The Modern Maker


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
Announcing The Modern Maker Workroom!!

At the end of February, I began monetizing my online knowledge. So far its been a success!

I am calling it THE MODERN MAKER WORKROOM. It is an online presence that functions much like a classroom with myself as the teacher and subscribers as the students. Lower level subscriptions can just follow along, higher level subscriptions can join a closed group format where I will personally help guide your process.

Using as a platform for subscriptions, I am creating videos, graphics and other content which help people make better clothing. The photo above comes from a 16th century Spanish wrap skirt called a Manteo, or a Faldellin. Throughout the month of March, I created videos that teach all the steps to make a simple version of one of these skirts. From layout and cutting, to all the hand sewing to stitch it together.

This skirt is a great way to start hand sewing as there are relatively few seams. A very long hem means there is plenty of time to practice and perfect the stitches, helping students gain efficiency in their movements and uniformity in their stitches.

If you'd like to join us in The Modern Maker Workroom, visit: and sign up!

As soon as you subscribe, you will have access not only to upcoming videos, but to past videos as well!

I can't wait to see where we go with this new format!


Allan Gnagy
The Modern Maker Vol 2: Pattern Manual 1580-1640

Its done and its released!! As of March 31, 2018, It is available to the public!

There is so much I could say about the stress and insanity of creating this nearly 300 page book, but suffice it to say, I'm glad its done!

Please pick up a copy and enjoy!

When you're using the patterns and have questions, you can always find me on Facebook at The Modern Maker.

Here is the link!

If you would like to purchase a subscription to more in-depth information, you can sign up at

When you sign up for 10.00 or more per month,  you will get access to exclusive video lessons that are released every month. The long I have patronage, the more videos I will create!

If you sign up for 45.00 or more per month, you can join a small group in The Modern Maker Workroom on Facebook and I will personally respond to your questions and guide you, step by step, through the process. You can lurk, or join along as I work through garments with videos and training tips.


Allan Gnagy
The Modern Maker Masterclasses in Brooklyn, NY
 Back-stitching the side-back seam on a handsewn silk doublet.

Back-stitching the side-back seam on a handsewn silk doublet.

Good morning!

The masterclasses still have seats available. I  know a lot has been going on. But right now, I only have one student per week signed up. I will still teach these classes, and the students will have my undivided attention. It would still be great to have more than one person per week. When there are more people in the classes, more questions get asked and a higher level of learning can be achieved. 

Each class will take a trip to the NYC Garment district which I will personally lead. We will visit my favorite fabric  stores and notions suppliers. By the end of the week you should  have a completed (or nearly completed) wearable garment, all sewn by  hand. Yes, it is possible. In the weeks where we are making patterns, each day, we will make a complete garment pattern, including lining patterns and variations with the goal that by the end of the week, you have a complete set of patterns that work together for a variety of  ensembles. Most patterns will be made using The Modern Maker Vol. 2:  Pattern Manual 1580-1640. There will be at least two patterns which did  not appear in Vol. 2. 

Here  are the links for each class signup. Note, these classes take place in  my personal studio in Greenpoint Brooklyn, New York:

April 9-13: Pattern Making with the Bara System…/masterclass-1-april-9-13-patter…

April 16-20: Stays/Support Bodies and Hip Rolls…/masterclass-2-stays-and-hip-rol…

April 23-27: Breeches OR Skirts (student chooses one)…/masterclass-3-april-23-27-breec…

April 30-May 4: 1590's Kirtle Construction…/masterclass-4-kirtle-week-april…

May 7-11: Doublets (Student chooses man's or woman's)…/masterclass-5-doublets-menwomen…

May 14-18: Pattern Making with the Bara System (same as the first week) 

Allan Gnagy
At long last!

It has been almost three years since I began writing The Modern Maker Vol. 2: Pattern Manual 1580-1640. It is finally done. I have just sent my Kickstarter Backers their advance digital copies. There has been a good review already!

I am pleasantly calm after the insanity of the past couple of months of refining, correcting, finessing, and fussing. I'm ready to rest for a bit!

The book will be available for sale in about 2 weeks. I cannot wait to see what people make with it!!

 The cover of this 291 page pattern making book.

The cover of this 291 page pattern making book.

Allan Gnagy
A felt cloak

One of the least represented garments in the realm of historic dress is the Fieltro de Camino. It is a full circle cloak made of heavy felted wool. I have not seen a single image, surviving garment (there is only one) or painting that did not include an embroidered design of radiating lines on both the body of the cloak and on the hood.

I developed my pattern from the layout given in Alcega's manual of 1580. It is quite basic in its cut and easy to interpret. In the 16th and 17th centuries, felt was made and sold in pre-cut sheets so one was constrained to cut the garment with as few piecings at possible. The felt that I purchased was of a similar width (though ours is made by the yard now, not by the sheet). I was able to cut all of my pieces without need to join on extra fabric to complete any shapes.

 Pattern from Alcega's manual of 1580.

Pattern from Alcega's manual of 1580.

 Here is the draft I used to make my cloak. There are some slight variations for example the version in my construction photos is Bs in length rather than B though this shorter length really does appear in the manual. I just made mine longer to fit with Alcega's draft.

Here is the draft I used to make my cloak. There are some slight variations for example the version in my construction photos is Bs in length rather than B though this shorter length really does appear in the manual. I just made mine longer to fit with Alcega's draft.

There is one surviving example from the 1570's belonging to Stephan Praun III. It is housed at the Germanisches Nationalmusem in Nuremberg, Germany. It is actually a 3/4 circle garment. Its hood is made up separate from the cloak body. In the one painting that exists of Mr. Praun in his pilgrimage clothing with which this cloak was worn, the hood is nowhere to be seen. The second layer is made of leather and is also made separately. From the look of it, though I have no definitive proof, the second layer appears to be heavily oiled for waterproofing. In Alcega's manual, as well as Burguen, and Freyle, the Fieltro is shown in two different layouts, one that is cut with skirting/second layer, and one without. Due to weight, cost and wearabiity, I have chosen not to use a second layer of felt. I may make the second layer with leather, but for now, I just need to finish embroidering this garment and move on to the next piece to make for the book. I'm running out of time as the final photo shoot is at the end of September...right before the book is meant to be finalized and sent to the printer.

 Pilgrimage cloak of Stephan Praun III, Germanisches Nationalmuseum--Nuremberg

Pilgrimage cloak of Stephan Praun III, Germanisches Nationalmuseum--Nuremberg

 Closeup detail of the front of the hood

Closeup detail of the front of the hood

Here is my progress on my copy of this garment so far.

The 100% wool felt is 1/8" (3.2mm) thick. I originally purchased some 1/4" (6mm) and found that it was much too heavy and cumbersome. A friend who actually viewed the original told me that it was approximately 1/8" - 3/16" thick. So, I reordered and got the 1/8" thickness. It was purchased from they have many different kinds of wool felt and it is a really nice product to work with. This is the page with the product that is shown in my photos, Specifically the f3 quality material. When its pressed, you can smell that it still has quite a bit of the natural oils still in it. It is absolutely not suitable for people with Lanolin allergies.







 Side view of collar in progress

Side view of collar in progress

 Back view of collar in progress.

Back view of collar in progress.

The couching and embroidery is all being done in wool. It was a good color and somehow felt correct for this piece. I suspect for wealthier folks, the embroidery would have been made up in silk.

On the main body, I have used a couching technique with two strands of the wool and the couching stitches themselves in the same wool.

On the collar, the satin stitch for the leaves is worked in a single strand of the wool while the heavy line of the border is four strands of the wool that have been re-spun and plied to create a heavier cord. In retrospect, I absolutely should have used this re-spinning technique for the main body. It looks beautiful. But alas, I didn't think of it until after the body was done and there isn't time to go back and re-work it.

I am saving the embroidery of the hood for last since I really want to have all my design choices made and wanted to have my hands "tuned" to the proper stitching. The embroidery on the hood is quite elaborate in the surviving piece.

I'm pushing myself to complete this project because its standing in the way of so many others. I'm glad its almost done though.

Just so everyone knows what's going on with this book, the projected release date is October 31st 2017. I'm working VERY hard to make sure that date is maintained.

Be well, thank you for reading and as always, HAPPY STITCHING!!

Allan GnagyComment