Our Online Quilting CommunityThere are lots of quilting forums on the Internet, but I think our About.com quilting forum members are some of the most talented and gracious people you'll find anywhere on the Web. They have created a true community, and are a group of people who share news and events about many aspects of their lives, not just quilting.
One fun activity our members participate in is quilting swaps, where they get together in groups to exchange sewn and unsewn items. Each swap is managed by one of our hostesses (we have male members, but no male hosts yet). The hostess pool is made up of quilters who have successfully participated in our swaps and are willing to take on the (volunteer) job of organizing events they feel will be fun for the community.
Fabric SwapsFabric swaps are perfect for beginning quilters who aren't quite sure their construction skills are ready to share with others. You'll typically buy one or two fabrics and cut them up into smaller pieces to swap. Those small pieces are exchanged with others, and what you get back is a wide variety of fabrics to help you build a fabric stash. One of our hostesses offered a great visual example of that awhile back--take a look at her before and after stack of solid fabrics.
Fabric swaps are a wonderful way to accumulate a variety of fabrics in a short time, but they also help us grow. Sometimes we tend to buy the same types of fabrics over and over -- buying what we like rather than what we need to round our our collection. Letting another quilter's tastes take over for a bit often helps you broaden your outlook, and that can definitely add more interest to your quilts.
Don't worry though, because each swap is specific -- you'll have a very good idea of the types of fabric you'll receive.
Quilt Block SwapsThere are so many different types of block swaps that I couldn't come close to describing them. You'll find blocks geared to beginning quilters and block swaps designed to help you use leftover pieces of fabrics. You'll also find swaps for other items, such as fabric postcards and quilt components. The best way to show you the variety is to have you pop over to the General Quilting Forum to take a look at current and past swaps for sewn items.
How Quilting Swaps DifferYou'll hear two general terms when swaps are discussed: centralized and decentralized. The terms describe two different methods used to get items from one person to another, and each one comes with its own set of pros and cons.
Centralized Quilting SwapsIn a centralized swap, items are sent directly to a hostess, who sorts them and forwards a package to all swappers.
- Centralized Pros
- Postage is usually a bit less, since you send one package and pay for the return of one package.
- You'll receive all of your goodies at the same time.
- If another swapper doesn't complete the swap, you receive your own item back.
- If a swapper does not send appropriate items, those items are generally sent back to the swapper, not to you.
- Centralized Cons
- Centralized swaps aren't as personal, since the hostess sorts items and sends them on to other swappers.
- If a hostess doesn't follow through you could lose all of your items. The hostesses who volunteer on About Quilting have been participants for awhile and have an excellent reputation. However, things happen in life and I would never tell you that problems don't occur.
Decentralized Quilting SwapsIf you join a decentralized swap, you will send a packet to each swap member in your group and each person will send one to you.
- Decentralized Pros
- It's more personal. You can send a specific block or other item to a specific person. For instance, something made from a fabric you know that person will love.
- Some swappers prefer to get a succession of squishies (quilt packages) in the mail on a regular basis. It's kind of like celebrating a daily birthday until the swap is over.
- Decentralized Cons
- If another swapper doesn't follow through, you'll receive less items than you send.
- If someone's cutting or stitching abilities are poor, there's no hostess to monitor quality control.
- Postage will likely be a little higher. You only pay for postage one way, but it's to multiple recipients.
Always Follow the Swapping GuidelinesEvery hostess develops her own swap guidelines. Be sure to read guidelines carefully before you offer to join a swap. Nearly all guidelines include:
- A deadline
- Fabric and/or color requirements
- Accuracy requirements
Other Quilting ActivitiesYou'll also find challenges in our forums, where one member challenges others to make a specific type of quilt or component. Challenges don't involve swapping, but quilters always share interesting details as the projects progress.
Our Block Party is another fun activity. Make blocks as directed and send them to the hostess. Your name will go in the hat for a drawing to win an entire batch of blocks.
If you have an idea for a swap, put it out there. One of our hostesses might be able to organize an event. After you've swapped in our forums for awhile, you can apply to be a hostess yourself.
Swapping RisksYou can see that there are risks when you join a quilting swap, but I think you'll find that overall it's a fun and rewarding experience. You'll enjoy the ongoing discussions as packages are received and I think you'll make lots of new friends. One caution, if you expect perfection from others, stay away from sewn swaps. You'll be swapping with quilters of all skill levels, and although most quilters do their best when they are making items for others, the blocks you receive will not all be perfect.
Swapping is more about friendship and community than perfection. Think unique instead of flawed and you'll get along fine.