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 15 August 2014

Africa Fashion Week London

The first thing I noticed about Africa Fashion Week London was how well-dressed everyone was. There was some seriously cool street style going on - some of which got captured by Company Magazine which you can check out here to see what I mean.
 Now in it's 4th year, Africa Fashion Week is a celebration of designers from and inspired by the African continent. 
This year it was held at it's biggest venue yet, at Olympia in West London. It consisted of several catwalk shows over two days...
...and a marketplace filled with African fashion, accessories, food and books.
I'm a big fan of bold, colourful fashion and have long admired the African women I see on the streets of London wearing traditional dress; much of which is homemade, using the most incredible fabrics, so I couldn't wait to take my 'Frow seat' at this year's event to see work from emerging and new designers who specialise in African fashion.
Prints were everywhere, in every colour scheme imaginable and used for every kind of garment going.
But the biggest surprise of the segment I watched was that this actually was fashion for everyone, not just slim models. Dearcurves showcased a range for larger women and was met with huge cheers and smiles. Their oufits were flattering and interesting which was great to see.
Thora Jewels
I also liked the statement pieces shown off in this jewellery segment.
Mia Nisbet
This collection interested me because it took African print and used it to give outfits 'accents' rather than use solid patterns.
Alabi Couture
My favourite designer however was Alabi Couture, outfits were very glamorous and consisted of great shapes and fits for men and women. There were eight catwalk shows altogether though sadly I could only attend one of them.
One of the most popular stalls at the marketplace was this headwrap stand, which I stood and admired...not sure if I could recreate one myself though.
I also LOVED all the accessories: there were shoes, handbags and endless jewellery pieces made from African print fabric which gave me lots of ideas for customising.
Such a brilliant way to make use of small fabric scraps - I immediately fell in love with the fabric collars (£20) by Akwabi Designs, handmade by this lovely designer. Her rolled version that she's wearing was proving very popular too. 

I'm now feeling super inspired to use the African fabric my friend Bosun brought me a few months back from his visit to Nigeria. It's currently in my 'to sew' pile but I've now got a few ideas for how to make best use of it which definately involves making a garment and matching accessories.

Find out more about Africa Fashion Week London at: www.africafashionweeklondon.com

Wednesday 6 August 2014

Festival Of Love At The Southbank Centre

Say It With Flowers tablecentres made at my workshop

If there's one thing I'm certain about in life it's that I will never get bored of The Southbank. It's my favourite place in London so it was a real honour to be invited to run two craft workshops as part of their summer Festival Of Love
The Festival explores and celebrates seven kinds of human love and each weekend there are events focusing on that type. My sessions took place over their Pragma Weekend celebrating 'Enduring Love'. 
Temple Of Agape
For last year's Festival of Neighbourhood the Southbank was decorated with colourful flags created by Bob and Roberta Smith and this summer the rainbow theme continued with this incredible staircase - The Temple Of Agape which you can walk up and down while admiring. Made up of hand-painted signs it's the kind of installation you can stare at for hours, but's it's not the only one...
As a girl obsessed with neon signage I love this area based inside the Southbank's Festival Village which doubles up as a bar and exhibition space. Step inside to discover a retro wonderland.
One of the workshops I ran was making 'Gifts Of Love' using letter beads to write a message to someone special. The idea was to take two heart shaped pieces of felt, stitch them together, fill with wadding and add a piece of ribbon to hang them up with. They were then decorated with words, sequins, gems, glitter and fabric scraps. 
The workshop was attended by different types of people; children, teenagers, adults and older folk - men and women, as well as friends and families. In fact my sister brought my nieces and nephew along and they all made a heart for each other.
This pair of hearts were made by a boy of seven and a family friend who was looking after him. 
One of the main features of the weekend was a special lunch that took place inside The Clore Ballroom which was attended by 100 invited guests - all of whom have a connection with Enduring Love. The guestlist included young carers, couples who've been married a very long time and people from care homes around London. To make their lunch experience extra special I was called upon to create tablecentres - made with the help of public participants.
The concept was to make something based around flowers so I decided on topiary style trees which in the end turned into cactuses, but more on that later! I picked up 10 plant pots from Poundland and my starting point was to paint them with acrylic paint - it took three layers to get good coverage.
I did some of the other prep at home too - spraying large polystrene balls with adhesive spray and smoothing squares of hessian and cotton gingham fabric over them. It was a quick and effective method but it ruined my nails so if you fancy trying this yourself I recommend wearing gloves. I bought wooden dowels to fix into the balls but my hacksaw broke when I went to cut them to size so I used straws initially but they didn't hold the weight of the balls so in the end I chopped them off and created cactuses instead!
The main session was a public drop-in craft workshop where participants made fabric and card flowers. These were then glued to the polysterene balls which were glued inside the plant pots. The 10 tablecentres were then placed on the dining tables for the special lunch on Sunday.
Elsewhere around the space there are so many more exhibitions and installations to discover and be amazed by.There's a full list on the Southbank website.

Alongside the workshops and exhibitions there are also a number of film screenings of classic romances...
And if you're visiting over the weekend be sure to show your stomach some love too by eating at Real Food Market. My favourite stalls are the two dosa stands. One is by Horn Ok Please! who create delicious, fluffy Masala Dosas served with chickpeas and bhel puri - it's a perfect light lunch or snack (£5) or if you like your food flavoursome and filling try the satisfying dosas from Dosa Delhi which are served with a very delicious coconut chutney (£6). Finish with a stop off for frozen yoghurt aboard the bright pink Snog bus (only downside being it's rather pricey ), but a nice treat and you get to sit on deckchairs or enjoy your yoghurt up on the top deck.

If you're visiting London this summer stopping off to see The Festival Of Love is a must, especially as films aside, it's FREE! Chill by the river, put your feet in the sand, relax in The Southbank roof garden, get married (there is actually a whole weekend dedicated to weddings) and take some time out to enjoying thinking about and enjoying love, whether it's on your own or with someone special. 

The Southbank Centre's Festival Of Love runs until 31st August 2014.