Why I Join Craft Swaps

3

June 30, 2015 by tessaraewilliams

My post “Uh oh! I Don’t Like My Swap Package” was my most popular post since I started this blog, and the response to it was overwhelmingly positive. I think most people understood what I was trying to say. There were a select few that didn’t agree or didn’t quite see what I meant, and as much as I’d like to just let it go, I feel the need to expand on something that has been bothering me.

There’s been a debate as to whether or not you should just be happy and grateful with whatever swap package you get. And that’s true to an extent. You should definitely ALWAYS be kind and thank the person who sent you a package. However, I don’t think the idea of “shut up and be grateful” is the correct mindset. That got me thinking about why we even join swaps in the first place. The two reasons I join craft swaps are to have an excuse to just create and to give a thoughtful gift to someone.

To create Craft swaps are a wonderful excuse to just make. I have some go-to patterns that are just really fun for me to make (hello, Curvy Clutch), but it’s also great to stretch myself creatively and try new things. If there’s a pattern or technique you’ve been wanting to try, try it! My first swap I ever completed was the first time I ever tried raw edge applique, and I loved it! The piece I’m working on now is my first time trying foundation paper piecing on a small scale. I’ve done FPP before, but never this small! I’m really excited to see the outcome. Craft swaps give me a chance to make something that I wouldn’t necessarily have ever made for myself. This allows me to gain new skills and in turn makes me a stronger crafter.

To give a gift

I truly love giving gifts. I get so excited when I think of the perfect gift to give to someone. Craft swaps exacerbate that because of the handmade element. I am creating the perfect gift. To create the perfect gift, it’s important to me to learn about the person I’m making for. I prefer partners that give really detailed answers on their entry forms. Their answers point me in a certain direction and can give me an idea of where to go with my craft. It also lets me know about them as a person; their personality, style preferences, needs, etc. Basically, it helps me think of them as an actual person, rather than just some stranger with an Instagram account. We all know how much effort goes into each of our crafts, and we don’t want our efforts to be in vain. I don’t want to spend time making a gift for a stranger; I want to make a gift for a possible future friend.

Because it’s important to me, and because I enjoy it, I put a lot of thought and effort into making my gifts unique to my partner. This aspect might not be a reason other people join craft swaps, and because of that may not put as much effort into it as others. Also, because I prefer partners with detailed answers, I try and give detailed answers myself. Some people don’t have this preference, so they don’t put as much effort into their forms. We’ve all gotten that vague partner; the one who puts the bare minimum into their entry form answers. Sometimes they skip answering some questions altogether. Sometimes these people also put little effort into giving any more information through Instagram for the rest of the swap. I’ve written more on what I think about these passive swappers here.

It’s possible that the vague partner is the type of person that is just happy with anything, which many people say they are. I assume the idea is that they want me to be able to make something that I am comfortable making; maybe something more suited to my own tastes or abilities. However, while they may think they are giving me free reign to make whatever I want, it’s actually quite limiting to me. I don’t want to just make whatever I want to make. If that were the case, I wouldn’t be joining swaps, and I’d keep everything for myself.

I think entry form answers are the root of a maker’s motivation (or lack thereof) to make for their partner. I’m much more excited to make a gift for a partner that gives detailed answers. Gifts for vague partners often get put on the back burner, because honestly I’m less excited to make for them. If my partner doesn’t put any effort into giving me the opportunity to get to know them, it gives me less incentive to want to make for them. What gets me excited is knowing that my partner is going to love my gift before I even make it. If I’m sure of my idea, I’m pumped to get it finished! If I’m unsure my partner will actually like my gift in the end, I wait to see if any better ideas or more information comes before I commit to turning an idea into a finished gift.

It’s also the idea of fairness. If I spend a great deal of time, money and effort trying to make a gift perfectly suited to my partner, is it wrong to want that for myself? It’s not coming from a place of greed. It’s the thought that “I want to learn about you to make you an awesome gift, and I hope you want the same for me.” It was a little hurtful to see people respond to what I said and thought I was being greedy for wanting a gift specifically made to my tastes. In my opinion, everyone who joins a craft swap has the right to be given a gift that was made specifically for them. If the option is to be sent something the person had already made just laying around the house or to receive nothing, I’d choose to receive nothing. Every time. To me, at that point it’s not a gift, it’s just getting rid of something you don’t want anymore. That’s not special, or kind, or unique. That’s regifting. Some people would argue, “Well, at least you got something.” The point for me isn’t just getting something. That’s not why I join swaps. See reasons above.

When someone’s let down by their package, many people will rush to the side of the maker in defense. “Well, what if their house burned down/cat died/got a divorce/(insert reason here)?!” Life can definitely get in the way of craft swaps, and to that I’d say: a short note to your partner goes a long way. If something in your life really has affected the quality of your package, a small note to your partner could make all the difference. Just something like, “Some craziness happened in my life during this swap and my package isn’t as great as I would’ve hoped, but I don’t want you to feel forgotten so I was at least able to make you this.” People are very forgiving if you give them the opportunity. It also lets your partner know that you really did put in the effort that you could, versus letting them make their own assumptions about you and your abilities.

The sense of community I feel from other people involved in craft swaps is really motivational and positive for me. It’s my reason to keep going. So when something happens that makes me feel like I can’t trust someone in this community, it’s hurtful. Many if not most of us are introverts who are doing this because we love it. When I feel as if I’ve been taken advantage of, or if I see friends being taken advantage of, it feels more personal; like someone’s stepped into our community and thrown a wrench in. I’ll elaborate more on this idea next week. 😉


On to the good stuff, amirite? :p NEW SWAPS!

  • #finishedblockswap – hosted by ME. Information here. Sign-ups open July 14 (a Tuesday!).
  • #despicablemecraftswap2016 – hosted by @ninjadesigns. Sign-ups open July 31.
  • #vintageloversswap – hosted by @deartabi. Sign-ups open July 1 (tomorrow!)
  • #kaffemminiswap – hosted by @lesulpipe. This is a Facebook swap, so you must search Kaffe Mini Quilt Swap on Facebook groups for details and sign up.
  • #igdollswap – hosted by @wonkeywillowfriends. Sign-up here.
  • #simplyminiswap – hosted by @purplepoppyquilts. Sign-up here.
  • #modernfabricpostcardswap – hosted by @graybie. Sign-up here.
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3 thoughts on “Why I Join Craft Swaps

  1. Robyn Miller says:

    I have always been hesitant to join swaps, it is such a gamble. So far I have done three, and two were disappointing. And yes, it is okay to be disappointed! Just don’t be rude about it and its all good.

    In my first swap the person that had my name never sent me anything, and the person I sent a gift to never even acknowledged they got it despite posting being one of the rules… and then a kind “rematch” did send me a consolation gift, but it still didn’t turn it into a positive experience. I am grateful a person out there was willing to send me something just because I got shafted, even though they received nothing but good karma and a ‘thank you’ in return… but it still didn’t really outweigh the negative part of the experience.

    The second swap was pretty awesome, and it left be wanting to find more swaps to join. Unfortunately the third swap was a disappointment again as I put much more effort into it than I received. I of course never vented or said anything negative about it, and made the appropriate thankful statements… but I am still a little sad about how it turned out. I just hope the person that received my gift truly likes it.

    Like

    • Were the swaps through Instagram or somewhere else? Since I’ve met so many awesome crafters through IG, I’ve started kind of following them around. haha! Like if I see a lot of talented people join a swap, I know it’ll be good. Whereas if there’s a swap that I don’t know many of the people joining, I’m more unsure of the quality. But that all just comes from looking around the community.

      Like

  2. Kimberly says:

    Yes! You’ve hit the nail on the head. I like swaps a lot. I cut way back a couple of years ago after a couple back to back bad experiences. I did a year long birthday swap last year and it was awesome. I loved gathering goodies for each person every month. Picking stuff they’d like and then seeing their joy at receiving was great. When it was my month, I received amazing packages from all but one person. The reason I was disappointed with what I received from her was that it was clear she picked up some random stuff from the store that had nothing to do with my likes/dislikes. Also she threw in some things that she had previously tried to sell on IG. I was so bummed that she didn’t seem to care what she sent me. Especially since I had been so meticulous with her package.
    I would never judge someone on their skill level. We all have to start somewhere. But if my partner sends me something that was clearly not made w/me in mind? I have the right to be disappointed.

    Like

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