Podcast episode 17 – Craft Swaps

The Craft Room Podcast, Episode 17 - Craft Swaps

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Hello, welcome to The Craft Room Podcast.  Today we are talking about craft swaps, which have actually been around for a long time. I’ve been personally doing them for probably 15-16 years. Today I thought we would talk about what a craft swap is, different styles and types of swaps that you can join, what you can do to be a great swap participant or swap host.

I’m also going to talk about a few of the pros and cons because when you join a craft swap, there are some things that you need to be aware of.

My very first official craft swap was when a friend of mine introduced me to an Australian Yahoo group (yes, we’re talking pre-Facebook) that was called OzSwapTillYouDrop. I think I’ve mentioned in previous episodes how much I loved this group. It was my complete obsession, my homepage when I turned my computer on. I was so into it, I joined almost every swap that was on offer. Back then I had two kids at school and while yes, they took up a lot of my time, I had time to join in swaps. And that’s one of the things you need to know about craft swaps … they take time. So, if you have time on your hands and you’re looking to share your handmade creations with someone, maybe a craft swap is for you.

The Craft Room Podcast, Episode 17 - Craft Swaps
A swap set I created

In the OzSwap group we used to swap handmade paper crafting embellishments, things you could use on cards, for your scrapbook albums, we would occasionally swap ATC’s, which are Artists Trading Cards, and it was a blast. I remember one year (I think by then I was I was running the group by then), we were having two or three swaps every single week, which is quite mind blowing. There’s a lot of time and effort involved in that and I distinctly remember where it was at its peak, and we were just having the best fun.

The Craft Room Podcast, Episode 17 - Craft Swaps
A swap item I received

At this time, joining an online craft swap was a really popular activity, but all of the big groups and swaps I’d been reading about on the popular forums (like two peas in a bucket, there’s a blast from the past!) were based in the USA. Shipping overseas for swaps was really expensive, and a hassle for the host to arrange Paypal for return post. So to find an Australian group, with great hosts, fun swaps and local post was like striking gold.

But, as you may have noticed, crafts go in cycles. Our scrapbooking cycle was coming to a bit of an end, our kids were getting a little bit older. And the older kids get, the less photos you take … the less firsts there are to document. Sometimes scrapbooking is just for a little while, not forever. And so, a lot of us were coming to the end of our scrapbooking run. One by one, people began to drop out of the group … Facebook began to take over and then one fateful day someone hacked my Yahoo account and posted something incredibly inappropriate. My account was closed and sadly the group was lost. But by then, we were barely doing any swaps and most of us had moved on. However, that group was very important part of my life. I have so many awesome memories of OzSwap, and so many beautiful pieces that maybe one day I’ll get around to using in my albums. I swear I’m going to get back to scrapbooking.

There are a few different styles of swapping. And this one is an excellent example of a group swap style. Now, I still sometimes run swaps, they’re a little time consuming, but I try to run three or four a year, sometimes cards, sometimes card fronts, sometimes ATCs. If you check over on the blog today, you will find a link to information for the new swap that is now open for sign-ups for Australian swappers. If you’re listening to this later on down the road, and you think, “Oh, I’d like to join a swap in Australia”, You can go check that out to see if there is a swap currently open or coming soon.  The best way to get that information is to sign up for my email newsletter. If there is a swap happening, you bet I’m sending an email out to let everyone know, and it will have the word swap in the title. That way, you can just open the emails that you’re interested in.

In a group swap, the host sets the theme and rules of the swap. They keep everybody on track and they handle every single swap item that is sent in. Everybody who joins up makes multiple identical items, which are packed and sent into the host. The host swaps them all around, repacks them and sends a variety pack back to everybody.

There are a few reasons why group swaps are great. Sure, you’re making multiple items, but you also receive multiple items from all the different swap participants. And that’s fantastic because one of my favourite things about swapping is that I get to see products, techniques, colour combinations and things that maybe I would never have thought of, or ever heard of before. I actually learned a lot from swapping, and I daresay a lot of other people in swap groups who’ve really participated have done as well. I remember my lovely friend Linda … she was an incredibly enthusiastic crafter and keen swap participant. I have her very first piece in my personal collection, and her very last piece that she made for a swap. The difference between them is absolutely mind blowing. She really honed her skills, was a great swap participant and became an excellent swap host.

Let’s go into more detail about how a group swap works.

The swap host will decide on the theme … it might be birthday, Christmas, kids cards, or something like that. Perhaps the swap will focus on a technique, a product or a colour scheme. Whatever the host decides, they are the one who sets down the rules. I will use my upcoming card front swap as an example.

For this swap, you will make 8 card fronts. The measurements will be 10.5cm x 14.8cm, so that it fits exactly onto the front of a standard Australian card base created from a piece of A5 cardstock. The theme is Birthday.

I provide a lot of information, including …
* A blog post.
* A printable PDF.
* Measurements.
* Checklist.
* Packing instructions, both written and a video guide.
* A list of items you need (large snaplock bag, 2 envelopes, postage stamps, washi tape, a piece of stiff cardboard, a small bag for each card front).
* The deadline, with suggested posting dates.
* Pack & post tips.

I have my swap participants send their swap envelopes to my PO Box, because my amazing post office staff never bend envelopes, they’re safe and dry, and I visit the post office every day to post orders anyway. As swap envelopes start arriving, I unpack them, make sure everything is there, and remove all the pieces with their little bits of tape from the backing cardboard, and mark off names.

Once they have all arrived, I lay everything out and swap it all around so that everyone receives 8 different card fronts in return. Then it’s time to tape them back to the cardboard, bag them and pack them in the return envelopes before heading to the post office. My favourite part is seeing everyone’s clever work and sending out all that happy mail.

The other swap style is known as a One to One swap. For this type of swap you’re making one thing to send one person, and someone else is making one thing to send you.

In this style of swap, the hosting gig is a little bit different. The host still sets the theme and the rules, but they also match people up for the swap. There are two different ways I find that people are matched for a swap like this. The first is one on one, where you are paired with someone … you make something for that person, and that person is making something for you. The other way that it’s done is in a trio or even sometimes a group of four depending on how the numbers line up. But let’s say it’s a trio where I am making something for Tania … Tania is making something for Sally … and Sally is making something for me.  I actually prefer this small grouping method because there’s a little less pressure. When you’re making for the person who’s making for you, it can be a little nerve wracking. I mean, I get a little nervous anyway because I can’t help but wonder if they’re going to like what I’m making them, knowing that they are making something amazing for me. But doing it this way … I don’t know … it takes a little bit of the pressure off because you know that person isn’t actually making for you. They’re making for someone else. So I, I kind of like this one … my mind plays less tricks on me, and instead of making a bunch of identical things, you actually only making one thing to send to one place. Now to be fair in a group swap. You’re only sending one envelope to one place, but you are making multiples to put in it.

Now at this point, I think we should talk about how to be a good swap participant, because it does lead into talking about some of the pros and cons of being involved in a craft swap.

1. Read the information

The first thing that you can do to be a great craft swap participant is to read every single detail that the host sends you. Read it … reread it … print it … highlight the important parts …. mark dates on your calendar … and follow those instructions. They have been laid down for a number of reasons. This advice is solid whether you’re in a group swap or a one to one swap (be it one on one, or a trio or quad set-up).

For my swaps I go into a lot of detail, and it’s not because I have no faith in the swap participants … it’s mostly so I can save you money on post and keep your gorgeous handmade swap items as safe in transit as possible. I have been involved in swaps for a long time, decade and a half at least. I have posted many a swap and I have hosted many swap. I have seen how much a swap can cost to post if you don’t pack it correctly. The instructions that I send out are going to help you to pack your swap in the most efficient way so that it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg to post. I used to run a lot of card swaps before Australia Post put the price of stamps up to $1 each. Every card needed to have an envelope included with it, and this made the envelopes bulky and heavy … and after the stamp price rise, swapping became less affordable. So I made some amendments. For example, now instead of a full size card + envelope, we do card front swaps. You just make a panel that can be stuck on to a card base … the ultimate quick card! It’s a lot cheaper and more efficient to post.

If you’ve participated in swaps before, each host may have a different way of doing things … this is why it’s important to read all of the information carefully. Some hosts may need you to check in, some may be strict with deadlines and others more flexible.

2. Communication

If you need to drop out of a swap, if you are going to be late, if you need to change something, just let the host know. You’re not in trouble. One of the downsides to being a grown-up is that sometimes life gets in the way of the fun stuff (more often than I’m sure we’d all like).

There are a few reasons why the host needs to know. If it is a swap that relies on numbers like an ATC swap (which is a grouping of nine), and if someone drops out, a replacement needs to be found. If you know you won’t be able to complete and send your swap, let the host know as soon as you can so that they can put a call out for someone else to join, or create pieces themselves to fill that spot. Likewise, if you’re going to be late posting, the host needs to know so they can make the call whether to wait for your swap or not.  While we know that stuff happens, if every other swap participant has sent their items on time, it’s not fair to make them wait for the person who hasn’t met the deadline. Some hosts will be very strict about deadlines, and others more flexible.

If you’re in a one to one swap, and you’re making one thing for one person and one person is making one thing for you, if by any chance you need to drop out, you must let the host know as early as you possibly can.

One to one swaps are a long haul, and over the 2 months you have to work on your swap … sometimes stuff happens.  Maybe you or a family member gets sick. There can be a death in the family, a change in employment circumstances, a breakdown of machinery … if you’re making a quilt and your sewing machine breaks down, you need to take it to get serviced, and that takes time. These are all things that can happen that stop you from completing a swap on time, or even at all. But when it’s that one on one, somebody is making something specifically for you following your parameters. And it means that you’re going to get something, but that person is not going to get something and that’s not cool. So, if something drastic happens and you need to drop out of a one to one swap, you need to let the host know, ASAP. They need to arrange somebody to fill your spots so that the other person does not miss out, and it’s likely that if you don’t send something, the host may arrange it so that your replacement receives the item, which is fair.  Or if you are just going to be a week late posting, they may have your partner hold off posting for a week as well.

Because we don’t want to delay the happy mail, I have a few tips for hitting your swap deadlines.

First, take a note of where you need to send your swap.

In the case of the group swap the deadline is this is the date it needs to arrive to the host, and where the host is located.  For example, when you are sending swaps to me, I am on the NSW Central Coast. If you are in Sydney somewhere, then your swap will probably get to me in one or two days, so you can actually cut it pretty tight to the deadline if you need to. However, if you live in Western Australia, Northern Territory or far north Queensland it’s going to take longer. It could take a week, maybe more depending on what the postal service is like in your area, and in rural areas, it’s just going to take longer. So be aware of how far away you are from the destination.

If it’s a one on one swap, oftentimes the deadline is actually the day you post to your swap partner, not the date it’s due to arrive. This takes us back to the last tip … read the instructions very carefully.

So be aware of due dates and set yourself a deadline for the day that you actually need to post to get it there.

The Craft Room Podcast, Episode 17 - Craft Swaps
I created this for my swap item in a fandom swap

My next tip is to start your swap early, get it done early, get it in the post fast, don’t give life a chance to trip you up. This has happened to me so many times and it happened to me when I was signing up for multiple swaps per week. Sometimes I would lose track of due dates, so I put a system into place to make sure everything made it to the destinations on time. I had checklists and calendar with all my due dates and post dates on it.  As soon as the host confirmed that the swap was going ahead, I would start so I could pack and post before something came along to distract me. Again … we go back to the tip to read the instructions. Sometimes swaps don’t go ahead, usually because there aren’t enough people signed up. So make sure the host gives you the go ahead and as soon as you get that go ahead to start, then make it straight away. While you’re waiting, maybe make a prototype so you know can test out your design. Sketch it up, figure out what you’re going to do, pick your papers, pick colours and make your prototype. I love to make a prototype it means that I’ve got something to copy from as I’m making things in an assembly line fashion for a group swap, and it means one’s already done. Sometimes I will send that extra one on to the host as a thank you and other times I’ll keep that one for myself because I really liked the design.

3. Workmanship

Here’s the thing about being in a swap … it’s about doing your very best work. I say it all the time … a simple design executed well beats a complicated design executed poorly every single day of the week. Pick something that is within your current skillset and do it really, really well.

There are many ways that you can execute great workmanship is let’s say if your paper crafting, make sure that your lines are straight and your edges a clean, no fuzzy edges, make sure that things are stuck down straight and centred. Make sure that if you’re stamping that you’re not rocking the stamp which results in grungy bits around the stamped image. If you’re sewing for the swap, make sure loose threads are tied off and trimmed and your piece is pressed.

You don’t need to spend a fortune. Use what you have in your stash but do make sure that the materials you’re using are in good condition. If the card stock is creased or torn, is dirty or has inky fingerprints on it, that’s not good. If your fabric is dirty, mouldy or wrinkled, that’s not great either. Use materials that are in perfect condition, and take the time to stitch straight lines, line things up, make sure no adhesive is showing, press your fabric, etc. Essentially, you need to submit something that you would be delighted to receive.

A common question I’m asked is “Can I join a swap if I’m a beginner?”

I understand that if you consider yourself to be a beginner, you may be nervous about joining a swap. But if you can execute the basics of workmanship for your craft, then I would encourage you to consider joining in.

If you are a beginner swapper, and you’re a bit nervous about what you’re going to send in (and I get this question a lot as well) I’m always happy to take a look at it. If you’ve made your prototype and you’re questioning whether it’s good enough, or you’d like some feedback, just ask the host, whoever they may be. Let them know you’re a bit nervous about your first swap, ask if they would be willing to take a look at your piece if you send a photo, and give you some feedback. Then be prepared for actual feedback and suggestions. And if the host tells you it’s wonderful and perfect as it is, then you have to believe them because they’re not lying to you. They really mean it. I love it when people send me a pic of their prototype … and a lot of the time they’re being super harsh on themselves because it’s really good. The rest of the time it’s usually a small fix … like straightening something up, centring the sentiment or popping it up on some foam tape. Maybe it’s a bit plain but a little ink blending around the edges would give it a little bit more depth. It’s really natural to be nervous about submitting your first swap, and I’m always happy to give some gentle encouraging feedback. 

The other reason is great for a beginner to join … it’s great experience and it’s great fun. Don’t feel like you need to miss out.

So let’s say, for example, that you’re interested in joining one of my card front swaps, but you’re not quite sure. Well, I have a few things that might be helpful.

On the sign-up sheet there will be links to videos. The first video will be showing you how to make a card front all the technical things, measurements, etc … the next will be how to pack it for the post. So, go and check that one out as well. And you can look at it and decide whether you’re ready to jump in. Maybe this time around you just want to watch what everyone else is doing and start percolating some ideas … or maybe you’re ready to join. Another thing that I highly recommend is … look at the supplies you have and check out some tutorials using them. Work with what you have and make some practice pieces.

Don’t be afraid to do some research while the swap signups are happening and if you come up with a great design before the signup process is finished … sign up!

It’s about now we should probably discuss the single most commonly asked question … “What if I received something that I don’t like?”.

Well, when it comes to craft swaps, unfortunately, that’s a risk that you take. You may get something that is not to your personal tastes. Maybe it has colours you don’t like or is in a style that is not to your taste, or maybe it’s an occasion or theme that you don’t have a use for. That’s just the nature of swapping, these things can happen. It’s more common in a group swap, but the bonus is that there are items by a variety of makers, and you’re sure to find something that you do like. And if there is something that you don’t really love or can’t use, there are a few options.

Donate it to the Mother’s Day stall at school, donate it to a local nursing home, donate it anywhere … there are so many places that you can donate handmade cards.

Set up a little box on your sideboard at home or on your desk at work. If you’re having a crafting day with friends, let them know that they can take things from that box if they feel they love them or can use them. Same for work … let your work colleagues know that they can just grab a card from the box if they need one. Bam, problem solved, for them and for you!

Another thing that you can do is dismantle it. If it’s not snapped up by kids, family, friends or colleagues, there may be some pieces on there that you can salvage and use on another project.

And look, if it’s something that is incredibly bad, you have my permission to throw it in the bin. I tell you, I think only once, maybe twice in my 15 years of swapping have I binned anything. That’s not too bad.

The most important thing to remember is that there are people at all levels, joining in a group swap. Be kind and compassionate and remember that we will all beginners once. Also, some people are doing this on a really tight budget so they may not be using the abundance of embellishments that perhaps you would use. But there’s going to be a use for this thing that you received. And if that use is that it’s donated, so be it. My top piece of advice here is please do not go online and shame anyone for the work they put in. Do not post it to the to a group and say “Look at this really awful card I got it’s disgusting what awful workmanship”. There is a real person behind that card, and online bullying or trolling is not ok.

In a one to one swap, that should be less likely to happen. All of the one to one swaps I joined on Instagram were a lot more detailed and you actually fill out a questionnaire. That way you can note your likes and dislikes so that the person who is making something for you can make an informed decision regarding their design choices. They know the colours, techniques, fabrics and styles that you like and don’t like. The questionnaires also ask for your skill level, which you need to answer honestly, because you will be matched with someone at a similar skill level. If in doubt, ask the host to look at your creations on your Instagram feed and help you be realistic about how to answer that question.  Sometimes people with amazing skills lack confidence, and people with rudimentary skills are bursting with confidence … so if in doubt, ask.

Having that list from the person you are creating for is incredibly helpful to ensure you create a piece that your swap partner will love. It also gives you a bit more confidence that the person who is creating a piece for you will make something that you love. A good swap participant will read your list of likes and dislikes. They’ll go stalk you online by checking out the things you post on Instagram and Pinterest, so make sure you provide them with plenty of inspiration. I like to create a Pinterest Board especially for my swap partner to check out, and I love it when the person I am making for does the same. When swap participants read all the details and take the time to create something they know the recipient will love, it seriously decreases the chances of disappointment when the final product is received.

However … sometimes you get something that you don’t like. That can be because the swap host hasn’t done their job by matching you with someone at a similar skill level, or your swap partner has perhaps overestimated their skill level. Another possible reason is that your swap partner hasn’t read the answers on your questionnaire, choosing to make something that they like rather than something that you would like. This has happened to me, and it was disappointing.

So … I’m going to say it again … you need to read everything that the swap host sends you, and then read it again. Make sure you communicate with the host, especially if you run into trouble. And do your best work with materials in perfect condition.

I’ve been lucky.  Out of all the swaps I have participated in, I have only had 3 bad experiences, which statistically is pretty impressive.

The first was dealing with some swap participants who were deliberately sending in poor quality work in order to receive nice things in return with pretty much zero effort on their part. It was an unpleasant call to make, but after finding out that they were selling the items on ebay, I had to remove them from the swap group. There is a difference between a beginner crafter sending in something that’s not sophisticated and someone deliberately sending shoddy work, and it can be hard to tell the difference. This is where experience as a swapper and a host comes in very handy, and your detective and diplomacy skills come into play.

The second was a fandom swap on Instagram, one to one. I created an embroidered hoop for my swap partner, she created something gorgeous for her swap partner, and that girl was supposed to make and send to me.  But she did not.  She received a beautiful handmade piece, and I received nothing. This is another scam that people run … joining a swap with no intention of ever sending something, only receiving. This is why hosts should be asking for progress photos, and particpants need to send them. That request is there to protect swap participants from this very scam. Sometimes it’s deliberate, and other times the person had something go wrong, didn’t communicate with the host, became embarrassed and think it’s too late to fix it. Communication is important.  When someone misses out and receives nothing after putting in weeks of work creating for someone else, it’s very upsetting.

The third was a bag swap on Instagram. In this instance I did receive an item, but the person who created and sent a bag to me had made a couple of crucial errors. She had overestimated her sewing ability on her form, and then did not read any of the answers I put on my form. Instead of custom making something that I would like, based on my answers and the inspiration I gave her, she stayed in her comfort zone and made something that she liked. When this happens, it’s disappointing, although in my case, I was able to gift the bag to somebody who really loved it, so it didn’t go to waste.

Sometimes you will get burned. It’s a risk that you take. You need to go into it knowing that this is a possibility. And if you do get gipped in a craft swap, it can be tricky to bounce back from because we put so much of ourselves into our handmade items. Sometimes you’re going to get something you don’t like. Sometimes you get just not going to get anything at all. And then you have to decide … is swapping for me? Is swapping with that host for me?

If 100% of the people who signed up for swaps followed these tips … reading everything carefully, communicating effectively with the host and ensured excellent workmanship (no matter how basic the piece), the craft swap world would be a better place.  However, that teeny tiny number of dishonest and careless people continue to sign up now and then, so how can you protect yourself from a dodgy swap experience. Look for a host that provides lots of information, asks for progress photos and communicates with swap participants regularly. A host like that is on the ball and is a lot less likely to put up with dishonest people, which can minimise your chances of disappointment. However, swapping is like a lucky dip, and we can’t get the best thing every single time.

The Craft Room Podcast, Episode 17 - Craft Swaps
I created this for a fandom swap

Now … I’ve talked a lot about being a good swap participant and I think this segues nicely into how you can be a good swap host.

If you’re hosting one of these one to one swaps on Instagram, there is a big community of swap hosts and they share information. Last time I checked, there was a blacklist and it was huge. People who are deliberately turning poor work or who don’t turn in anything at all. People who sign up under multiple accounts, receive beautiful things and don’t send anything, people who do subpar work. They are on the list. If you are hosting a swap, reach out to other swap hosts and network to protect your swappers.

It is my strong recommendation that you participate in some swaps before you host one. I mean technically, there’s no law against hosting if you’ve never been a swap participant. However, it is extremely beneficial to understand how the swap process works as a participant before you host one. It’s just good common sense. If you have a friend who has been a swap host have them walk you through it. Save the information that hosts send you as a swapper and use it as a base for setting down your own host parameters. You need to cover all bases, set down rules that protect your participants, and stick to them, even if it makes the bad guys unhappy. Be aware of the things that can go wrong and address those before you even start so that you ensure success for all swap participants.

You need to be very, very compassionate and diplomatic. If someone sends you a picture or sends you a swap, you can’t just say to them “That’s awful. I’m sending it back.”. Well … I mean, you could, but that would be an awful thing to do to another human being. Be nice. Remember, this may be a beginner who’s perhaps never swapped before. You need to put on your diplomat hat and be compassionate, understanding that people are at different levels.

You need time. Swaps take an enormous amount of time.

Hosting a group swap is very different to hosting a one to one swap. Group swaps are very hands on, and you need to be aware that the whole process is going to take time. My top tip, if you’re hosting a group swap is open every envelope as it arrives. Remove everything from its backing and check that the contents are correct. This can save a HUGE amount of time during the swapping out process.

You need to wait for every swap envelope to arrive and check in with those whose swaps you haven’t received as the due date draws close.

In the swapping out process, you need plenty of space to lay everything out and then swap them all around. I like to lay everything out on my dining table in a circle, and layer everything on top of the return envelope so the swap process goes as smoothly as possible. I always take a photo before I start, because if I make a mistake while swapping out, that helps me put things back where they came from so I can start again.

If it is a really big group, I may split it into 2 or 3 lots, just to make the swapping out process less confusing.

Once all items have been swapped out, the repacking begins. All of those pieces need to go back onto the backing cardstock and into the bag, then into the return envelope. Before you seal it all up, you need to check that it has sufficient post, and add the spare stamp if needed. Then you can seal them up, but never trust the envelope adhesive … always use tape! You may need to put a return address on the back of the envelopes before you post them.  I’m not sure why, but people usually forget to do that. Put them in the post … and you are done!

If you are hosting a one to one swap … it is a very different situation, because you never physically handle the swaps. They go directly to the recipient, because it’s just one person sending to one person. But you are still going to have to do a lot of things. You should be asking for progress photos, and making sure you get them.

If you have a large group, this is going to be time consuming. And if you get anybody who is not posting or sending progress shots, not responding your messages, then you have a decision to make. It may be prudent to get in touch with the person who is making for the non-responding swapper and have them hold off sending to that person. You could even go so far as to redirect them to create for the person that the non-responding swapper was making for … that way nobody misses out.

The Craft Room Podcast, Episode 17 - Craft Swaps
A beautiful mini quilt I received in a swap

I highly recommend a spreadsheet, and setting reminders in your calendar so that you can message everybody and check off when they have hit their deadlines. You need to be really organized if you are going to be a great swap host, and I can’t stress enough how important good communication is.

There is one more question that I would like to address just before we finish up today. Does it cost anything to swap?

No. Swapping is a free activity. I’ve never met anyone who has charged a fee to join a swap group. It is something that hosts do out of love for the craft and for their community. And it’s usually people who are super organized who love to host these … people who like spreadsheets and lists and, and coming up with fun activities and being the group coordinator.

While it doesn’t cost anything to be a member of a swap group or to join a swap, there are some expenses involved. The first expense will be the materials that you use. Now you don’t have to go out and buy lots of new stuff specifically to make your swap, you can absolutely pull things from your stash, assuming you’ve got things that are suitable for the theme of the swap and for the person that you’re swapping with.

The other expense that you will come across is postage. In a one to one swap I’ve sent mini quilts and hoops to people in America … and I’ve had to send them as a registered parcel. Hosts will always insist on registered because it needs to be tracked and you should send a photo of the parcel with the tracking to the host.

Thankfully group swaps are usually smaller items, and local post, so much cheaper. It is usual for you to pay the postage to the host, as well as return post. We don’t want our hosts to be out of pocket financially, because they’re the ones who are facilitating the fun free activity that we get to participate in and already donating many hours of their time.

The Craft Room Podcast, Episode 17 - Craft Swaps
I created this mini quilt for a fandom swap

Why do I love craft swaps?

So many reasons. Sometimes I can choose to join a practical swap. One of my favourite practical pieces is a needle book. It has a cross stitched Wonder Woman on the front and I use it all the time. Card swaps are super practical … it’s so nice to just make one card (albeit 8 times) and then have 8 different cards to add to my card box for some variety. Other times, it’s some maybe not practical like an embroidered hoop or a mini quilt. I mean, you can’t exactly keep warm with a mini quilt, but boy, they’re going to look good on the wall in my new office.

I think the biggest reason that I enjoy swapping is because it’s a fun way to physically connect with people in an online community. I have all these amazing online friends, some whom I have never met in real life, and it’s so fun to participate in a swap with them and receive something that they made, especially for me.  It really is very special.

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