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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Momtaz's NEW BLOG is www.craftandtravel.com

Saturday 27 March 2010

My Zine's First Birthday

Fete Craftzine is celebrating it's first birthday - hooray! And here is the birthday issue, priced just £1 and available online from Folksy now!

I started Fete last Spring as a quarterly, not for profit publication that showcases crafters/designers/makers from all over the UK, giving them a chance to publish/share their work. I felt inspired after attending a Zinefest held at The Women's Library and as soon as I got home I set to plans on my zine.

Zines are self-published mini magazines/booklets that can be about any subject, mine is mainly about crafts but also anything else creative so inside you'll find projects to make, stories, illustrations, hints and tips, recipes and general crafty knowledge. T

They are what got me into writing, I was first published in a zine when I was 12 and my obsession for zine writing continued until I went off to university and got involved in student media instead. Editing my own zine feels like returning to my roots and it's very satisfying.

When I set it up I didn't have any grand plans, but I was pleasantly surprised that the 50 copies I printed sold out within days and after that I increased the print run and sales have been steady every since. I sell 100 copies of each issue online, at zine fairs and at a few bookshops - a full colour pdf version is also available online. You can view the previous four issues here. (The new issue isn't up there yet but will be soon.) The best bit about doing the zine has been getting to know the contributors who change each issues. For issue 2 Magic Alice kindly donated a free gift, badges which was a really nice suprise and issue 4 came with a teabag.

(Sneak preview of contents)

I get it photocopied in the cheapest photocopy house in London - CLP and so far have been putting it all together myself but next issue I think I'm going to pay a bit extra and get it stapled because it's actually a very time consuming task, it can take up to three days to fold all the zines and I just don't have that kind of time anymore! Below are the pages laid out on my living room floor.

This year I'm introducing a few changes, the cover design is different (as designed by the lovely Woolies) and is in full colour. I'm also changing the frequnecy to three issues - Spring, Summer and a bumper Autumn/Winter issue. My goal is to continue publishing the zine and get more stockists. If you can suggest any please let me know. One day it would be great to have an ISBN number (it has an ISSN so it can be classified in libraries) but an ISBN will mean it can be sold and will be recognised anywhere in the world. For now though I hope you enjoy the current issue.

Sunday 21 March 2010

Secrets of my wardrobe Part 1: Charity Shops

I've long enjoyed dressing in my own unique 'Momtaz style' which is characterised by mixing and matching bright colours with different patterned prints and textured accessories. The most accurate portrayal of me on Mastercrafts was my wardrobe - what you saw was very much me - I wasn't dressing up for camera, just wearing what I normally wear.

I do not believe in dressing down, more you can never dress up enough....a philosophy that's been with me since primary school where I loved not having to wear school uniform. At secondary school I took every opportunity to revolt against the rules by sneakily wearing jewellery underneath my shirts and pulling my jumper up around my collar whenever I walked passed the headmistress. I'm extremely proud that I pulled this off for our year photograph at the end of Year 11; out of 180 pupils I managed to get away with wearing beads!

When it comes to shopping I'm always on the look out. I don't assign particular days as shopping days, wherever I go, my eyes are peeled for bargain items that fit into my style - generally wearing things that I know I'll never bump into someone else wearing and things that are very cheap!

It always surprises me when I hear stories of celebrities saying how much they love shopping in charity shops, it's such a cliche - clearly they can afford to buy designer clothes and as if they actually have time to scout around local charity shops....

On the other hand, I go to charity shops at every possible opportunity and a quarter of my wardrobe is indeed second hand, purchased whenever I go to a new place or town in the UK. One quarter of my wardrobe is handmade by me or customised, one quarter is bought in sales and the remaining quarter is a mixture of places like markets, holidays, clothes swaps - I hardly own any items that I have paid full price for from a normal shop in fact I can't think of a single item.

Yesterday I was visiting a friend in Harrow and on the way stopped by some of the charity shops just adjacent to Harrow on the Hill shopping centre.
In Scope I found an amazing beaded shawl, the photo doesn't do it any justice, it is so stunning in real life and it cost just £2.75.

It was prefect timing as I was able to wear it to a glamorous gala dinner and fashion show last night - people were very surprised I wasn't looking colouful for once but it's good to keep them on their toes - it's a rarity to see me in pale colours but it's still a very unique look. The hat was £2 from a charity shop, the floaty dress was £6 and bought damaged, I attached some shoulder straps to it and embellished it with some shiny acrylic gems.

I have recently been on the look out for jackets as the seasons begin to change. The best thing about charity shops is because you are spending less you can buy more, so I bought these two jackets for £3 each from Traid. Both fit me perfectly but are a little dull so I intend to customise them. The top one is a woolly felt cropped jacket and the one below is woven.

As I mentioned whenever I go somewhere new I and visit it's charity shops. Last year I was passing by Aberdeen for just 45 minutes and during that time squeezed in 10 charity shops and this is what I uncovered, an amazing dress, the most comfortable I own, it's so wearable for almost any occasion and was just £2 - it was a size 16 and it took me a mere few minutes to adjust it to a more flattering size 10.
I know charity shopping involves a lot of luck but if you're prepared to look around and keep an open mind it's a very rewarding way to shop!

Here are my top 10 rules for clothes shopping in charity shops:

1. Do you 'love' the item? Only buy things you honestly like and can picture yourself wearing
2. When will you wear it and what with? It's sad when you buy something and think it will go with something you don't own, you may never get that item and it will cost more money to purchase one, only buy what you can wear straight away.
3. Does it fit? Buy clothes that fit you well as you are likely to wear them. If it doesn't fit think carefully how and where it can get altered and what the cost for alteration would be, if you can't alter it yourself. It may not be worth buying it if, you'll end up spending much more to change it.
4. Is it value for money? Increasingly people buy cheap clothes, wear them less and dispose of them, it's sad but true that charity shops across the UK are being flooded by Primark rejects - just don't fall into the trap of paying more for a second hand item then you would if you bought it new.
5. What kind of condition is it in? Some things in charity shops look old and worn, it's up to you if you want that look but it's better to only buy things in good condition because again you are more likely to get more wear out of them.
6. Where is it from? Look carefully at brands and labels. A friends of mine bought an amazing original Harris Tweed jacket for just £1 in a charity shop, clearly it was worth so much more - these types of high value items are the ones to keep your eyes peeled for.
7. Shop around. Don't despair, you won't find things suitable for you in every shop you go into so go in knowing this. Go to all types of charity shops, remember stock changes and what you find in British Heart Foundation will be different to what you find in Age Concern.
8. Get to know the staff who work in your local charity shop - tell them the kind of things you're looking out for, i.e a coat and ask them to put aside things they know you'll like. This only works if you're a friendly regular and you build a genuine relationship with the staff.
9. Stick to your budget Just because things are cheaper it doesn't mean you should just buy things, you still need to be aware of your finances, apply all the above rules to ensure you show sensibly.
10. Enjoy yourself! Shopping in charity shops is not for everyone but everyone should give it a try! Treat it like going into any other clothes shops, try items on, pose in the mirrors, and test items you wouldn't normally think would suit you. Keep an open mind and when you're tied of looking at rails, leave - charity shopping is not a chore, it's a fun activity that's a good way to feel good about yourself - remember you're not just pleasing yourself, you are raising money for charity too.

Sunday 14 March 2010

Mastercrafts - my thoughts!

On Friday night I invited some friends over for a Mastercrafts party to watch the tears and tangles I got myself in to on the show! Capturing seven weeks of filming into one hour of television was always going to be a difficult task but they had to edit it, and in the same way, here are my edited thoughts!

Firstly my final piece above. We were given a choice of 16 colours of yarn to choose from and remarkably we all opted for different colour schemes. Although I stuck with my signature bold brights, on close inspection I also put in some more subtle greys to break up the 'jewel' inspired colour scheme. We had just seven days to weave our fabric, I spend five of those setting up the loom, they were extremely testing times and at one point I came very close to giving up but I stuck with it!

Our previous task was to weave a product to sell at the Hereford Crafts Fair, I made two silk laptop cases with yarns I had hand dyed in my own colours and used the scraps to make handwoven greeting cards.
I was very sad that in his voiceover Monty said that Holly was the only person who sold something at the fair, I sold two cards....so what Monty said was a total LIE : (

It took me two days to warp wind 6 metres of yarn to make my final piece. This was done outdoors, it may look sunny but it was freezing cold - we filmed the show in October and November and what's more I was all alone while others were snug indoors!

Ironing and steaming the final fabrics was an essential part of finishing off the woven fabrics.

My laptop cases were inspired by the gorgeous natural Autumnal shades that were all around me. Aubergine, mustard, oranges, browns ........it was the first time I'd ever seen the proper beauty of Autumn, in London it doesn't happen this way, leaves seem to fall off trees overnight but in the countryside I saw the changes over the whole season.

The yarns on the chair are the ones I hand dyed, I mixed these with some of the many lovely colourful yarns we had in our studio.

To inspire me I created lots of mood boards and surrounded myself in colours. Rather than being dictated to by a set pattern I did my own form of 'mood weaving' - I put on my headphones to block out distractions and totally zoned out while I was weaving.

One of the most difficult things that I had to deal with was sleep deprivation - we worked non stop, including evenings and weekends. Twice when the other two went home I stayed behind beyond midnight trying my hardest to catch up and one weekend they both went home to have a break while I again stayed back and worked my socks off. Needless to say by the penultimate day I was so exhausted I decided to stay in my pjs; nothing beats the home comforts of wearing slippers and a dressing gown, especially when the barn itself was so cold!

This is a a close up of my final piece, it doesn't just have the basic plain weave, I also incorporated some more complex boxes. I wove and wove until I physically couldn't do anymore. The yarn was very fine, continued to get knotted and broke very easily. Each time I moved the work to allow for the fabric to grow, it took 45 minutes to reset it and then I had keep winding bobbins to go inside the wooden shuttle that you can see in the picture, this is what you carry in and out of the warp threads to create the weave.

Pictured here on the last day is me with the other trainees Holly and Tref and Aiyor from the production crew - he kept me sane by playing Primal Scream when I felt down, bought me lots of Innocent Veg pots when I was hungry and made me endless cups of peppermint tea to keep warm!

The aftermath

A lot of people have contacted me and asked me if I would weave again. By the end of the experience I did learn how to set up a loom and how to weave so to lose that skill would be wrong. I don’t have access to a loom now but if I saw one I’m sure I would want to have a go. Long term I plan to do an evening class in weaving which will hopefully be a much less stressful experience!

Hearing feedback about the show has been really interesting, especially where I have been mentioned. On one end of the spectrum, there are people who sympathised with me and understood my frustrations – one person even told me she was so emotionally exhausted watching the show she needed to lie down afterwards. On the other end of the scale I’ve read people say that I came across as a very lazy person. Who’d have thought a Friday night TV show about crafting could be so controversial!

Most of my memories of the experience are still very clear in my mind and seeing them visually was a bit like having my private thoughts suddenly projected on a TV screen without me knowing. But I'm glad that throughout it I stuck to my beliefs - weaving is this instance may not have been for me but I am very open to trying it again one day under slightly more normal circumstances.

If you missed the show it is still available to view on BBC Iplayer in the UK:


Friday 12 March 2010

Mastercrafts -Tonight, 9pm, BBC 2!

I can't believe that Mastercrafts is actually on TV today. The seven weeks I spent learning to weave seem like a dream - it was such a surreal experience, it's going to be so strange to 're-live' it - I look forward to revealing more once the show has been aired!
In the meantime, here is a sneaky preview photo!!

Tune in and let me know what you thought the show!

Saturday 6 March 2010

Mmmmmmm Marmite!

Marmite XO: latest variation from Unilever

As a teenager I was obsessed with ‘limited edition’ 7-inch vinyl records. My collection included a ‘curry coloured’ EP from Cornershop and sky blue Radiohead and fluorescent yellow My Life Story singles. Back then owning a bit of plastic that looked a bit different was a good feeling but I never would have imagined that the obsession would have crossed over to food.

Whatever happened to the term ‘Original & Best’? It seems that we as consumers are no longer happy buying ordinary items, we want something else - even if we can only enjoy it once. I’m one of these people and proud. I’d much rather try a new flavour then stick to the usual same old blandless. In particular I’m feeling over excited about Monday when Marmite XO hits supermarket shelves……the strongest, maturist Marmite ever.

Obviously only suited to true marmite lovers of which I am one, it could be the most exciting addition to breakfast in my flat since I bought ‘Ashes’ marmite. It was surprisingly plain (I still have 2 jars left) but a relief after eating the highly distressful ‘Champagne marmite’ which I only sampled once. It tasted foul but I’ve kept the jar because it’s so pretty!

But when it comes to the brown stuff it's not just what inside the jars, limited edition chocolate is common. Many years ago I started a scrapbook of wrappers but regrettably gave it up : ( One of the products I was particularly partial to collecting was Kit Kat – lemon yogurt cheesecake and Christmas pudding flavours were my fave - it’s good to know the head chefs at Nestle are still pushing bondaries. Japan now stocks 19 varieties of the wafer sticks.

Not sure if I could handle Wasabi flavour, I only just about managed Wasabi Pringles. Crisps are the biggest supporter of new and strange flavours. Everytime I go into a newsagent I’m astounded by the options. I can barely keep up.

But Marmite isn’t just going XO, it’s also moved into ricecakes, breadsticks and even cereal bars. I’ve yet to try the latter but am enjoying the posters on the Underground! If anyone has tried XO I would love to know your verdict!

Thursday 4 March 2010

NEWSFLASH! Friday March 12th new date for Mastercrafts

Just a quick one to let you know that my episode of Mastercrafts has been brought forward a week and will now be broadcast next week, Friday March 12th at 9pm on BBC 2. Adjust your diaries accordingly!