Why I Don’t Do Swaps Anymore

16 11 2014

I started today with the intention of putting together a quilt top. Last night, in cleaning out some of my sewing space (which still needs a lot of organization!), I tripped over about 30 Granny Square blocks from a swap I participated in about a year ago. I’d stashed them away, and forgotten about them.

Since I’m still in a Go!Go!Go! Sew!Sew!Sew! phase, I decided I’d whip out a quilt top today, and began trimming these blocks down (I’d asked for them to come to me untrimmed, so that I could take that step myself).

By the time I was done trimming, I’d thrown NINE of these blocks away. In all fairness, I screwed up the trimming on one of them, and cut through a point. But the rest…


Now, let me just say that I’m a fairly anal-retentive sewist. I know this about myself.

I iron at nearly every step. I’ve just discovered the joys of starching the heck out of fabric, and how CRISP it makes my points and piecing. I change my needle at the end of every project, and change my rotary blades as soon as I feel myself pushing too hard on the cutter. I pay strict attention to my quarter inch seams, and unpick if my seam wobbles. I use the same brand of rulers on each project, and only use the markings on my rulers to determine where I cut – not the markings on the cutting mat. I make a test block, and then measure the test block to ensure that I’m producing according to the pattern / instructions.

The blocks I discarded…  Most of them weren’t acquainted with a quarter inch seam at all. Some would have failed a field sobriety test, the sewing was so wobbly. One block blatantly disregarded the swap rule to use Kona White as the background. Instead, I got a white background fabric that was so thin, I could see through it. Others yet, the blocks weren’t comprised of squares – they were comprised of trapezoids. (granny blocks, for your reference)

Quite frankly, I would have been ashamed to send them out, had I made them.

To say that I am frustrated is something of an understatement. Instead of being entirely done with a quilt top today, I have to make another twenty-five granny squares to be able to wrap this project, to match what I’d envisioned. If all of these blocks had been acceptable, I would have only needed to make half that.

It’s not the fact that I didn’t make the progress I wanted. It’s the fact that several someones out there thought these were acceptable to send out, not just to me, but probably to everyone else in my swap group.

And I know that many of those fellow sewists were planning on making gifts out of the quilts that would eventually result from these blocks. If I was disappointed at the blocks I got, for a quilt top for myself, how much more disappointed were these other sewists?

Now, a year out from this swap, it’s obviously too late for me to communicate to the swap organizer how disappointed I am, but the problems weren’t limited to this one swap. Prior to this year, I participated in many swaps. In most instances, I was highly disappointed by what I received versus what I sent out.

Rather than feeling more connected to a larger community of quilters and sewists, I felt (still feel) angry and irritated that I put such effort into producing quality work that I could be proud to send to someone else, and received so many poor quality blocks in return.

This batch of blocks just reinforced that sense of disenchantment, and strengthened my lack of desire to participate in swaps. I’d actually signed up to participate in Stash Bee 2015 (to start next year), and have withdrawn my participation because I don’t want to deal with the inevitable disappointment of putting forth effort for no return.




2 responses

22 11 2014

I so understand what you are saying and that is why I don’t participate either. Easier to say ….sorry, don’t have the time…and people think that I am lazy than explain the real reason.

22 11 2014
Grey Cat Quilts

I love the idea behind swaps, but have had to admit that there is no way to ensure the quality of what I’m going to get.

And with the cost of shipping rising, especially internationally, I might as well put the costs toward fabric, and make what I’ll be happy with.

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