The Down and Dirty on SWAPS

Hi Friends!

As the Spring semester of Handmade U is quickly approaching and the spots are filling up, we are about to announce to the ladies coming the SWAPS we'll be hosting.  As we have a number of Freshmen or "1-Peaters" as we affectionately refer to them, I thought it would be nice to fill them in on what a Swap is, how to participate, what's expected, etc.  It also feels appropriate not just for Handmade U students, but others that has been curious or wanted to join an instagram swap, or Planner Meet-up swap and were either afraid, or overwhelmed once joining!

Here is the Down and Dirty:

What is a SWAP!?

Swaps are meant to be a FUN activity for either two people, or a group of people to do together.  The kinds of swaps will vary but bottom line it is an exchange of gifts.  Much like a secret Santa, or gift exchange, even a cookie exchange, at least two people have agreed on what they are exchanging and each bring to the table their gift for their partner, or gifts for the group.
I've seen a number of Swaps hosted on various Instagram accounts.  I've participated in a Mug Swap that was a lot of fun, and I also gave the Midwest Planner Group secret Santa exchange a go.  Typically there is a dollar guideline, for example $10, $20 or $30 and then you gather goodies to send to the participant by a certain date if done through the mail or brought in person to an event.

The Host of the Swap will share the rules or guidelines along with the description of what will be swapped and you have the chance to decide to join.   Many times you'll have the chance to know who it is you are buying or making something for.  This gives you the opportunity to perhaps ask them questions, or you may be given information about your partner.  Favorite colors, favorite hobbies, maybe their IG account so you can stalk them a bit to get an idea of their style, all this helps in picking the best gifts or making something they'll enjoy.

We have done group swaps before at Handmade U as well.  This typically is a swap with say 10 people, and each person brings 9 goodies to share with the group, and then will receive 9 in return.  This maybe a charm or an ornament for example.  You can decide to make the same one for everyone, or make them unique for all.

A Grab Bag type Swap might be everyone brings a gift to an event and you draw numbers and pick a package.  This type won't allow you to tailor gift to your receiver's colors, style, etc.  It will be the luck of the draw, but something fun for them to open.  I had the good fortune to attend the Iowa Planner meet-up a couple weekends ago and participated in this type of swap.  We had a $30 minimum guideline and we put together packages we thought someone would enjoy.

Here are my thoughts/opinions and recommendations on swaps.

#1 - Put together a swap gift that you would love to open yourself.  If you feel inclined, include a handmade item or little piece of Art that comes from your heart.  My opinion is it shouldn't necessarily be about the money spent, but the thought, care and love put into the gift.  However do keep in mind the dollar guideline.  If you make a number of items yourself, think about how much you would pay for those items if you bought them and figure that in.

#2 - What I've learned is to keep your expectations in check.  Whoever is putting together your gift is hopefully following my #1 suggestion and putting their heart into the gift you'll open.  Keep that in mind when you open your gift.  Depending on the type of swap, they may not know you are the one that will be opening the gift, so they don't know you aren't a pink person or a glitter person, or only like BLUE things, or whatever it may give your gift giver GRACE, and appreciate what they put into the gift.  You are welcome to do whatever you wish with your gift.  Perhaps it'll work well to regift the fabulous handmade PURPLE scarf you received to your Aunt who LOVES PURPLE, or include the GLITTERY CARD with another swap to someone you know loves to SPARKLE.  This I see as a perk of swaps, to pay them forward, spread the love and get handmade, well-intentioned gifts into the hands of someone that will love them, even if that isn't you!

The below Pink Heart elastic on the planner and the repurposed beautiful baby wipe box were part of a swap gift I picked after drawing numbers.  I appreciated the love and time that was put into these items from my sweet secret swap giver.  Though they weren't my colors, my friend that was sitting next to me fell in LOVE with them and given she has little twins and could get some real USE out of the wipe box, I was so pleased to gift them to her.  Not only did I receive some other fun treasurers I am using myself, but I was able to pay it forward to someone who will cherish these items!  What a bonus for me!

#3 - Join the swap because you LOVE being a GIVER and you can't wait to see your gift receiver open your gift and Oooh and Aww over it all! It can be the best feeling when someone opens your swap gift and absolutely LOVES it.  It's fun to get a Thanks on social media or a special note, so be sure to THANK the person you receive your gift from, no matter what.  It doesn't have to be a picture of your goodies with a Grand gesture, unless you really love it and feel guided to do that....let others enjoy the package vicariously too!  But a quick thank you that you received something through the mail is appreciated if you know who the person is, and it wasn't a SECRET Swap gift.

#4 - Now the Hard part....DON'T COMPARE and Feel BAD about your gifts.  This one has always been hard for me and I am certainly guilty of it, but I've gotten better.  My first swap years ago was a mixed media canvas swap.  I am not sure I knew exactly what I was getting myself into, and certainly didn't know much about mixed media or making canvases.  I jumped in and thought I would give it my best effort.  I bought a canvas, I painted, added stickers, and embellishments and thought it turned out cute, and I was proud of it when I was done.  Then the event came and other swappers and their partners started opening gifts.  I started to get more and more nervous after seeing the works of ART being opened.  I wanted to crawl under the couch and not do the swap!  But I did it, and my sweet swap partner was so gracious and appreciated the Canvas I created for her.  What I received was so beautiful, I teared up I loved it so much.  I was lucky that my partner was so sweet.

I have had partners that didn't quite hide their disappointment in the gift they received, maybe it wasn't their color or style, and that hurts even though I felt like I tried the best I could to follow their requests or what I knew of them.

The lesson to learn here is this, you have to start somewhere with a swap.  Your first one might not be the best you will ever do, and that is OK, learn and take it all in when you are in swaps and don't necessarily compare, but learn from others and get an idea of the group and decide how you may up your game the next time if you feel pulled to.  Keep in mind, some people are also hard to please, so do your best, and don't let one less than appreciative receiver stop you from participating in more swaps if you wish!

The other lesson is this, BE a gracious swap receiver.  I would say the vast majority of people who enter swaps are going to give 100% and try and put together a wonderful gift for you.  If you follow my #3 recommendation, even if you receive something you don't necessarily LOVE, or if you get burned once by someone who isn't giving their best effort, you still have been a blessing to someone else.

Oh and Cute packaging is always appreciated :)

Do you have any fun swap stories or tips??  Please share in comments below!


Blogging tips