Welcome to the Ex-Official Blog of Writer, Presenter & Crafts Expert Momtaz Begum-Hossain which stopped being active on 31st August 2016.

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Friday, 6 December 2013

My Birthday Dress

It's my birthday today - so I made a dress to wear for the occasion...
Front of dress
Back of dress
Close up of pocket
Shoulder details
Belt tied at front of dress
Bottom of dress
Side 1 of reversible belt
Side 2 of reversible belt
The dress is extra special as it's the first thing I've ever sewn on an industrial sewing machine. It was a very different experience to the domestic machines I'm used to but by the end of it I was hooked on the speed!
It took me two sessions to cut out and prepare the pieces and three sessions to assemble it. I sewed it on Saturday mornings at HEBA, a women's training and enterprise project who run drop-in sewing sessions on Saturday mornings in Brick Lane where you can get help from the amazing sewing tutor Anjum and can use their space and equipment. 
The gorgeous fabric was bought from this stall at the Knitting & Stitching show in London which I visited in October. The most difficult part of the dress was choosing how to use and match up the patterns on the fabric. With Anjum's assistance I cut it out by picking the areas I wanted to be on the front, back, sides and pockets. It was a bit mind-boggling but this level of effort is what makes my new birthday dress look so designer!
It's just a shame it's made of a soft cotton and my birthday is in December. I think I'm going to get very cold today!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Feeling Smug: A sunday afternoon sewing session

So you know the camera I use to take the photos for this  blog? I'm ashamed to say until now it didn't have a home. I'd been carrying it around without any case or protection...crazy considering it cost me £150! But alas things have changed and it now has a wee denim drawstring pouch that I made recently at a Sunday Crafternoon session at Smug.
Smug is a lifestyle shop in Islington. 'Lifestyle shop?'
Its sells lots of lovely things for your home including gifts that are very smart, chic and design focused...far more appealing than you'd see in a high street department store.
Having said that, it does have four floors, one of which has just turned into a Christmas shop. Recently the store also enlisted the help of designer A Alicia (who I met at Crafternoon Cabaret a couple of weeks back) to run Sunday crafting workshops. So far they've had wall hangings and Xmas decorations, I was invited to try out the bag making. 
It's a smallish space, enough for a very cosy group of crafters which means you get good one-to-one attention and can talk to everyone.
The most exciting part of the workshop was that I finally got to use one of these mini sewing machines. They're the ones that are sold in John Lewis for £50. They are very cute but I've often wondered if they are just for show...do they really work?
It was the slowest sewing machine in history but it did the job and I was sold in terms of it being a great machine for children, small jobs and public workshops. 
We all managed to do some hand embroidery too - I was totally fixated by this mini hoop. I've seen them but didn't know what they'd be like to use - it turns out they are so much more fun and easier to use than big hoops and are great for adding details on to clothes.
I also got to use my first ever pom pom maker. Again this is an invention I used to think was pointless, not that I'm a cardboard donut person, I like to make my pom poms by wrapping them on my hand..but alas once again I was impressed through the sheer joy of using it. 
And here it is - my new drawstring camera bag. Made in under two hours on a weekend afternoon with help from a very lovely tutor in a nice sociable space. 
Ladies who stitch! A group shot taken by Anna.
If you're passing around the Angel area of Islington, Smug is worth popping into. Expect some drooling and also 'oohs' and 'aaahs' while you're in there.
You can also check out their website for news of future workshops. 

Friday, 25 October 2013

Learning how to make a rag rug with The Amazings

Being a craftaholic I've had the pleasures and pain of trying and testing out many crafts over the years, but one I've been eager to master for a while is the art of rag-rug making. It's the ultimate textile recycling craft, is affordable, as creative as you want to make it, and doesn't require owning unwieldy equipment like a sewing machine.
Over the summer I was given the opportunity to learn this  skill under the guidance of Jenni Stuart-Anderson a master rugger based in Herefordshire with over 25 years experience in the craft. I travelled down to her quaint cottage with a film crew from The Amazings to film an instructional video about how to make a rag-rug, which you can  watch online now....but more on that later!
Some of Jenni's beautiful designs
The Amazings? 
Their passion is enabling elders to share their skills i.e all those incredible retired people who know lots of incredible things; making sure they are not forgotten about, giving them a platform in which to showcase what they do, and know. 
The method has changed over the last couple of years (read up on the story here), but in their current incarnation they film on-line tutorials led by these talented over 50s which anyone around the world can watch and learn from, for a small fee, some of which goes directly to that awesome elder who stars in it. 
I was invited to collaborate withe The Amazings to help make one of these tutorials. It started with meeting rag rugger extraordinaire Jenni in London at The Amazings offices to get to know a bit about each other. Two weeks later I headed over to Jenni's home to film the class, and of course learn how to make a rag-rug.
It was a glorious sunny couple of days so we filmed in her garden. 
The motif I chose to make was based on the eye of a peacock feather and all the fabrics I used to make it were from my exisiting fabric scrap. I also used ribbons and yarn.
Rugs can be made from any materials apart from towels as these fray - but cottons, fleece, jumpers, bedsheets are all ideal.
Jenni showed me two techniques which require different tools, progging where you use fabric cut into equal size strips and hooking where you loop a continous strip of fabric into the hessian backing.
Our online masterclass Make A Colourful & Cosy Rag Rug is available to buy to watch now. It costs £20 and lasts 73 minutes. It's split into 11 bite-size chapters to make learning the craft easier. Once you've paid up you're enrolled forever - so you have a resource you can keep going back to and watch at your leisure. Take it from me, rag rugging is an incredible craft but even I have forgotten the technique a couple of times, so watching the video back has been very useful now I'm making another rug as a housewarming gift.
Jenni with her rugs at the Knitting & Stitch Show earlier this month
Just think about where else £20 could go, it's far cheaper than any class you could physically go to and what's more, this is a craft that has very little expenses. You can buy the tools direct from Jenni (or other craft stockists) and then all you need is some hessian (a tote shopper or coffee sack is good), old clothes/fabrics and a pair of scissors.  
My finished peacock rug
And if rag-rugging doesn't appeal there are loads more online tutorials you can buy instead like machine embroidery, needle-felting and quilting
ALL classes (including mine) have a free trailer you can view before buying so check them out too!)
Happy rugging xx

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

A Trip To Salon Du Chocolat's Chocolate Fashion Show

Chocolate...an entire hall filled with the yummy stuff in every shape and form imaginable; naturally I had to be there. Salon Du Chocolat is a travelling international exhibition which pulled into London on Friday for the weekend. I managed to attended the Gala Evening during which time I ate so much free chocolate I entered a cocoa coma...(thankfully it was short-lived).
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The sweet cocoa aroma hit you as soon as you stepped inside the shrine to the brown stuff. All around were stands selling chocolate; most from indie companies I'd never heard of selling varieties I'd never tried. I particularly liked the look of the chocolate conkers above.
This lucky lady got to lie in a bath of melted chocolate; sadly this option wasn't open to the public : (
On closer inspection it reminded me of school dinner chocolate custard. It certainly seemed as gloopy.
The benefit of attending on the Friday night was this was when 'The Chocolate Fashion Show' was scheduled, the one all the press have been raving about for the last few days.
I was very intrigued about why the dresses didn't melt under hot lights but it turned they weren't completely constructed of cocoa.
Watch highlights from the show in this rather fine video by Farrah from Implausible Blog
After the catwalk, the individual couture chocolate creations were put on display.
This English rose themed number was the most impressive, though it had more than a few similarities to a wedding cake.
Not entirely sure about the chocolate on this one, but apparently it's a dress made of chocolate hmmm.
And as for this choc bikini, it was clearly made for being nibbled off...
 I had to check out the chocolate outfits for myself to check their authenticity so I grabbed onto the end of this fabulous Lindt fan and I can confirm it was definatly chocolate!
Back in the exhibition space my radar led me to the craftiest chocolate I could find; chocolate scissors. Yes I'm pretty sure my craft stash needs a pair...
Hot chocolate wasn't forgotten either. In fact there were various culinary treats including posher versions of Nutella and to my utter disgust chocolate Foie Gras....seriously. There is no need : (
Here's one to entertain the yoof. Grafitti chocolate, the brand changes the designs on their chocolate every month, which are sprayed on with edible paints.
Speaking of which there were a lot of decorative artisan chocolates. The flavour of the moment however sold on most stands seemed to be Matcha Tea which was mint green in appearance. Quality varied. My two personal faves were by Prestat and Henri Le Roux.
When you see a giant eclair, you have to lie on it right?

Salon Du Chocolat may have now left the UK but they've already planned out the next year of events (most are in Europe) so if you fancy going to a show where you get to taste test loads of varieties of chocolate, the sort you can't find normally, or need to buy some chocolate gifts it's worth a visit.

If you dislike chocolate then steer clear!