By Tammie Schaffer
When I started quilting, I needed to build a fabric stash. One way that I did this was by swapping 5-inch charms through online swaps I found on Flickr and Swap-bot. I soon found other swaps to join, making small items to trade with others and receiving something cool in return.
Have you ever participated in a craft swap? Swaps can be a fun way to trade skills or supplies with others in the online community.
One of the first swaps I ever joined was the Elsie Marley mobile swap. My lovely partner Jana sent me two mobiles, both made from fabric. One was made from quilted batik leaves dangling from a branch, and the other was made with adorable bunnies with teensy yo-yo decorations. The idea that someone put that much time and detail into a gift for a stranger made me fall in love with swapping. I was hooked.
Swaps usually involve smaller items, so they don’t cost a fortune to ship. Mug rugs and miniature quilts are fun to trade, because they are small but easy to personalize. Pincushions, hot pads, ornaments, bags and aprons are all fun swap ideas.
Of course, fabric swaps are great, too, but usually require double postage. You send fabric to a host, who sorts it and then sends some back to you. But it’s a fantastic way to build a charm or fat quarter stash.In a good swap, there is a host, who sets the rules and deadlines, assigns partners and makes sure everyone completes her swap. The host lays out clear guidelines for what the swap entails. If you’ve had a great swap mama (or papa), be sure to say thank you. Running a successful swap takes a lot of time and effort.
The hosts also find angels for anyone who does not receive something from her assigned partner. An angel is someone who volunteers to make a swap gift for someone who isn’t her partner, without getting anything back.
A flaker is someone who signs up for a swap and then is never heard from again. Don’t be a flaker. It will earn you a bad reputation and get you banned from future swaps. Have I ever been flaked upon? Yes, unfortunately. More than once. In one particular case, I had two angels who sent me lovely packages that more than made up for the disappointment.
Several sites host swaps, including Swap-bot and Craftster. You have to be a member to join the swaps, but it’s free to register.
SwapDex is another place to look for swaps. Sometimes people run them through their blogs or create Flickr groups for specific events. I host the Denyse Schmidt Charm Swap on Flickr, which will be signing up for round four soon.
If you can’t find a swap to join, you can always host your own. If you swap with a local group of friends, maybe from your guild or church, then you won’t need to worry about shipping charges.
Some good guidelines for swapping:
Read the rules before you commit.
Communicate. If you’re going to miss a deadline, let your swap host know. If it’s a secret swap, she will notify your partner on your behalf.
Ship with tracking and insurance. This lets you verify the package gets to where it’s going, and also covers you in case anything happens to it during delivery. Also, some swaps are in the U.S. only, while others are worldwide. Make sure you are aware if you’ll need to ship internationally.
Make your gift a delight to receive. Don’t swap something you wouldn’t be happy to get in return. It’s important to note that skills might vary between members of a swap. But even if you are a beginner, choose something at your skill level and make it the best it can be. Include extras, such as candy, some pretty pins or cool stationery. Make it personal, and you might make a new friend.
Let your partner and swap host know when you receive your item, and tell her thank you.
How about you? Have you ever participated in a swap? Where is your favorite place to find swaps? Let us know in the comments!
Tammie Schaffer is a freelance writer who lives in Richmond, Kansas. She writes every other Friday. Visit her at craftytammie.