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

Friday 30 March 2012

Stone Age v Digital Craft: The HCA Conference 2012

Last week I went along to the Heritage Crafts Association annual Spring Conference. 
Instead of doing a blog post - I wrote about the event for Frankly magazine. You can read about my adventures here!

Thursday 22 March 2012

Craftnight with Borough Belles WI

Beaming Belles
Last night I joined the Borough Belles WI for an evening of crafting, cake and chitchat - one of the loveliest evenings I've had in ages. Although I'm generally a very confident person I get a bit nervous before meeting new people, but was assured from their website that you should not worry about turning up on your own, and sure enough they were right. I've never felt so at ease so quickly before, it was like being in a room of friends; always a good place to be.
Add caption
The theme of the meeting is different each month, next month it's guerilla gardening and last month they did a Zumba class but craft I was told by many members usually has the biggest turn out.
Crafty Chicas
This evenings guest was crafty lass extraordinaire Perri Lewis. Perri amongst other things is a member of a secret guerilla knitting group and writes crafty articles for The Guardian. She started off by telling us some amusing and informative anecdotes about what she's learnt about crafts over the years from the fact it's expensive, through to her tracking of crafty celebrities. Perri's book Material World is out this Autumn and with material in mind, she brought along some fabric so members could have a go at making some fabric jewellery.
Want one? Make one!
Perri's sample beaded bib necklace was exquisite and reminded me of the type of accessory tribal warriors would wear, only with more bling. Clearly such finery takes hours to perfect so as a simpler introduction she showed us how to make a felt cuff by layering two rectangles of felt together and stitching ribbon at either end so it could be tied up and worn around your wrist.
Sequin sourcing
Each table was given a mound of sequins, felt and ribbon.
Cutting edges
 No one on my table wanted to cut the felt up so I was nominated for the task, though I'm not convinced I cut out pieces that were particularly straight!
Spongey bliss
Of course it wouldn't be a WI meeting without the obligatory tea and cake. There was a tower of choices, I opted for this one, which was pretty good but I thought it would be more suitable for elevensees, rather than an after dinner dessert.
The perfect purse
This lady owned the most spectacular purse made of measuring tapes...
and produced the most blingtastic creation...totally my style, I would buy and wear this!
Yeah! I made it myself!
This girl who was sitting opposite me, was so chuffed with her creation...reactions like her giant smile are definately one of the reasons I am such a craft advocate: her grin is proof that craft does make a person happy.
Star attraction
Another fab design...
Happy homework
And here are some of the efforts from the lovely ladies who were sitting on my table.
Wonder Woman
My She-Ra inspired cuff, which I managed to complete despite spending over half the night chatting away. It goes to show, craft does not need to take a long time, put in as much or as little in as you like.
Amelia's amazing bee top
Finally I couldn't stop by and not speak with this lovely girl who was sporting the most incredible sweater...it looks good in the photo but in real life, the bees were even more beautiful. Unbelievably she purchased it from Monsoon AND it came with a free packet of seeds so that you can plant them to attract more bees. Now if that's not ethical shopping, I don't know what is...infact it's a good excuse to go out and buy this very jumper!

Nights like this make me feel really lucky - to have the chance to go out, not have to spend much money, but come back brimming with ideas and stories from new people, in an environment that's so much more welcoming than a bar blaring with loud music. If you've ever had any desires no matter how small to find out what a WI meeting is like then all I can say is go to one! You don't need to be a member. Most, if not all, will let you in as a guest and you certainly don't need to be crafty minded. I met so many women who said they can't craft and yet there they were, having a go. Inspirational! 
I look forward to returning again soon : )

The Borough Belles meet monthly on a Wednesday night at the Welsh Borough Chapel, 90 Southwark Bridge Road, SE1 0EX, a short walk from London Bridge & Southwark tube stations. If you're not a member you can still attend meetings for just £3. Or visit the WI website to find your local branch. 

Thank you to everyone who starred in my photos, sorry they are all a bit yellow looking!

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Happy Birthday Red Hair and How To Get A Cheap & Chic Hairdo in London

This month I'm celebrating 4 years of being a Redhead. During that time, and infact every week, I still get asked the same questions:
1. Why do you have red hair?
2. How do you do it?
3. Doesn't it cost lots of money?
Well I'm about to answer all three questions. Starting in reverse order:
A cut and colour at a regular hairdressing salon in London will set you back £70+ - if you're heading to a 5 star salon like Toni&Guy, you're looking at £100+.....BUT there are ways to avoid these fees, by giving up 3-4 hours of your time and becoming a hairdressing model - which is what I've been doing for the last decade.
If you're a Londoner, or passing through, you may have stumbled cross this sign on New Oxford Street. Well I can confirm, it's completely genuine, is a very friendly service and worth a try. You normally need to book a week or two in advance but no more, so it's perfect for people who are holidaying in London, as much as it is for locals like myself.
You can have a cut, colour or both and prices range from £5-20 but sometimes they do promotions or check out Gumtree as some of the students often place adverts up there.
So what actually happens? There are two categories : firstly you may be the model for one of the students completing a course at the academy or secondly you will be a demo model where you get your hair done by one of the tutors who teach at the academy who are all Creative Directors - if you model for them, it's free and that's what I do!
Lovely Fabrice who works at the Covent Garden branch has been cutting my hair for about three years while the colour until the end of last year was done by Lindsay Ashton, but she recently moved to the Manchester Academy so I've had some different colour experts dyeing my hair since then - all have been fab! If you demo model you get your hair done on a stage with a small audience, otherwise you'll have a more regular experience of just you and your stylist, but don't worry their work is assessed and over seen by a tutor so you will get the same professional level of service. And you do get a say in the final look.
Demo models get prepped 'backstage. These are the sinks; usually there are three or four demo models at a time.
Here's a sneaky peak at the colour cupboard...so many dyes, not enough time to try them all!
And here's the shoe rack, mainly made up of super high Kurt Geiger heels - if you're a demo modelling you get a full T&G makeover with clothes and shoes to wear!
And here's the stage, see it's not so scary....though I admit I have completely forgotten what a traditional hairdressing experience is like. I'm used to there being people watching me rather than looking in a mirror, infact I can't see the progress at all. I tend to on stage with one look and leave with a whole new style.
The lovely pots of red dye about to go in my hair. Although I tend to keep a whole red head, there are details within it - different shades, often hints of purple or pink.
After the colour it's time to leave the stage and get the heat on for the colour to speed up. It's then washed before returning to the stage to get it cut.
And yes it's one of the rare times I wear black...it's the T&G way, but it's only for a few hours and in exchange I get an amazing brand new hairdo every 8 weeks ....so now you know my secret and why my hair always seems to look different....and it doesn't cost me a penny - yay! But I should admit, although I've mainly been a red head, there have been couple of experimental phases:

There was my brief lilac fling...
and the time I got the Blues.....which I regret not keeping for longer, I loved it!
But alas, I was born to be a redhead (answer to question 1) and that's how I intend to stay for a long time yet!! (There is also the fact my heroine and the girl I aspire to be: Bat Girl has red hair too........)
If anyone out there is contemplating going red or has any questions about getting a cut and/or colour at the T&G Academy then get in touch and I'll do my best to answer. It really is quite an experience and I highly recommend it to someone who wants a good quality haircut, doesn't have the money but can spare the time (you're looking at least 1/2 a day off work.) If you make an appointment it will be with a student, you may become a demo model on the day if the tutor needs one at the last minute, otherwise, most use the same models. When I started, I had my hair cut by students until one day a tutor cut my hair and I stuck with him, mainly because just like your regular hairdresser, he now totally understands my look, face shape etc which means I never have bad hairs days (touch wood.)

The Toni&Guy London Academy needs models Monday-Friday, appointments are normally 10am and 2pm and take about 3 hours. To book, call 0207 836 0606 or visit the branch in person at 71-75 New Oxford Street, WC1A 1DG. There is also a Manchester branch and others around the world.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Stitch & Craft London 2012 : Highlights

There is a definite theme running through this years Stitch & Crafts Show. From London 2012 to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee  - it's all very British.
There are regal cross stitch cushions (this one was designed by Emma Bridgewater for CrossStitcher magazine)...
Capital themed tapestry...
Londonium inspired printed cotton & ...
...Jubilee themes from Fabrics Galore and

Patriotic ribbon from Crafty Ribbons.

I even tried my hand at some Jubilee Cross Stitch - well two royal guards anyway!
Speaking of Cross Stitch, Mr X Stitch has his own gallery space at the show. As well as his own stitch finery, there's another gentleman of stitchery exhibiting...
Lord Libidan who here is demonstrating one of his XStitched moveable Transformers and standing beside the most magnificent XStitch I've ever seen - 3D - which you wear with glasses to appreciate. Genius!
On the Olympics front Quilts 4 London was set up three years ago - a campaign to make 15,000 hand-stitched pennants (individual flags). They have been donated by stitchers from all over the world and will be placed inside the goody bags so EVERY single competitor will get one. Before that, some of them are on display - infact this is the only place you'll get to see them as the deadline to fill Paralympic goodie bags is only two weeks away. The good news is they have met their targets and they'll be a few spares for Olympic organisers too.
The flags were exhibited along with Olympic quilts .......so many of them I didn't know where to look! There really is some amazing handiwork to appreciate (but far too much to photograph.) Luckily a book is available featuring all the designs which you can buy at the show.
A big crowd puller was the miniature knitted village exhibit. You can still contribute to it, by knitting village themed goodies. The entire village (possibly a town by then) will be on display at the Knitting & Stitching show in October.
My favourite buy of the day was a hand-carved Indian Block for printing, £6 from Colouricious. They had so many gorgeous Indian themed designs, I wish I could afford to buy more so I could have printed my own saris!
Finally here is Linzi Upton with the patchwork yurt she made, used as the HQ for the Mollie Makes magazine team.
There are lots and lots of stalls throughout the show where you can stock up on supplies and an excellent choice of workshops where you can learn new skills. All in all; a good day trip for a craft fan. I think the only downside is the venue. It's not Olympia's fault, they are currently celebrating 125 years, it's just that so many of these exhibition halls are dark and dingy with no natural light. I wish someone would build a nice exhibition centre that didn't feel so clinical where the true colour and creativity of a craft show could be represented. Hopefully one day I will be reporting from such an event on this very blog, fingers and stitching crossed!

The show continues until Sunday 18th March. Tickets are £12 on the door for adults. If you're thinking of going down, I hope these highlights were useful - enjoy the event and happy shopping : )

Monday 12 March 2012

Delicious Design Classics

Bagel purse from Berlin
I've recently acquired some extremely kitsch but classic design products. First up this rather splendid salmon and cream cheese bagel purse found in Berlin.
Salmon & cream cheese filling
Each half of the bagel has a zip so you can fill it with money, card, lipgloss, keys etc. I padded out the top pocket above for photographic purposes, but unfilled, it lies flat.
Bagel ends
It also has a key ring fob, so it can be hung. It's designed by Yummy Pockets who's range includes sandwiches, burgers and sushi themed cases.
Fast food bracelet
This is a rather special fast food bracelet given to me as a Valentines present. It consists of large plastic food items, joined with elastic. I have no idea where it originated from.
Marmite keyring

On first inspection this looks like a jar shaped keyring, but infact the lid comes off so you can store coins...I'm looking forward to testing it out next time I go clubbing!
Food Zines
This set of foodie zines were designed by Sarah Cai and each one is completely hand drawn and contains 6 ideas for what you can do with the product.
Here is a peek at pages from each one. My favourite suggestion is playing jenga with kitkat sticks and bathing in ribena - yum!
Burger timer
 A burger shaped timer to add to my ever growing collection of burger themed collectibles.
Nutella cookbook
An finally a Nutella cookbook, containing 30 delicious recipes to make with the brown stuff such as pastries, drinks, desserts etc. All the recipes are in French, as it was bought in Paris.

Have you acquired any delicious design classics recently? Share your treasures in the comments below!