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

Tuesday 31 January 2012

Catwalk Highlights: Asiana Bridal Show London 2012

Last year I was backstage at the Asiana Bridal Show 2011 (the biggest annual Asian fashion event in the UK). This year I bring you front row seats and while I knew I’d be in for a treat…I didn’t literally think I’d see the sweet stuff. But in a worldwide first, Couture Cakes graced the catwalk, in an event that blended live Bollywood saxophone jazz, tango performances and of course showcased the best in contemporary and classical Asian fashion from the UK and India.

Does he come with the cake?

Coventry based bakers Cakes4U celebrate their 10 year anniversary this year. Over the last year their campaigns have featured quirky female models decorated in body paint and morphing into giant gateauxs. How do you top that in a live show? Have the cakes paraded around by hunky Pharoahs of course! It’s certainly one way to get noticed (the second being the fact they placed free cakes in the goody bags). Their philosophy is big is beautiful…it’s all about the biggest, best and most bespoke cake possible, none of these teeny cupcakes. I whole-heartedly agree; I’ve always preferred a proper slice of cake over a pre-decided portion in a paper case!

Cakes4U at Asiana Bridal Show 2012

Go on then..one more photo….after all it’s not every day I get to post hot male models on my blog…and this is in the name of actual news reporting!

Ziggi Studio at Asiana Bridal Show 2012
Having been the official catwalk reporter for the last two years (this year will be my third) I’ve developed an appreciation for the incredible workmanship, ideas and inspiration that go into designing Asian fashion. And one label that has never failed to disappoint me is Ziggi Studio, based in Birmingham.

Ziggi himself is only 20 something years old and already has several awards under his belt. His sherwani suits (long jackets worn over trousers) are bold and brave and introduce colour and texture into a garment that’s usually less flamboyant. As ever his collection was heavily influenced by the Mughal Era, but I felt they’ve come a long way since his launch. This year was high on sophistication and detail.

In another catwalk first, make-up and hair stylist Jawaad Ashraf took the unusual step of showcasing his beautifying skills on the catwak; it wasn’t about the body, but the face. And if his predictions are anything to go by, we will all be wearing super bright eyeshadows this season.
Jawaad's muse Miss England Hammasa Khohistani
  The pink eyelids on this look were utterly stunning though you could only appreciate them when they were closed which was hard to photograph! 
The hair was pretty mind-blowing too. I’ve seen these strange egg shaped hairdos before, and I have absolutely no idea how they work! How can they be so smooth?   
Kyle's Collection on the catwalk 2012

Kyle’s Collection are the original trend setters when it comes to British Asian Jewellery. I admit that I find their show room in Green Street, London, a tad scary but when you see their catwalk creations and witness what is possible in the realm of bling, it makes you want to place an order. As a follow on from last year, the team presented more pieces to compliment the hijaab and their signature piece was a stunning waist chain with back detail -shame the wearer doesn’t get to appreciate it!

Indian boutique Frontier Raas at London's Asiana Bridal Show 2012

Indian boutique Frontier Raas deserve a special mention because not only did they present a pretty rainbow selection of fairytale dresses like this prom style royal blue number, the first model that appears in their catalogue has a belly on her, one that's round and folds over…just like a real woman. The didn’t give into the temptation to photoshop her assets – this deserves a round of applause!

Harkirans bridalwear at Asiana Bridal Show 2012
  Surprise of the show was this pink girlie duo from Harkirans.I loved it!

I also like the long and layered trends seen in RDC’s opening collection.

Ekta Solanki

Other designers on the catwalk at the Asiana Bridal Show 2012 included Traditions, Monga’s and Ekta Solanki.
RDC Finale at Asiana Bridal Show 2012
 A full catwalk report with professional photos (not my amateur efforts!)  and trends will be appearing in a future edition of Asiana Wedding magazine – I will tweet when it’s out!
In the meantime there's another report on the fabulous Asian Fashion Blog.  
The show also rolls into Birmingham on Sunday 5th February.

Monday 30 January 2012

Volunteers needed: The Bengal Muslin Project

Closing date for applications: Friday 9 March 2012
An amazing opportunity for anyone interested in fashion & textiles, fashion students, dressmaking, learning new skills and history; this London based project currently requires volunteers. To take part, you need to apply by Friday 9th March 2012.

Project outcome:
You will spend a year learning how to make a regency costume dress, through attending free workshops at The London College of Fashion, Museum of London, Victoria & Albert Museum, British Library and National Maritime Museum and monthly progress workshops. The results (finished dresses) will be recorded in a book and possibly put on display.

Project concept: 
An initiative that tells the story of the relationship between Bengal Muslin and London's fashionistas in the 17th, 18th & 19th centuries who wore dresses made from this muslin. Volunteers will be recruited to undertake research, attend training and then recreate some of these period dresses, using muslin being produced in Bangladesh today. 

The project is co-ordinated by The Stepney Community Trust who have been awarded a grant of £43,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to bring to light the connection between East London, Bangladesh and London fashion.

1. Deadline for applications Friday 9th Match 2012
2. London College of Fashion workshops - 14, 21 and 28 April, 10am-4pm
3. Museum of London workshops - 4 & 25 April 2pm
4. V&A Museum workshops date/s TBC
5. British Library workshop 17 May 3.30-5.30pm
6. National Maritime Museum workshops date/s TBC
7. Visit to weaver Rezia Wahid's loom
8. Monthly progress workshops

To apply:
For more information and for an application form contact Muhammad Ahmedullah at the
Stepney Community Trust Email: heritageproject@stepney.org.uk
Phone: 0207 377 5482 / 07574987607
Or email me (momtazbh@hotmail.com) and I'll forward you an application form. I'll be applying to take part too!

Saturday 28 January 2012

Top secret photos from my forthcoming book!

I'm so excited I may burst! The only way I can prevent this from happening is if I share some sneaky, top secret photos from my forthcoming book '101+ Things to do with Glitter', published by Vivays Publishing this Autumn - the photoshoots started yesterday! 
It's a bright & sparkling craft book which contains 200 suggestions for what you can do with the shimmery stuff including papercrafts, food, toiletries,gifts, interiors and of course some glistening ideas for your wardrobe. I took some photos of yesterdays fashion shoot in order to share them on my blog nearer the time of publication but I just couldn't wait!
We took photos around Islington in North London and also stopped by Teletubbies land.
It was the only place we could find a yellow brick road for the fairytale project.*
(Roger from Struktur who is the book's art director & designer has contacts with munchkins.) My amazing model Nadia Kamil (an actress. writer, comedian and now craft star) was freezing but was prepared to lie on a damp floor to get the shot.
I think that's about all I can reveal. Watch this space and my twitter account for more sparkly updates over the coming months about the most glittering book you will have ever seen!

*(I'm sure you know which fairytale I mean....but ssshhhh for now!) 

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Tutorial: How to Make Paper Earrings for Chinese New Year

As it’s Chinese New year this week I decided to make a Chinese inspired craft
but there’s no typical dragons or lanterns here – just paper. The art and craft of papercutting is associated with many cultures, Chinese being one of them. Luckily you don’t need to be as patient as Rob Ryan to make one. Papercutting in China is known as Jianzhi and they consist of intricate patterns, often symmetrical, used to decorate interiors. My tutorial is a cheats, easy way to get started on this fine craft. 
There are two ways to do a papercut; with scissors or using a craft knife. It depends on the complexity of the design. A papercut can either be the outline left behind from the shapes you cut out, or the shapes themselves. These earrings could have been made by scissors but using a craft knife means you get to keep the outline too, as you’ll soon find out… 

First all you need to get your materials together. To make paper earrings you need: 
  • Scrap paper – any type is suitable. For professional papercutting  a coated paper is normally used but for this project, anything goes!
  • Glue stick
  • Scissors
  • Craft knife and mat
  • Marker pen
  • Round sequin
  • Earring finding
  • Inspiration

For my design, I was reading a magnificent book about hedgehogs at the time so decided to make hedgehog earrings. I started by drawing hedgehog silhouette on the back of my chosen paper and then cut them out using a craft knife. The trick to using a craft knife is keeping it flat, not at a point. And always place a cutting mat underneath to protect the surface.
I then used scissors I cut out spikes from various mixed papers and glued them on using the glue stick– adjust the design according to the animal or object you make. You can use marker pens to draw on features.

To turn them into earrings, make a small hole using a pin at the top. Then the important part. Glue a sequin over the back of the hole to prevent it from tearing, otherwise as soon as you add the earring finding, it will tear through. Leave to dry before adding the earring hook. 

Before wearing them paint the front side with a layer of PVA glue to secure the design and give it a gloss.

I used the outline to make a matching bookmark.

Paper crafting and jewellery making couldn’t be more easy - give it ago, you probably have the materials at home already to get started!

Sunday 22 January 2012

10 things I love about Kuala Lumpar

During my recent new year expedition to Bali I also spent a long weekend in Kuala Lumpar, one of Asia’s most bustling and modern cities. But while some visitors head to the iconic Petronas Towers I discovered some other remarkable things about the city that will always be dear to my heart.

 1. Monorail
My inner travel geek surfaced as soon as I disembarked from the coach from the airport into town. To get to my accommodation I had to board a monorail and despite the fact it was 11.30pm and I had just spent 15 hours travelling, I could not believe my eyes when I witnessed the sheer beautiful of this incredible feet of engineering. A far superior version of the DLR (which is a driverless railway in London, of which I am a huge fan), these two-carriage trains zip around the city, high above the streets. A kind of Bladerunner meets Gotham City form of transportation with added sunshine (each carriage door has floral glade air fresheners attached), the journeys were smooth, frequent and most pleasurable. 
2. Women only carriages
In fact, I sampled five modes of transport while in KL – local trains, coach, monorail, boat, taxis and the suburban train. One thing I was completely shocked about was the incredibly high standard of the taxis – I’ve never been anywhere in the world where taxi drivers are so friendly and take pride in turning on their meters and as such, the fares are extremely cheap (at most we spent 80p getting between places). But what surprised me the most was the suburban trains. The main platform at Sentral station looks European, the only difference being there are women only benches, positioned directly infront of where the women only carriages are. Yes this may seem like an alien concept to Westerners but I can confirm, women only carriages are clean, well kept, friendly and make you feel special. 
 3. Batu Caves

Wannabe batgirls like me clearly have to visit batcaves from around the world for research and these ones at the edge of the city were no exception. Ignore the various tourist coach trips and organised visits to the site which will set you back £8-12. You can take a train from Sentral station – 30 minutes, dropping you directly outside for just 10p each way. I think this makes it one of the cheapest tourist attractions to visit in the world and it’s free to climb the 272 stairs to the top too. Add to this the fact one of the best places to eat in town is across the road (an ultra cheap Indian restaurant serving up street snacks, thalis and fresh coconuts for a couple of pounds), it makes a dream daytrip. (You need to pay a few more pounds to go deep inside the caves but I skipped that part…I have to save something for next time!)

4. Curry
Everyone I know who has ever been to KL talks about the food and how yummy it is. From all of the different cuisines I tried, the best by far was the Indian curries. They have the best flavours outside of India – fresh, simple and wholesome. This thali style feast served on a banana leaf was a particular highlight. 
 5. Bubble Tea

Bubble tea is a beverage trend currently sweeping the UK and is a cold flavoured tea or milk drink with small chewy balls at the bottom made from tapioca starch. If you loved screwball ice-creams as a child (ice cream that came with bubble gum) you’ll develop an immediate appreciation. Extremely refreshing and fun to drink, the balls can be slurped up with your straw. Most of the time, it’s a surprise as you don’t quite know when one will pop up. I’ve not tried any of the London cafes yet, but I’m told Bubbleology is the place to go!

6. T-shirts
 Despite the plethora of shopping malls containing miles of clothing shops, I couldn’t buy any as the sizes were so small. I’m quite petite in terms of the UK but clearly a giant in Asia; everything was teeny! Apart from the t-shirts…there were so many incredible designs. I wanted to photograph them all but after I shot this one, the shop assistant told me off and said I couldn’t take any more photos! 
7. Rainy day devices
Speaking of quirky design, someone really ought to import these handy devices into the UK – umbrella hats as worn by children sitting at the back of bicycles to keep their heads dry and modelled here by my travelling partner Janine. 
8. Sunday night market
Sunday markets in the UK are about waking up at 6am to get to a car boot sale. In KL Sunday markets are slightly more sociable, opening from 4pm until the early hours. So while we are at home chillaxing on a Sunday night ahead of the dreaded Monday morning, things are buzzing in Bansar Village. It’s the place to stock up on your essentials and fresh fruit and veg. The one stall that particularly caught my eye was serving sweet steamed dumplings topped with coconut; a dish I haven’t tried for over a decade. They were a speciality my mum used to make, on rare occasions as they were so labour intensive. She ground the flour, had the filling shipped over from Bangladesh and spent hours steaming them inside cloth. My dad and his best friend were the number one fans. Seeing and eating them made me feel incredibly comforted. 
9. A,b,c dessert
As a connoisseur of puddings, nothing could have prepared me for the Malaysian signature dish of A, B, C – Air Batur Campur translated as mixed ice. It’s so advanced even Heston Blumenthal couldn’t come up with something this peculiar. It consists of a tower of shaved ice with different toppings, the most common being red beans, grass jelly and sweet corn. Never, ever have I tasted anything like it…nothing comes close to the sensations you experience when sampling this most bizarre of concoctions. It sounds straight forward, but look at this picture and imagine mixing it all together into a complete mess – that’s how you eat it. The taste sensations are unexpected – smooth, creamy, milky, refreshing – all these things excite your tongue and then you realise the reality, you are eating sweetcorn….in a dessert. Though I consider myself an adventurous eater and though I loved the dessert I still cannot get over the fact the dish contains sweetcorn – something normally eaten with tuna in sandwiches, grilled on bbqs, served with chicken at fast food stores and here it was for dessert. The texture just felt so wrong. I would have this again but I’m not sure I could do it with the yellow stuff included! 
 10. Britpop

Call me na├»ve but I always thought Britpop was a mid 90s music scene that only stretched as far as British shores. There was the occasional band that made it to America (sadly this ended the career for some bands like the Longpigs) but I had no idea is was a scene that was still big in Asia. There’s me getting on down at Nuisance club, the 3rd Friday of every month in Camden, Londinium, while KL has a Britpop clubnight every Friday night thanks to this fine DJ on right (my friend’s boyfriend, she’s Lee, pictured next to him and they live in KL.) Added to this the fact many Britpop bands have been to KL (Lee’s boyfriend was the official guide for Super Furry Animals and Mogwai when they visited the city), it’s clearly a city I could easily make my home.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

How to make a Balinese offering

One of the first things I noticed about Bali was the beautiful handmade offerings. These are small baskets made from natural materials and filled with colourful flowers. Giving them is a ritual followed by Hindus who make them for the gods. They are normally offered three times a day, though some people I heard about (my taxi driver’s wife) make 40 a day and even 100 during festivals. It is hoped they bring prosperity to your home, family, business and health. 

  Inside temples they are often seen beside incense.

  Whenever you are out walking you’ll find them placed on the street.

  They even accompany drivers to ensure safe journeys.

Women can be seen making them all over town. While in the UK you notice stall holders reading a book or knitting while waiting for customers, in Bali, they occupy themselves making offerings.
 I discovered two ways to make them. The cheats, quick, modern method is to staple together strips of coconut palm into a basket shape while the traditional and extremely delicate way is to join the strips using a fine bamboo skewer; as demonstrated in this short video I filmed outside an art gallery on the Monkey Forest Road in Ubud. Below I’ve described in more detail how these beautiful baskets are constructed.

You need two raw materials – firstly coconut palm leaves.

  Secondly – fine bamboo skewers.

The first stage is to trim the palm into equal lengths and remove any rough edges.

 There is a vein running down the palm.

For stronger basket the piece of palm can be folded in half so it’s thicker – this is suitable if you’re intending to place a large object like a coconut inside.

To join pieces together you use the bamboo skewer to thread them together, you then break them off, leaving behind a small stitch. When I tried this myself I didn’t get far at all. The bamboo is so fine it snaps instantly so trying to push it through the thick palm takes incredible skill and experience. 
This is the typical small basket made from shorter pieces of palm with strips bent and ‘stitched’ together.

 Or you can make a taller one:

These ones were being made for a local temple to mark a full moon, due to take place in three days time.  

As for what goes inside, fresh flowers, rice and incense are common, all of which can be purchased from markets.
If you don’t want to make your own offering they are in abundant supply on street corners to purchase. Or if you just don’t have the time to make such complicated versions, you can simplify them, by simply placing your offerings on a small leaf.  
It’s quite difficult to get hold of the raw materials to make these offering in the UK in exactly the same way but I plan on making some of my own versions with substitute materials. They don’t have to be religious, they could be offered to friends as gifts by assembling cardboard baskets made with strips stapled together and filled with flowers – also a perfect activity for a craft workshop.