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Hosting a Swap
"Being a Hostess with the Most-est"

Compiled by suzanneMI, with grateful thanks to those who shared their wisdom!

The following is supplied as a helpful outline on how to host a swap.

Establish a Theme/Announce your Swap

   Simply post an announcement that you will be hosting a swap if there's enough interest generated. Include information about your swap idea, such as the theme or purpose of the swap, any particular guidelines if you know them already, when the swap baggies will be due (allow at least 1 month), and the number of participants you'd like (if you're limiting the number). As the hostess, you have the option to limit the number of sign-ups for your swap, unless you revel in having your house over-run with twinkling baggies and gems in a popular swap.  =;)
    Ask those participating to contact you off-list with their name, e-mail address and snail-mail address.

    Be prepared to spend an hour or more at your computer sorting through e-mail from people who want to join, or who want more info about the swap. It helps to have software that can help you manage the lists of names and addresses, keep copies of the guidelines, and generally tend to the time and communication commitment.

    Expect dropouts due to last-minute emergencies. Expect dropouts who don't notify you.

Setting up your Swap Guidelines

    Decide what type of fabrics are acceptable. Are you looking for fancy fabrics, textures or colors? Are blends acceptable, or only 100% fiber content? Are fancy cottons allowed? Will the fabrics need to be prewashed or not? yada, yada ...

    You will need to be specific about amounts for threads, ribbons, trims (i.e., inches, yards; one kind or two?; how big is big? how small is small?); about the number of charms, motifs, beads and buttons required for your swap, and if there are any specifications for any of the embellishments (e.g., no shirt buttons, no plastic beads, etc.); otherwise, somebody is going to feel cheated if they send in more and receive less. Check out the swaps e-board for examples of previous swaps and what others have outlined for swap requirements. <http://www.cqswaps.eboard.com>

    Be aware that if members from overseas participate, postage will be higher for them, and you on the return trip. Air Mail is usually the most economical, and can vary from $5 to $9.

    Don't just comment that "general swap rules apply." There are always new people who may wish to play, but don't know the general rules. It is a good idea to include a copy of "Helpful Swap Info" [see end of page] with your Swap Guidelines, or at least point them to where it is located (CQswaps eboard). New swappers usually don't have a clue about proper procedure, so this information is always extremely helpful for them (and ultimately you). You will, inevitably, have some folks who don't know how to read directions. Patience ... yes, you will need it.

    If you would like to have your swap listed on the CQ Swaps Eboard, you can notify Randee to ask her to add your swap information. Sometimes people just go to browse and will find out about your swap there.


    Consider using a spreadsheet program to help you keep organized. Some category headers you may want to include are Last Name, First Name, E-mail Address, Option column(s), International?, Baggies Arrival Date, Number Received (for each option), Incoming Postage, Outgoing Postage, Hostess Gift?, Notified, and any other categories that help *you* keep track of what's going on.

Master list of participants ...
    Read your e-mail often to get the names of those interested in joining your swap. Enroll individuals on a first-come, first-served basis as you get their requests. Keep a record of each participant's name and e-mail address. (You may want to save/print this.) Send a quick message to each participant that s/he has been enrolled in your swap.
    When you reach the size limit you posted, or the cutoff date, close your swap. To close your swap, simply post a message to the list announcing that your swap is now closed. You may also have to let any last-minute joiners wanting in to know that the swap is closed.
    In the event that you don't have enough people for your swap by the sign-up deadline, you can either extend your deadlines, or decide to try the swap another time. Either way, post an announcement letting everyone know.

    Now it's time to compose your Swap Message to be sent to each of the participants.

E-mail address book ...
    First, prepare a personal mailing list in your e-mail program containing the e-mail address of each participant.
    Compose your Swap Message, reiterating the details: the theme or purpose of the swap, any particular guidelines, when the swap mailings will be due, and a list of all the participants names and the option they've signed up for. Be sure that all the names and options are accurate. (Cutting and pasting this information from the message they sent you cuts down on errors.)
    Don't forget to provide YOUR name and snail-mail address so they know where to send the packets.
    You will also want to remind participants of several things:

  1. Print out the Swap Information document for reference in preparing their swap baggies.
  2. Include their name, e-mail and snail-mail address in or on their individual baggies with labels, calling cards, or permanent markers.
  3. Advise participants that they should not place tape over their postage, as it will not be accepted by the postal service. Metered mail on their return envelope is, likewise, unacceptable.
  4. To notify you if they cannot keep their commitment to the swap or will be late mailing. Late is acceptable. Life happens. No-shows without notification are unacceptable, not to mention inconsiderate and RUDE.

    Once you have your Swap Message finished, e-mail it to the personal mailing list you made earlier. Keep in touch with your participants. Send out reminders as the deadline approaches.

Receiving Packages

   Be sure to count the number of baggies in each envelope as they arrive. Write the number on the arrival envelope AND their return envelope. (It's helpful if they write the number on their envelope when they send it.) CONFIRM this number with the sender when you e-mail an acknowledgement that their packet arrived. This is in case someone thinks they've been shorted; you will be able to go back to the original envelope and confirm the number.

    Don't throw away the original envelopes until AFTER all swaps have arrived at their destination! This is a safety factor for the hostess.
    Believe it or not, some hostesses have experienced SNAFU's with dishonest swappers, unfortunately. Just try to be careful, do the best you can, and CYA.

A Word about Enforcing Swap Requirements
"Suzanne Steps Up on her Soapbox"

    During my first swap as a hostess, I threw out a couple of questions to my group about how/if hostesses should audit incoming baggies for quality control; in other words, making sure it's a level playing field.
    As a hostess, I've decided that it's better in the long run for everyone to receive what they're expecting and try not to worry overmuch about hurting those who are thin-skinned, stupid or rude. I'm primarily addressing people who know better. Newbies and honest misunderstandings will always be an exception, of course; there's always grace to a certain extent!
    While on the one hand, I feel it is the hostess' responsibility to make sure the requirements are being met, someone has pointed out that, since we each put our name on our baggies, any critical problems can be resolved after the fact, making each participant responsible for their contribution. However, past experience has shown that probems are usually not addressed. I know a lot of people have taken substandard baggies and shut up. {lol}
    Case in point: I received an e-mail from someone saying that she didn't get what she expected in a swap, but was not going to contact the party responsible. She said she was too shy to address those people who sent them and wouldn't want to make them feel bad, AND she's cutting back on her swaps. What does that tell me? This: That getting "shafted" is what will keep people from participating ~ repeated short ends of the stick, so to speak ~ not because they're afraid they'll send the wrong thing or get "blasted" for it. The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced.
    If you're going to participate in a swap, why would you want to go to the expense of sending really nice and/or expensive things if you might not get your expected and fair share in return? Why should it be a "maybe I will, maybe I won't" spin of the wheel? It shouldn't; it's supposed to be a level playing field so no one feels cheated.
    It has been stated that other swap baggies make up for the substandard ones, but I don't believe this in all cases; and I would bet my bottom dollar that if we heard from everyone in the same swap, it would not come out to, "it was worth it in the end" for everybody! There would still be those wishing they got an equal deal, if not a better one. I know; I've experienced it.
    In the end, you will have to determine if you have the backbone to make sure the swap requirements are met. Is it more important to you that everyone gets what they're expecting from the swap guidelines, or to not offend anyone with polite and gentle correction?

More than you wanted to know? Maybe you'll want to hostess a swap some day and find this interesting. ;o)

Swapping Out

    Resist the temptation to swap out before the last swap bag gets there, or you will regret it!

    Remove the hostess squishie or gift, if one was included.

    Swap out all the people with the largest amounts of baggies first and then work your way down. This is probably the most important recommendation. As they come in, sort your packages by number of baggies to swap and, when ready to swap out, start with those who sent the most because you'll need the most variety.
    This makes sense, if you think about it, but when you're staring at all those baggies, you're inclined to think, "Oh, this one only needs 4, so I could take care of that quickly and be done with that one." But, as others have told me, starting with those who need the least is a mistake.

More tips from "Nark":
     I redo the list of participants to reflect the order of how many baggies they sent. My list has their name (a portion of it) down the left side, then (second column over) I assign a code name; like, if the first three persons sent in 15 baggies, they would be A15 - B15 - C15 - etc.
     I [then add] columns for the amount of baggies in the limit (in this case, 15 across). For those who are trading less than the limit, I put x's [in the column boxes] after the amount they are trading. Example: If they are only trading 10, then there would be 5 x's after their open boxes.

Name Code Email 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
Doe A15   B15                            
Re B15   A15                            
Mi C15   A15                            
Fa D12   A15                      




So E10   A15                  



La F10   etc.                  




   The Swap: Before filling each order, I remove the hostess bag or gift if there was one. I have all bag groups lined up in order of the list. I start with the top one, going to each pile and removing a bag from each pile -- in order -- until that amount has been filled. (I put the filled order in their return-postage envelope behind their bags to swap. I mark off the box to show where the swap bag went (in case of a goof and I end up with one short or over; makes it easier to recheck everything). I double-check each envelope for the count, and mark the number and circle it. Last, when I have come out correct with no overs and no shorts, I put a small thank-you gift or squishy from myself as thank you for participation in the swap.
   Double seal all seams on the return envelope.

   I use this list method so that, 1) I have a list of who got whose squishys and 2) the swap is done in a non-favoritism method; in other words, certain people do not have preference of "special" swap baggies -- including myself. Every bag is treated equally the same. I may or may not have bags to trade, but this helps in case of some sort of a goof.
   Occasionally, some people will get more than one bag from a certain person. This happens sometimes when not enough people are participating or there are not enough people trading the limit. If this happens, I notify that person to ask if they want a double from one person or one of their own baggies returned with the trades.

Marie says:
   When I set up for a swap, I keep a file for the sign-up mail and save it there as soon as I receive it! Reminders a few times to the list are needed to get those procrastinators happening (the eager beavers are always the first to sign). Each signup should receive a confirmation note to let them know that you have their name, and they have been added to the list.
   Formulate and stick to the time frame, and keep track of completions ... publicly. I have been in swaps where excuses got made over and over as to why it wasn't sent, and it kind of sours the experience for those who get shafted. Public notification tends to make participants want to finish ... or face embarrassment.
   If the situation warrants, a small, token thank-you gift from the hostess is a nice finish; particularly, if it was a small list of participants and was a very difficult swap. (It's the little things!)

Mailing the Packets

    It is a good idea to provide your return address on all of the packages. (One hostess was made, by a postal employee, to put return addresses on all of her packages which did not have them.)
    The P.O. will check every package for correct postage. Some may come up short.
    In double-sealing your seams, be sure not to put tape on the stamps or you will have to repay for that postage.
    Depending on your post office (and/or the mood of the postal employee), you may be allowed to process only 10 items at a time and then be asked to go to the back of the line to wait your turn for the next 10.

prizeribbon.gif (1186  bytes) While they are always optional, under no circumstance are you to feel guilty about hostess gifts you receive!! Hosting a swap is a lot of work! If a participant is kind enough to ask you about your favorite colors or about which items that you especially like, hint loudly! Do you have a favorite theme, embellishment geegaw or need something in particular? My dear hostess, what's on your wish list?

Most importantly, have FUN and ENJOY your swap!!

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Helpful Swap Information to include with your Swap Message

Helpful Swap Info for Participants

Most important: READ the guidelines CAREFULLY!! Pay particular attention to the fiber content of fabrics, and things like "no plastic shirt buttons." If you cannot match the guidelines and have something drop-dead gorgeous, then e-mail the hostess and talk about it. Otherwise, just skip the swap and wait for another one. While these swaps are meant for fun, it's important that the playing field be level, and everyone will be expecting what's in the guidelines.

Please send swap messages privately and not to the list. People who are not in the swap are usually not interested in the details. =;D

   1. When swapping fabric, it's a good idea to include a note with whatever info you have on the fabric -- fiber content, whether washed or not, new or recycled, fades, etc.

   2. Make sure charms and buttons are clean, and recycled buttons have the old threads cut off.

   3. Wind threads neatly on some kind of a card or plastic bobbin and label them so that the receiver can get more if s/he loves them.

   4. Put seed and other small beads in a tiny baggie or other small container, or wrap in a piece of plastic wrap.

   5. Read the guidelines carefully and make sure you are sending what is called for. If you have a question(s), write the hostess privately.

   6. In or on each baggie, include a label, calling card or slip of paper with your name, address and e-mail on it so the recipient will know whom to thank, and the post office will know whom to return it to if it should get separated from the the package.
    Place all your baggies inside a gallon-size ziplock bag that has your name and snail-mail address on the outside (either by using a label or permanent marker) just in case the package gets opened/damaged en route. This is especially important if your individual baggies only have your name and e-mail, and not your mailing address.

    7. Be reliable about meeting deadlines. If you can't, let the hostess know immediately and give her an idea as to when you will be mailing. Late is acceptable. Life happens. No-shows without any notification are unacceptable, inconsiderate and rude.

    8. When you send your swap and when you receive your swap back, let the hostess know that it's on its way or has arrived safely.

    9. Hostess gifts are always optional, but you should definitely take time to thank your hostess. Hosting a swap is a lot of work! If you wish to include a small gift for your hostess, an extra squishie, something interesting from your stash, or something that you know the hostess especially likes, would all be appropriate. Be sure to mark it so the hostess knows it's for her.

    Place your gallon-size baggie into a mailing envelope addressed to the swap hostess -- along with your self-addressed envelope and postage for return.
    Do not use a metered-mail strip on your return envelope!  Also be sure not to place tape on your postage or it will not be accepted by the Postal Service, and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
    Note: Please keep in mind that the weight of what you send may not be the same as what you will get back. More often than not, people seem to err on the side of too-little postage, and the hostess ends up paying the difference. Occasionally, it's the other way around.
    One clever suggestion is if the stamps are not attached, but inserted into your envelope for the hostess to affix, refunding any overages to you in your return envelope; or, with your blessing, using the excess stamps on other packages which come up short. Be sure to let the hostess know your preference if you decide to handle it this way.

   For U.S. swappers, Priority Mail might be the most convenient way to send your package; however, they do not guarantee 2- to 3-day delivery for the price. As of June 30th, $3.85 covers everything up to 1 pound; anything more than 1 pound is now zoned from your zip code. Free Priority mailing supplies, including Tyvek™ envelopes are available at your post office.
   You don't have send your baggies Priority Mail. First-Class Mail is appropriate. As long as you have sufficient postage on your return-mail envelope (and you allow enough time for the package to arrive by the deadline), that will be fine.

   Swappers outside the USA should contact the hostess for mailing/return mailing procedures. (Usually, extra squishies for return postage, or some other arrangement.)

~ The Golden Rule of Swapping ~
"Swap unto others as you would like to receive."

If we all do this, no one will be upset or disappointed.


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