Welcome to my blog!!

Welcome to the official blog of Writer & Crafts Expert Momtaz Begum-Hossain.






Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Perfect Sunday? Sunday Papers Live have got it sussed...


There are two versions of my perfect Sunday. One involves me having a major lie in and staying in bed all day in my PJs recovering from the madness and sleep deprived state I tend to find myself in at weekends and the alternative me wants to get up super early and cram in loads of fun stuff like going to a bootfair, hanging out somewhere Sundayish like Colombia Road and meeting friends for brunch.
So when I heard about Sunday Papers Live it was as if my prayers has been answered. Finally someone had cottoned on to the fact that Sundays should be reclaimed to be all those things we want it to be. So last month I made the pilgrimage to Primrose Hill to get a taste of the perfect Sunday at Sunday Papers Live.
A cross between a festival, Secret Cinema and a giant house party, Sunday Papers Live is a bi-monthly event that literally brings the papers to life without you needing to read a word. Every section of your typical Sunday broadsheet is covered from UK and World news to the travel supplement, crossword section and letters page, by special guests along with other quintessential Sunday pastimes like board games and a satisfying Sunday lunch. 
You can make the experience as interactive as you like or sit back and snuggle up in your PJs, with your dog on the sofa, as if you were at home. Running from 12pm-10pm it's a full day of Sunday indulgence, entertainment and stimulation....but was it really the perfect Sunday?

Here's what I loved about it and a few things I think they could have done better....

Having my Happyscope read

I'm a big fan of reading my star sign but when I stumbled across the Happy Scope table run by Dumb Love I realised that all my life I'd been following the wrong kind of karma. As my happyscope astrologer pointed out, Horror-scopes are horrible and happy scopes are so much nicer.
After a few questions he wrote me a personalised happyscope on the back of this fine postcard. I can't reveal what it said but it made me very happy. 

Tucking into a lavish lunch
Instead of a menu on our tables, Chef Tom Hunt personally introduced the afternoon's meal and it sounded heavenly. Served at banquet style tables over several settings, diners were sat down in order of how they arrived at the dining room doors encouraging banter between random strangers. In case there were any awkward moments there was a live music accompaniment. The dishes were then served communally so you could help yourselves. The room was gorgeously decorated and the closest I've come to eating in a Harry Potter canteen set up. 
The veggie option was delicious, a tasty nettle tart...but it was cold. And Sunday lunch shouldn't be cold. I mean I had hot spuds with caramalised garlic and yummy sprouting broccoli and mash but when your tart is cold and your neighbour's roast beef is steaming it's a little mean. 

Chill out time
The Sunday Capers room is an area that takes all the fun parts of a Sunday and condenses it into one space ....a chill out spot to grab a nap or watch movie matinees. There was even a mini grandstand face and live lonely hearts column. The main room gets completely rammed so it was nice to have an alternative space to hang-out in. 

Activities
So how do you fill 10 hours? With a back to back programme of stuff to do there was no chance of getting bored. You could even have a massage or book a canal boat trip but the fact it was such a lovely sunny Sunday meant just relaxing on a deckchair while sipping on juices was enough to keep me occupied.
Although most pastimes were covered there was no bootfair. Sundays are not Sundays without a car boot sale in my books. I'm pretty sure there is space to fit one in - hopefully they'll add this element soon. 

Not having to read the papers
Whenever I buy a Sunday paper it takes me over a week to get through it so having 'the contents' of a paper presented in the form of talks, discussion and performance is actually rather pleasant and useful. 
I particularly enjoyed the debates around the letters page bit - a drop in talk show where you could pull up a seat and have your say. 

In terms of speakers and topics there was an interesting mix - the spoken word performers got the biggest appreciation, but overall I was a bit disappointed with the 'western approach' to the choices, especially the World news. The main speaker for World news gave a talk about the issue of sex workers being excluded from the media in the United States. 

In my mind there are infinite unique and usual stories and issues of interest and relevance all over the world so whoever curated World news should have taken advantage of focusing on a geographic location we hear little about rather than one we hear about every day. 

As for whether I can now go back to reading a Sunday paper after I've experienced Sunday Papers Live....well if the truth be told, while I was there chilling, I picked up a physical newspaper and still enjoyed it.
Reading the Sunday papers are a great British pastime. There's nothing like chilling at home with your feet up reading the papers but also there's nothing quite like Sunday Papers Live. A lot of love, passion and detail went into planning the event (sooooooo much bunting and even a radio and candles in the loos) so I totally salute the organisers. It was probably one of the best organised events I've been to in a long time...but it wasn't overganised in a regimented way, I liked the fact it still had an air of spontaneity about it.


 I recommend Sunday Papers Live to anyone who loves all the non-music bits of music festivals, are overdue meeting up with friends and want an excuse to hang out with them, looking for somewhere quirky to go on a date or just want to do something a bit different. With only three events under their belts so far it's still got cult status appeal so go along before others start ripping it off.

The next Secret Forum's Sunday Papers Live is on Sunday June 1st. 
Find out more here


Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Altering A Nightdress Into New Clothes


I picked up this incredible night dress in Kolkata last year. It was clearly too big for me, but I couldn't ignore the gorgeous green script print fabric and bold colour combinations so I decided to buy it with plans to alter it into something more wearable.
When it comes to be being ruthless I'm very brave so I started by cutting it in half to create a top and bottom section.
Originally I was thinking of changing the shape of the collar but when I tried it on it didn't need anything so I just brought it in at the sides to make it fit better by trimming off the edges with an overlocker before hemming the ends. 
The skirt was more complicated. I held it against me to choose the kind of length I liked and then decided to create a waistband which was cut separately. The waistband was going to be made from the excess green fabric but in the end I settled on a wide band of red cotton which was folded over and padded with interfacing. I also used a gathering foot to pull in the fabric to create a more wearable shape.
The most exciting part of this project was that it was the first time I used a button hole foot to affix buttons and make button holes. 
And here are the two finished garments just in time to wear for the summer! I love the flare the skirt has and the ''50s diner theme' of the top.

To be honest I feel like this blog post makes it look really simple but it did require patience, especially for the skirt which has a zip and buttons and there was quite a bit on unpicking but I got there in the end. It's definately given me the confidence to have a go at altering more garments - especially charity shop finds that don't fit! 

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Learning How To Ice Biscuits At Biscuiteers Biscuit Boutique

I had never iced a biscuit in my life until yesterday when I went along to a post-work icing workshop at the legendary Biscuiteers Biscuit Boutique & icing cafe in Notting Hill, West London.
For the uninitiated, Biscuiteers have made decorating biscuits an artform. Purveyors of the most creative cookies in existence, they bake and create biscuits decorated in every way possible. Often for major brands, usually for special events and every day for normal folk who can order their biscuits online or buy from their shop.
It's like biscuit heaven and a lot like what Willy Wonka's Factory shop would have looked like if he'd ever had one. 
It's not surprising then that Biscuiteers were asked to make the official biscuits to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Roald Dahl's Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.
Here's some close ups of some of my fave biccies in the boutique...
I've never been to New York but these are the next best thing!
And as for cute stuff, there are so many very sweet animal biscuits and dainty designs like these delicate birdies too. 
But that's all upstairs. Downstairs you'll find this....
...the space where the Biscuiteers team run icing workshops, events, have their cafe and hold  private parties.
For Icing Lates the table was all laid out for participants before we arrived.
Take a closer look at the wall - it's covered in cookie dermy!
We were each given the same shaped biscuits to decorate and a picture guide for how they could be decorated.
First up we learnt how to hold the bag. I confess I wasn't very good at this part. I'm right-handed but for some reason my left hand wanted to do the icing so it was a bit strange!
We began by outlining the biscuits with icing details then 'flooded' the insided with runny icing and then learnt a range of icing techniques.
Finding a natural rhythm to icing was hard for a newbie and I got a bit of arm cramp....professional icers (biscuiteers have 50 during peak periods) certainly need to learn about icing posture as well as possess some incredible artist skills.
Voila! My creations all wrapped up and ready to take home. They last three weeks but I suspect they actually won't - I ate the butterfly on the tube home!
I'm always keen to try new crafts and I had never considered icing something I'd ever do but it turns out it's a really fun activity. Learning from the best icers in the business is a lovely experience and seeing the team talk about icing and watch them do it with such passion is a definite highlight.

If you fancy trying out some icing yourself they have workshops twice a week - it's worth noting the up and coming dates above or head to their website.

Right. I'm off to munch on biscuit number two but which one, the pirate ship or the frilly frock?

Biscuiteers, 194 Kensington Park Road, London, W11 2ES
www.biscuiteers.com

Monday, 7 April 2014

Crafting On Live TV!

Last week I was invited onto The Islam Channel to demonstrate some crafts live on air. I've never done live television before and I'm always up for promoting the world of making stuff so of course I said yes. The programme I appeared on is a daily lifestyle show called Living The Life. Each episode has special guests talking about specific topics. My craft segment followed on from a short film they showed about women in Syria who make and sell handicrafts to earn their own income. 
I spoke about the rise of crafts in the UK, The Make Escape craft night that I run and then got the presenters and other guests to make their own crafts.
The Islam Channel's offices are based in London, near Old Street. But as the show was aired at 7pm, it was pretty empty when I arrived. The channel has been in existence for 10 years, has approx 2.5million viewers in the UK and is broadcast in 136 countries. Wow!
Here's a peak at the studio where recordings are made which I took while waiting to go on air.
The other two guests were Imran Pasha, Head of Retail Banking at the Islamic Bank of Britain and also Ibrahim Thompson, Independent Financial Advisor, Citi Group. This was them waiting in reception. They had no idea what they were about to be involved in, having been booked to chat about 'professional stuff.'

Later they were asked to get busy with their hands. They both created their own canvas artworks with ribbons, trims and double-sided tape. If and when I get hold of a DVD copy of the show I'll try and add in a screen grab of what they made.
Although I don't generally cover my hair, I do when it's appropriate and I did for this in order to appeal to the viewer and to respect them and the channel. I actually enjoy wearing a headscarf, it's remarkably comfortable although on the tubes (London Underground trains) it did get a bit hot. It also opens up a whole new world of opportunity when it comes to styling and accessorising and as for the ways you can wear one...the creative options are endless. 

The good news is the team and producers liked me and have invited me to come back - so more crafty TV appearances to come soon, yay! 

The Islam Channel can be viewed in the UK on Sky, channel 813. 

Saturday, 29 March 2014

British Asian Fashion: Has it finally got its own identity?

Asiana Couture Catwalk (L-R Mani Kohli Khubsoorat, Ashan's and Aada by Gudu G) Image: Rafyl

I've recently entered my 5th year of working on a British Asian fashion magazine. I've lost count of how many fashion catwalk shows I've been to, the number of trend reports I've written and the thousands of images I've sifted through. 

The fabrics, designs, colours and embellishments are always extraordinary but unless you pay attention to detail, it's hard to sometimes tell them apart. There are some key designers who set the trends each season but over and over again you see the same things happening. It's like fashion in general: trends go around in circles so to someone who doesn't know much about Asian fashion their immediate reaction may be...'it all looks the same'...and truth be told I wouldn't blame them. 


If you were to look back at the last decade of British Asian fashion you'll spot similar things occurring: red Latin inspired ball gowns, red and gold churidar suits, heavy Mughal embroidery...is it because British designers are too lazy to start setting new trends, they keep going back to the old ones?

This doesn't happen in India; their designers seem to be far more progressive. Take Manish Arora...



These snaps were taken at Paris Fashion Week earlier this month and customary with his signature style they are are bright, quirky and have personality.

Similarly the calibre of designers who exhibited at Lakme Fashion Week in India also in March this year were at the top of their game for being influential. In fact if the mainstream fashion press ever do want to look at the what's happening in South Asian fashion they'll go straight to these established designers in India and won't even thinking about looking at UK talent.

Well it's time they did. 

A couple of weeks ago a new kind of fashion show took place in Birmingham bringing with it evidence that British based Asian designers are finally realising the importance of developing their own style. The Asiana Couture Catwalk held at Edgbaston Cricket Stadium was a showcase of contemporary fashion for men and woman and for the first time showed signs of originality and 'trends' emerging which could so easily impact on the wider, mainstream fashion industry.

I felt the standards were good enough to compete on an international scale. I don't mean that to sound patronising...I just honestly think the clothes have got better to the point they don't look like 'British Asian clothes for British Asian people', but have wider appeal. 
Here are some of the outfits to explain what I mean:



Bombay Stores (Bradford)

Gul's Style (Ilford)

Adaa by Gudu G (Birmingham)

Arinder Bhullar


Kiran's Creations


Ahsan's (Birmingham)

Kyles Collection (London - jewellery)

There is absolutely no reason a Western A'list celebrity shouldn't wear one of the bold, red evening dresses by Kiran's Creations, that a slender popstar star can't wear the gold lace catsuit by Gudu G or a British woman of any ethnicity wear one of the floaty, summer festival themed kaftans available from Bombay Stores. 

Similarly I've met white English men fascinated by Asian men's sherwanis - they aren't all cream and gold and made for weddings; this darker pair have a smart theme to them which could easily crossover as an 'acceptable' form of menswear in public by again, a man of any ethnicity, without him looking like he's just come back from travelling, or leads an alternative/New Age lifestyle.

So what does this actually mean and does it matter?

Well sadly I think we are still many years away from a mainstream Western fashion magazine featuring clothes by Asian designers...but if these designers continue to keep their standards high, try and push boundaries and 'design' rather than copy each other or rely on past collections then I hope one day they'll gain wider recognition and become a more valued part of the British Asian industry as a whole. 

And that's just for starters...
As for what I wore to the fashion show, I'm currently going though what I'm calling my orange 'Oompa Loompa' phase and this ensemble kind of just came together from things already in my wardrobe. I'm pictured with the best-dressed man at the show, jewellery designer Anees Malik. Whenever I see him he always looks unique, also I so rarely meet (or see) Asian men that have perfected their own original image so he deserve a special mention!

If you're interested in finding out more about what's happening in the world of British Asian fashion then you should check out Asian Fashion Blog, Author Nazma does a sterling job of keeping abreast of the industry and her blog is packed with great pictures and keep an eye on Asiana.TV. Enjoy! 


All catwalk images taken by Rafyl