I've noticed lately that there has been an explosion in the number of craft swaps hosted by bloggers, particularly on instagram.
I've hosted The Sweet Pouch Swap several times now over the past couple of years and have built up some experience about what works well and what doesn't.
If you are considering hosting a swap of your own, these tips might be helpful for you!
- Decide on what your handmade swap item is going to be.
- Your major swap item should be something that is achievable for people at all levels of sewing or craft.
Communication and Sign Ups
- Decide how you are going to communicate with your participants. My preference is personal email. To send information to all participants, an email service like Mail Chimp is great.
- Decide how participants will share their projects. Flickr used to be popular but using a hashtag on instagram (follow me @sewdeliciousros) is a great way to create a community and is the reason swaps are so popular at the moment.
- Decide if you would like the swap to be a secret swap or direct between a pair. My first one was secret and I had a lot of issues with parcels not arriving at the end. It was also a lot of work in the beginning. Direct partners work much better for me as there is more accountability when partners are aware of each other and have each others contact information.
- Decide how you will get participants to sign up to the swap. A popular option is to create a google form (created easily in Google Drive). Another option is to use Swap Bot. Swap Bot is a site that will take care of most of the administration of the swap for you, including allocating partners and reminding participants of postage deadlines.
- Regarding postage, it is helpful for participants to have an idea of how much it might cost before they start. Check out this post I did regarding posting handmade items.
- Write a blog post stating explicitly the rules and expectations of your swap. You can read my most recent swap post here. Include information about what people should include, postage deadlines, whether the swap is local or international. You need to be very clear and concise. Not too wordy, as people tend to skim this information as they are in a hurry to get to the form to sign up.
- In your sign up form you need to ask some particular questions. Don't make it too long as people are often using mobile devices to enter. Key information you need:
- Full Name (People online often like to use pseudonyms for privacy reasons but many postal services will not deliver to pseudonyms or nicknames.)
- Email Address
- Postal Address
- Social Media information (blog, Facebook page, instagram, pinterest)
- A small section asking about personal style/likes/dislikes. Some people will write an essay, others, just a few words. I find this section helps me enormously when allocating partners. Some people might like civil war fabric, others might love batiks, others might be passionate fans of Cotton + Steel. I like to try and pair people with similar interests and tastes.
- Willing to post international? (Yes or no tick a box question.) This is optional but helpful. International postage costs can be very high and some participants may struggle to afford it.
Managing Your Participant Group
- Leave your swap sign ups open for a limited time or choose a participant limit and stick to it. With my most recent swap I had 130 participants sign up in less than 24 hours and I closed it. In my first swap I left it open for a week and in that time it was shared in a lot forums and other sewing groups. Many of the later sign ups turned out to be pretty flaky and it was hard to manage such a large group.
- If you end up with a large group, consider asking for participants to volunteer as moderators. Allocate a group of 20 participants or so to each moderator and that person assumes responsibility for managing participants and following up late parcels. Moderators are very successfully used in Kristi's Schnitzel & Boo Mini Quilt Swap which is very popular on instagram.
- It's important to allocate partners as quickly as you can once sign ups are closed. People are enthusiastic and keen to start - make it happen while the swap is fresh in their mind. If people can get working on their swap gift quickly they are less likely to forget about it.
- Sometimes parcels don't show up. It happens. Encourage participants to use registered mail with clear address labels. If the swap is international, some parcels may not arrive for up to 4-6 weeks. Allow for this in your initial instructions and adjust your postal deadlines accordingly.
- Some people will flake out. For many reasons. Some valid, some not. Don't get upset - it's not personal, some people are just unreliable or forgetful. If you hear from someone who has not received a parcel, encourage them to send an email to their partner. If that fails, the host or the moderator should attempt contact. Be pleasant and polite - there may be a very good reason. If that fails, cut your losses and allocate an angel.
- Angels - there will be many generous giving people who will love to help you out. Reach out to your participants and ask if anyone would like to be a swap angel, someone who will make another gift and send it to a person who missed out. I like to find allocate angels locally where I can so their second lot of postal expenses are as low as possible.
- At the end of the day, I believe swaps are about giving. Creating something that you think someone else would love. The receiving is lovely of course, but the giving is the important thing. If something goes horribly wrong, or participants get upset, just stay polite and diplomatic, but remember, you can only control certain things. It is up to your participants to hold up their end of the bargain and behave like adults.
Overall, the important thing is to create a fantastic community and enjoy the process. Yes, it can be a lot of work, but you will reap the rewards and hopefully the swap can turn into a regular event.
If you have hosted or participated in a swap, I'd love to hear any more tips you might like to add to this list!
And if you are wondering if the Sweet Pouch Swap will be back for Round 5, the answer is yes...but I am waiting until I have the time to run it properly! I need to make sure I can give it the attention it deserves!