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, 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!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Making paper flowers with A Alicia at Crafternoon Cabaret

Hurrah! I finally got to visit Crafternoon Cabaret. A fun monthly Saturday afternoon get together that involves crafting and live cabaret.
(This is what I made. But more on that later...)
The event takes place upstairs in a room at The Library, a pub on Upper Street, near Highbury & Islington tube in London.
And it's single-handedly run by Hannah (who made her fabulous reversible, length changing apron with very useful pockets.) This means she organises the craft activities, books the entertainment, liaises with the pub and does all the publicity. Six month's in, the event is always sold out, (possibly out-growing it's home), has a regular following and has received some excellent publicity.
For October, Crafternoon Cabaret hosted their first guest, Anna aka A Alicia, who many peeps in the craft community will be familiar with. She was promoting her new book which shows simple, tasteful ways to add crafty touches to your home and she adapted two of the projects for us.
These were paper cut lanterns and amazing card flowers (so simple yet utterly gorgeous).
When I arrived some people had already sat down and I joined a table which was occupied by three flatmates who were rather impressively spending some time together away from their home.There was a huge pile of craft materials to help yourself to plus instructions to make the projects, with A Alicia on hand to help out.
Not being much of an instruction person I skipped the steps, had a good look at the samples and attempted to make my own. I discovered that you can be as brutal as you want to cardboard (I've been way too timid in the past!) - it will keep its shape!
Time went sooooooooo quickly. In fact the quickest it's gone for me in ages!
As promised this was not just an afternoon of making, there was music too and we were treated to the cheeky tunes of Mr Meredith who sung about his Darlek lover and  what makes a proper man...
...which he concluded was someone like himself who can pull off sequins. Well sung!
Here are those flatmates I mentioned with their creations.
I also managed a peek at what other tables were up to and discovered these two wonderful floral fascinators.
Mine was a bit more like a strange collar turned headdress.
Which you can see better here. I totally love the card flower technique, that is one I will be using again and again. To try it yourself, cut out circles of varying sizes, cut sections out of them all the way round then fold these up and stitch through. The the leaves were done similarly with a crease along their centres.
There are so many positives I could say about Crafternoon Cabaret. Here's some of them:

  • Hannah the organiser is lovely
  • The timing is great 2-4pm so you don't need to wake up early on a weekend and you still have loads of time afterwards to carry on with your Saturday
  • Two hours cost £10 which is a very decent 'hourly rate' 
  • Materials and instructions are provided - after the sessions you can keep the instructions, go home and make more!
  • There are so many things to do in London but sometimes on a Saturday you just want to sit down and chill rather than be walking around galleries or shopping or sitting in a pub...I mean why sit in one and chat when you can chat and make at the same time?
  • The cabaret element added a nice touch making it feel like you'd done a whole activity 
  • You get to take home what you make

The next Crafternoon Cabaret is on Saturday November 8th and has a Movember moustache theme. Check it out! A Alicia has some more workshops planned too so look her up while you're at it.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

10 Reasons To Go On Holiday To Jordan

1. 'Welcoming' people who ply you with tea at every opportunity
It's been three weeks since I went to Jordan and I'm pretty sure I left my heart there in an 'I left my heart in San Francisco' kind of way. It was a random holiday I booked after a major work deadline and I only chose the destination because budget airline Easy Jet flies there. After that I picked up a guide book and realised I had made one of the best decisions ever! 
Jordan is surrounded by worryingly political unstable/religious countries like Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria which puts many Westerners off visiting, but it's a country filled with culture which is geared up for tourist trade. It is also one of the friendliest places on planet Earth, every single person I encountered starts, ends and peppers conversations with the word 'welcome'. And if you travel to the deserts in the South you will be offered a delicious, warming sweet herbal tea by everyone you meet. Bedouin guides carry around tea pots and start fires with twigs whenever they fancy a cuppa.
(I'm pictured with Mohammad from Jordan Tracks and Owde from Wadi Rum Rocks)
2. Veggies can feast until they can feast no more on chickpeas
I eat a lot of chickpeas in the UK, I've often thought I could happily live off them, in Jordan I practically did. Humus and falafal were served with every single meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
3. Perfect swimming conditions for people who love swimming but aren't the strongest of swimmers
The aspect I enjoy most about holidays is swimming outdoors. I LOVE it. Literally if nothing else happens, I don't mind, just one dip in a warm sea or outdoor pool makes me forget everything else. This is the gorgeous infinity pool at the Kempinksi Dead Sea Resort hotel, which overlooks the Dead Sea. It was taken early morning, but the beautiful colours were visible all day, I was memserised by the incredible lilac rocks. 
4. The chance to experience your own Indiana Jones moment
This is Petra, a vast archeological site set within an incredible rock valley, where they filmed Indian Jones and the Last Crusade. During the day you'll find camels and donkeys chilling and waiting to transport weary tourists around the major sites. I was there shortly before sunset, by which point other tourists had left. There is nothing fake about this picture, I explored the complex without a single living soul in sight. It was surreal and magical.
5. When the sun shines the colours are beautiful
One of my favourite things in life is colour. It inspires and fuels me every day. The colours I generally observe at home come from clothes, advertising, people and objects but in Jordan the colours were natural. Vivid, bright hues that I could sit and stare at for hours.
6. There are so many opportunities to do something different
On holiday anything is possible. You wouldn't see me horseriding in London but here in Jordan I developed a whole new confidence in riding up extreme cliffs with steep drops even though it was only the 2nd time I'd sat on a horse in my life. I also scaled crazy rock mountains barefooted and snorkelled in deep, wavy conditions.
7. It takes history to another level
See my foot? It's in Jordan. See those people opposite, they are in the West Bank, Palestine, Israel....a completely different country! It is the banks of the River Jordan where Jesus was baptised and where people come from all over the world to get themselved baptised/ or to reconfirm their faith. 
There are strict rules in crossing boarders throughout this region so this sight was incredible and that's before you even remember about the Jesus connection.
8. The capital is filled with creativity
The week I was there coincided with Amman Art Week, an annual celebration of art and artists in the capital. It was a good excuse to see some work by individuals I wouldn't normally get to appreciate. This matchbox installation was part of a wider papercrafts exhibition.
9. You can enjoy 360 degree sunsets all to yourself
In London I usually miss sunset as I'm either still at work (my desk doesn't face any windows) or I'm at the gym so seeing so many jaw droppingly beautiful sunsets was an absolute pleasure. I witnessed sunset every day from different and unique spots but nothing beat enjoying it from the top of a rock in the Wadi Rum desert.
10. You will never, ever get bored
I could go on and on but there is just so much to see and do in Jordan. 

In a week I ticked off the main things like floating in the Dead Sea, snorkelling in the Red Sea, camping in the desert...but there was still so much more (crafting things like watching goat hair weaving and mosaic spotting aside). 

The temperatures were an amazing 36-40 degrees, which doesn't seem as hot when you wear floaty tops and headscarfs. There's lots of air-conditioned places and as long as you constantly drink water you'll survive the heat. 

I absolutely cannot wait to get my photos printed off and put into an album, a great reminder that there is so much more to life that everyday routines.