Fabric and quilt block swapping can be a very enjoyable experience. Not only do you get to work on building your quilt fabric stash, but you get a chance to see fabric that may not be available at your Local Quilt Shop. Block swapping is a great method of getting lots of different blocks to make a sampler quilt. Each person has to make only one type of block, and when all swapped out, each participant will have a variety of blocks.
Follow the Established Guidelines
Each hostess will set forth the guidelines for the swap. These guidelines are not negotiable. It is important that everyone follow the guidelines. Read the guidelines several times BEFORE joining the swap. If any part of the guidelines are unclear, email the host/hostess for clarification before you join.
As we all know, Fabric Quality in regards to retail shops and Local Quilt Shops is a very debatable subject. Some may argue that the $2.99/yard fabric found at some XYZ Retail Shops is every bit as good as the $8.99/yard fabric found at Local Quilt Shops, others disagree. Thus, if the host/hostess states "Fabric should be quilt shop quality," do everyone a favor and send fabric from your local/online quilt shop. Is it really fair to receive fabric that costs $9 a yard when you are sending fabric that costs only $3 a yard. (Although, keep in mind, you can often find great clearance prices at many online and local quilt shops.) You may sometimes find higher grade fabrics at the Retail shops as well, they normally cost almost the same as that of your LQS.
In addition to the place of purchase, pay attention to the brand name. If a swap is posted to swap out Moda Marbles, do not send marble looking fabric by another manufacturer. Likewise, often times Batik lovers will sponsor a swap for Hoffman Batiks only. If you are a real Batik lover, you know that very few manufacturers make fabric as nice as Hoffman does in regard to batiks and hand dyes.
Fabric Color And/Or Style
Unfortunately, swapping is not going to be easy for a color-blind person. Be sure to follow the set-forth guidelines for color in a swap. If the fabric is supposed to be purple, that does not mean a white background with purple splotches on it. The fabric should read purple, either tone-on-tone, or predominately, depending on the established guidelines. Again, if in doubt, send an email, or post a question BEFORE joining the swap.
I was recently in a swap in which we traded 1930's Reproduction Fabrics. It turns out that some of the fabrics that were sent were actually 1920's Reproduction Fabrics. The reality was that the vast majority of us did not recognize the difference. However, one swapper, who was expecting and desiring ONLY 1930's Reproduction Fabrics was very disappointed. So, be sure to clarify, ask if necessary, that the fabric you are using is the correct fabric.
Be sure to follow the guidelines in regard to washing, cutting, and mailing the fabric, or squares. In general, selvages should ALWAYS be removed before cutting your fabric. Thus, they should not be included in the final measurement. The exception would be in swapping fat-quarters or fat-eighths. If the guidelines in regard to leaving selvages on for FQs, or FEs, is not clear, ask before joining.
Caution should be used when washing fabric. Do not use heavy smelling detergents, or fabric softeners. If you remove the fabric from the dryer while it is still slightly damp, you will generally not have static problems. Keep in mind, fabric does shrink. Generally, purchasing an extra 1/4 yard of fabric will save you in the event of heavy shrinkage.
Cutting your fabric is probably the MOST important aspect of swapping. Be sure that your fabric squares, or finished blocks, are the correct size. Relying on the measurement lines of your rulers is generally safer than those of your cutting mats. I have found that the Omnigrid rulers are the most reliable. When lining up the fabric, the dotted line should fall just on the edge of the fabric. That is, you should be able to see the fabric in between the dotted lines of the ruler. If you cannot, then the measurement will be off. This aspect is even more important in your piecing when doing blocks swaps.
Please ensure that your pieced blocks are done accurately, and neatly. Trim all excess threads. Measure your block and ensure that is is the right size, and that it is square. If you do not have an accurate 1/4" seam allowance, consider using a ruler to actually draw your seam line so that it is accurate and consistent throughout. If you are unsure of how to obtain an accurate 1/4" seam allowance, ask for guidance and suggestions from your host/hostess.
In addition, please be honest with your piecing skills. If you are still a relative beginner, keep that in mind when joining a swap. You might do fine by a 9 patch block, but something like a bulls-eye block might be a bit hard for you. And regardless of your skill level, be detailed and consistent in your construction. Take your time. It isn't fair to expect another swapper to recieve blocks from you that do not have even seam allowances, have lose threads, and/or are not square.
Be sure to know the mailing date of our swap. If you are going to be late on sending your contributions, notify the host/hostess immediately. Be sure to not over-extend yourself on swaps. It is probably not a good idea to join several pieced block swaps that are all due in one month. Do you really have enough time to construct all of those blocks?
If you find that for some reason you will not be able to fulfill your obligation, notify your host/hostess as soon as possible. Read ASAP! This will give the host/hostess time to advertise to get another swapper to fulfill your obligation, or, to consider pushing the deadline date out a bit to accommodate you. We all have times when emergencies arise, but we need to remember and be considerate to our host/hostess and fellow swappers.
Be sure to read, understand, and follow the guidelines for packaging your swap materials. If the host/hostess asks that you label each block, or each fabric square, then do so. This is especially important in centralized swaps. The host/hostess relies on the labeling to ensure that he/she does not send the same fabric to you that you sent to him/her in the first place.
When mailing your swap materials, be sure that they are securely packaged. Use either a Tyvek envelope, or enclose in baggies, plastic wrap, or another device. Be sure to put your name and return address on the packaging inside your mailer. This is helpful in the event that the Post Office damages the outer packaging. (And that DOES happen!)
Make sure that your packages have adequate postage on them. You would not appreciate having to pay extra for packages you receive, and neither will the other members of the swap. When sending in packages for centralized swaps, be sure that not only do you include a Self Addressed Return envelope, but that you put the correct STAMPED postage on the return envelope. Metered mail is not acceptable on return envelopes. Metered mail is stamped with the date of purchase and city of origination. A post office in CA will not accept a metered mail envelope stamped 2 weeks prior, from an origination of OH.
International swappers should contact the host/hostess regarding return postage. In general, sending extra fabric, equivalent to the expected return postage, is a nice gesture. The host/hostess should not be responsible for paying the return postage, which is even more costly for international mail.
While not a requirement, a host/hostess gift is a very nice gesture. This is especially true of centralized swaps. The host/hostess has to accept a lot of responsibility, and a lot of organization and work, in orchestrating, and carrying out, the swap. Extra fabric, other quilty gifts, or just a nice "Thank You" note are all appreciated. The fabric can be in the same likeness as the swap, or something totally different. As a hostess, I have received everything from thank you notes, to crocheted bookmarks, and even the occasional book. :-)
Confidentiality and Privacy
The information that you receive in a swap is often times very confidential in nature. Decentralized swaps involve sending a mailing list of a particular number of participants to each member. This information is the participant's name, mailing address, and sometimes, phone numbers.
It is never acceptable to use this listing in order to send SPAM e-mail, or other mailings. Do not share this information without the permission of the member. This would include using the e-mail addresses to send out funny jokes, virus warnings (usually hoaxes anyway), or any other type of electronic material. Host/hostesses can do their part to maintain e-mail confidentiality by always trying to "blind carbon copy" the participants in the e-mail group.
Have fun! Maintain good communication with your host/hostess as well as other members of your swap. Swapping is not only a great way to build your stash, but a great way to get to know other quilters from around the world.
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