator, teacher

Outline the story …

I was inspired by the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness, but I needed a beginner-friendly project for my first garment, not her elaborate court dress or Mary Sidney’s amazing shoes. I decided to create my own interpretation of the handmade linen smock that the main character Diana wears to time-walk back to 1590 in Chapter 42 of A Discovery of Witches (I’m an audio-book reader, so sorry for the lack of page numbers). The smock is handmade in a short timeframe and described as “plain linen” “with long sleeves and strings at the neck.” The cuffs skimmed her wrists and reached her ankles “and the wide neck drew closed when I tugged on the string.” From this, I did some research on smocks around the 1590s, and decided to go with an anachronistic but spoonie-friendly construction using cotton sheets from my stash. Though sorely tempted by the blackwork embroidery on several extant garments, I wanted to stick with the book’s description that since they couldn’t take anything from the present into the past, Marthe: “had to sew them by hand, and she didn’t have much time. They’re not fancy, but at least we won’t shock whomever we first meet.” I decided to look for as basic a smock pattern as I could find for my plus-size form and planned for most of the construction to be done by machine since I was newly recovering from a lupus flare.

Outline the construction…

I followed the tutorial by Lisa Roberston on After ripping the rectangles to my measurements, I cut the triangles out around the neckline and serged them to prevent stretching. Then I ironed the neck casing, learned how to make eyelets from Daisy Victoria on YouTube, and added two eyelets for the drawstring using two strands of cotton floss from my stash. After sewing the casing down by machine, I attached each sleeve to the front using a French seam by machine; then attached the back, (French seams). Then I aligned the seams under the arm from there to the cuff and there to the hem, offsetting the frenched seams from the neckline. I machine stitched both side seams from cuff to hem using French seams. I used a darning needle to thread a polyester faux silk ribbon as a drawstring. I stitched the cuffs together by machine and turned them out. Then I ran gathering stitches on the sleeves by machine, hand-gathering fit the cuffs. I attached the cuffs by hand and completed the first cuff using the same double-strand cotton floss I used for the eyelets. Ouch (yes, I was using a thimble). Lesson learned, I took good advice (thanks FB group plus-sized historical costuming!) and purchased some silk thread and smaller needles. I attached the second cuff and felled it by hand much more quickly and much less painfully. I pressed a narrow hem to keep it ankle-length and finished that by hand as well.




  1. Avatar Rachel Zanoni on March 11, 2021 at 5:59 pm

    I love those books, and I love the title! As soon as I saw what you called it I immediately recognized it as a night rail.

  2. Avatar Nelda Sue Hargo on March 11, 2021 at 6:44 pm

    great choice for a beginning. It is the single most essential item for every time period. a simplistic seeming garment that is not simple at all. lovely finishing on it.

  3. Avatar Katie Williams on March 11, 2021 at 7:08 pm

    Beautiful job!

  4. Avatar Stephanie on March 11, 2021 at 9:30 pm

    I love your video so much! Also using sheets from your stash is wonderful!

  5. Kitty Mortensen Kitty Mortensen on March 11, 2021 at 9:38 pm

    Beautifully done!

  6. Avatar Phanuel Jagna Levinsen on March 11, 2021 at 10:49 pm

    Great work! Love the flossing for the eyelets!

  7. Avatar Elowen Blackthorn on March 11, 2021 at 11:04 pm

    Excellent job on the most necessary of foundation layers!

  8. Avatar Jaclyn Spencer on March 12, 2021 at 3:11 pm

    Begin with the beginning. Such a great choice for where to start your journey. Nice work!

  9. Avatar Stanislava Pilkova on March 12, 2021 at 3:33 pm

    That draw string detail is so cute!

  10. Avatar Mary Johns on March 12, 2021 at 6:16 pm

    It really looks like the description, as well as looking very comfortable. It’s also very neat and tidy, and finished well.

  11. Avatar Caroline on March 12, 2021 at 8:33 pm

    Such a great project! It looks adorable!

  12. Avatar Sherri on March 12, 2021 at 8:34 pm

    I hope this helps you feel part of the story! So creative and special.

  13. Avatar Lili on March 13, 2021 at 12:29 am

    I love the delicate details.

  14. Avatar Gabrielle Amey on March 13, 2021 at 2:40 am


  15. Avatar Mónica on March 13, 2021 at 4:22 am

    The smock is such an important garment and the base of all the other garments great starting point. You did such a good job with the cuffs and the neckline. Well done!

  16. Avatar Natalia V. on March 13, 2021 at 8:51 pm

    Congratulations! You did a great job!

  17. Avatar Cassie Jackson on March 13, 2021 at 9:37 pm

    great job. you gave a lot of thought to detail that matches the story the design is taken from. As your skills grow….. all that fancy blackwork you are admiring, you could add to this garment in the future if you wanted to further challenge yourself without having to make an entirely new garment. Well done. lovely job!

  18. Avatar Andrea Olinte on March 14, 2021 at 7:03 am

    Beautiful smock! Love your little film.

  19. Avatar Lucia on March 14, 2021 at 8:56 am

    such tiny stitches… <3

  20. Avatar KK Rose on March 14, 2021 at 8:48 pm

    I haven’t read the book, but it seems you’ve illustrated the thing perfectly! Wonderful inspiration and wonderful construction.

  21. Avatar Valerie Meachum on March 15, 2021 at 12:31 am

    Look at that lovely neat eyelet! <3 Well done all around.

  22. Avatar Abigail Wietecha on March 18, 2021 at 4:58 pm

    The stitching is very pretty!

  23. Avatar Joshua Graham on March 18, 2021 at 5:32 pm

    such a great use of stash sheets – well done

  24. Avatar AnnaCatherine Sendgikoski on March 18, 2021 at 6:46 pm

    There is gorgeousness in simplicity isn’t there? And to be able to use sheets that you were smart enough to stash! Beautiful. Thank you!

  25. Avatar Lisa Olsen on March 19, 2021 at 2:54 am

    Love it!

  26. Avatar Senta on March 21, 2021 at 2:51 am

    It looks just like mine 🙂 I really like it , they are so comfy I only wish we could wear them more ! Congratulations on your entry . 🙂

  27. Avatar Laura Ingalls Gunn on March 21, 2021 at 10:16 pm

    Such beautiful details. You truly elevated a simple garment into something special. Bravo!

  28. Avatar Peta Pendlebury on March 22, 2021 at 1:13 pm

    It was my inspiration too but you definitely beat me cos you got it done! I love these books and your shift is amazing for your first garment and exactly what I imagined Diana would be wearing. The video is fantastic too – nearly had me in tears – as do the books. I very much look forward to seeing what you make next.

  29. Avatar Carol Phillips on March 24, 2021 at 3:29 am

    Lovely comforting cotton sheets — an inspired choice for connecting the present to the past. Beautiful stitching on what is actually a difficult dense fabric. I hope you wear it often.

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