The Modern Maker

The Modern Maker Blog

We're going to Norway! The Prøverommet 2019 Conference

Hey there everyone!

We’ve been very busy at the workshop as we’re getting ready to go to Norway! Mathew will be presenting at the Prøverommet (April 25th - 28th), a costuming conference aimed to bring the best of the best together and to learn from each other.

Mathew will be there presenting his lecture “The Power of Proportion” focusing on the Bara measurement system and how to use it for your costuming. You can find his class and more on

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Moving forward!

Its been far too long since I’ve posted here, but now is the time to get back to it. I began a new job last summer than took a long time to get used to and eventually, I realized that it wasn’t for me. I’ve left that position and now I have a bit more time to focus on the things that matter to me here at The Modern Maker.

If you follow the link below, you’ll get the low-down on the next series of videos I’ll be shooting and delivering for the next several months. We will be making a lovely set of clothing for a woman. Two petticoats, a hip roll, stays, an over skirt and a jacket. That’s 6 pieces of clothing to make up the outfit. Now, I’m a clothier, I don’t make the accessories, but I will be looking for, and hopefully including accessories and where to buy them, or, if I’m lucky, I know people who MAKE them and you can hire them to do it. There are many options to finish the perfect townswoman look. I will show you only one example.

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Allan Gnagy
Masterclasses, knitting, and the future of The Modern Maker


Masterclass weeks have begun! Our first week was breeches and those of you who follow us on FaceBook know that it was a success! Students created some fantastic pieces and I have made the poofiest breeches in my wardrobe to date.

Freyle’s Silk Breeches ca 1588, The Modern Maker Vol. 2, page 147

Freyle’s Silk Breeches ca 1588, The Modern Maker Vol. 2, page 147

Next week will be nothing but pattern making. We will use the Bara System to prepare drafts, I will teach drafting principles and concepts and even show a couple of patterns for modern clothing. It will be enlightening.


On a different note, The Modern Maker Vol. 3: Knitted Accessories, is well underway. I am starting to send out packages to my sample makers and pattern testers. I’m also doing a lot of knitting, but I can’t do it all, that’s why designers hire help! As of this moment, the book will have over a dozen patterns total. There will be 5 patterns for stockings of various weights and fibers (both top-down and bottom-up for the wool version), as well as 5 different hats, two pairs of gloves, and the finest gauge silk stocking pattern I’ve ever written and POSSIBLY a pattern for a silk/metallic jacket. I look forward to putting it all together! Once the whole book is written and editing begins, I will post a pre-order button in the store here on my site. I had projected a November release, but at this point, with all that has been added to it, the release will likely be early 2019. I’ll have more specifics once my sample knitters send me their timelines. I can’t expect everyone to knit as fast as I do.




As a business, its hard to call The Modern Maker “successful.” I have struggled over the years to make it grow and earn. The issues surrounding this are many, but I think there is a bright future for our brand.

The Modern Maker masterclasses are not particularly well attended, but the students that do come and learn from me leave here with a very strong sense of accomplishment and excitement about what they are capable of creating with their hands. I’d like to spend more time teaching. I think the passing of this kind of knowledge should be done in person. I love making the videos and they have a strong place in the business structure now, but the quality of those lessons pales in comparison to what can be learned with face-to-face education and training.

Because it has been difficult to make this business earn a revenue that is capable of supporting me, I have to keep taking jobs and that takes away from the time I can spend creating content for my customers/followers. Moving into the sphere of writing books and teaching classes was never meant to be a hobby or a side-job — It was meant to be my profession. I’m working hard to create enough product that revenue streams will grow and support the business, right now though, things are slow and difficult. The uncertainty in our economy has slowed down everyone’s desire to spend money on things that aren’t essential. Unfortunately, that means less growth in The Modern Maker. I’m pushing to do more, find new footing and create new product, but I’m also human, I have limits. The biggest help you, as the consumer, can be is to make sure you tell people where you learned what you know. I have seen many posts from many people, for years now, which show clearly that my work is being used, but not credited. I’ve noticed that people are quick to credit other authors and academics whose work is used in their projects, but for some reason, my name gets left out of bibliographies and sources. Its frustrating and disheartening as I’m constantly working at full-tilt to bring people closer to history and when I’m not credited, my business loses out on the brand recognition it needs to grow. I don’t understand it, but each of you can help by making sure you encourage people to work with The Modern Maker.


In order to create products that will sell more frequently, it has been discussed that I might branch out into modern clothing patterns that use the proportionate system to generate patterns. In doing so, I will be taking a half-step away from history and into a market that is more likely generate revenue. Using the Bara system in this manner would enable every shape of person to have quality modern clothing that fits well, is custom made and is unique to them and can be made of fabric suited to their individual tastes. This will start very slowly as I already have too many irons in the fire at the moment, but it will happen. Not only will I be putting out patterns, but I can also make videos to show the processes for making them. I will use a machine for most pieces but at least one of the collections will be designed for hand sewing techniques.



Allan Gnagy
Branching out

I've talked a bit about this on my Facebook page (just look up The Modern Maker there, you'll find me). I am exploring the idea of unity of my work right now. Because my creativity is so diverse, I have spent a great deal of energy dividing my focus so that each of my creative paths was separate from the rest, for the most part.

Now though, I'm finding it very difficult to keep up with all the posting and various pages that I have to manage because of that choice. This separation has evolved organically over the past decade, but now it seems like they should start coming together. I have focused on the concept of "voice" in my work and I'm finding that I can't express myself fully as an artist while trying to keep everything separate.

This Website is well designed to keep everything in one place, but organized. That won't change. What will begin to happen is that you'll see more posts on this blog about the various creative pursuits that I follow. From fine art to sculpture, to fashion to personal growth through creating.

I hope you enjoy the shift, and I hope it inspires you to speak and create with your whole being instead of keeping everything separate.


Allan Gnagy

I'm so excited that there has been so much interest in more masterclasses at my studio. I have scheduled a series of classes throughout the month of October. Drafting, Stays, Doublets and Kirtles are the classes that will be taught this year.

Please visit the Workshop Registration page to purchase your seat.

There is always interest, but often, its difficult for people to take a week off of work, so I'm in the process of developing some 3 day (fri-sun) Workshops in my studio that will be faster, less expensive and very informative. It is likely that they will all be very technique focused rather than garment focused. Too much work goes into a single garment to make it feasible to teach the construction in 3 days...but learning a technique or two and honing that over the course of 3 days is most certainly possible.

One of the more important things is that all the seats are filled. There are only six seats available per week and my hope is that they will sell fast. If they do, I will plan another set of classes so that I am teaching a round of classes every three months or so.


Allan Gnagy
1630s suit completed, but costly

That was such a fast turnaround for such a complicated suit! The client loved it though and that's what makes it all worth it. Its been a week since the suit was shipped and my hands are only now, beginning to recover.

Something that is painfully clear after this particular suit is that I need to pay more attention to bid quotes and stick to them. For as much joy as I had and as much as this project stretched my abilities (and those of the assistant I hired to help me get it stitched in time), I vastly underestimated the number of labor days and that really chewed up my profit margin. Its hard to make a living doing this if I keep missing the mark on the budget. I only charged my client what we had agreed upon, but the total cost of the suit was nowhere near what I asked for.

I adore my client...this has nothing to do with him. I'm not actually going to tell you what he paid...that's private. But I will tell how much this suit should have cost. I want to be clear, This has everything to do with my own lack of forethought about pricing my work. I tend to default to pricing by the GARMENT. I often subconsciously underestimate the labor hours so they will say yes to my bid (its just because I have always wanted people to like me...its not rational). This is where I get into trouble. I usually think of doublet pricing out at around 1k and breeches at about 6-800 and a jacket around 1k. But the reality is that it all costs MUCH more than that and it always has. I've just never moved over to pricing properly.

The doublet took up the lion's share of the labor hours clocking in at 5 total days labor.
1 Day of Labor = $450.00. This is LOW for a person with as many decades of practice as I have in my hands. Skilled labor of my level SHOULD be around 800-1k, per day. But no one seems to be able to pay that because everyone thinks clothes should be cheap (that is a totally different topic...not even going to start down that path).

So...With 5 days of labor in the doublet at a rate of 450.00/day the doublet SHOULD have cost

The breeches took 2 days of labor and so should cost $900.00

The Cassock took 3 days of labor and should have cost $1350.00

In total, the suit's 10 days of LABOR costs $4500.00...note, materials are not yet included

The various fabrics that were used were grouped together into a single line item of $500.00

Added to that is the cost of the buttons and buttonholes. I put them as a separate item because they are so costly, I like to keep track of large line items like that. They cost slightly less than the fabrics, coming in at around 400.00.

So now we have:
Labor: 4500.00
Fabrics: 500.00
Buttons and Buttonholes: 400.00
Shipping: 250.00

For a grand total of: $5650.00

Now...remember that businesses which sell a product ALSO have to factor in a profit margin...that is nowhere to be seen in these numbers. But it is required if I want to keep paying the rent on my studio, and for the internet, and to maintain my health (yes, hand sewing a garment in a very short time is incredibly physically demanding). A typical markup is about double the cost of manufacture. And YES...this still applies to businesses making custom clothing. So...don't freak out. I know I did. But also, keep in mind, every suit I make is a WORK OF ART. Not a cheap facsimile of something historical.

A final total, with profit margin, would have been $11,300.00

This actually holds up to scrutiny if you compare to the markup on very high end clothing being sold in the market today (just look at some of the clothing sold at Barney's NY). A fine suit, made in a 1st world country, by highly trained people can run between 6k and 10k. And that is a modern suit which is relatively fast to make by comparison, uses fewer complicated skills and most typically is ONLY two pieces -- A jacket and trousers.

Our work requires many extra years of training to do well. Our work is perceived as "costume" though and for that reason, it never seems to be "worthy" of a full price tag. Its such a sadness and this is the reason why its always difficult for me to choose to turn away other work in the film and TV industry instead of just focusing on The Modern Maker full-time.

I'm tremendously proud of the suit that I sent to my client. It really hits all the marks for me and is one of the best suits I've yet made. But pride in my work will not keep the power on in the studio. Something has to change or there is no logical reason to continue to make custom clothing. I should just continue to write about it and teach others, but selling custom suits is folly unless the numbers are higher.


Allan Gnagy Comments
1630s suit for a client

I've been asked to create a fierce suit for a client with a fast turnaround. Since it makes the search for fabric much simpler, and its also SOOOOPER spanish-y, I chose to make the suit all black. I am using a TON of trim. I might use some embroidery on the outer layer. Not sure yet.

I have to do some timing trials of the embroidered detail to see if I can make it efficient enough to be worth the effort, The outer jacket needs to be very detailed and fancy. The occasion warrants it. If the embroidery doesn't prove sufficiently fast, I will just use a lot more trim and maybe some pinking. The doublet is already pinked and slashed and will be done in a day or two. 

I'm so excited to make the suit though. I don't get that many custom orders since my prices are so high. But when I do, I really want to go "full force" and stretch my skills as far as I can (within reason, of course).



Allan Gnagy
Getting back to work

Those of you who follow my work on Facebook know that I am always busy. I don't spend much time idle or sedentary. Three years of working on The Modern Maker Vol. 2: Pattern Manual 1580-1640 have taken a toll on my creativity and passion for these clothes and the joy of making them. Each piece that I have made for the purposes of the book has been a technical journey rather than a creative one and that has left me somewhat bored with the 17th century as a whole.

I am choosing to focus on the details now rather than the garment shapes as a whole. In those details are dozens of skills that I have yet to master: bobbin lace, needle lace, embroidery, and braiding trim, to name a few. The Summer months are usually a time when I get back to detail work anyway (since many of those skills are small and transportable), so my need to go deeper with technique and study is in sync with my natural rhythms of interest.

The past two weeks have been spent teaching masterclasses in my studio in NYC. Teaching people about the finer points of hand-tailoring a doublet or drafting patterns using the Bara System has been invigorating. This year, Doublet week was among my favorite sessions. I was inspired, my student was inspired and we both made great pieces.

I have three jobs over the next couple of weeks. The first, is to continue the doublet construction series of videos for my Subscribers. The second is to make a suit for a new client....and make it really fast. More to come on both of those. The third is to find a way to reignite my passion and fan the flames back to full strength.

Allan Gnagy