If you have read this blog at all, you already know that I spend a LOT of time at the website called Craftster. It is overflowing with creative people from all over the world who inspire and motivate me in my daily sewing and other crafting.
One of my favorite parts of Craftster is participating in craft swaps, and over the past year my friend Susan and I have coorganized quite a few of those swaps. We were both wildly surprised a couple of weeks ago when we were told that we would be the next "Featured Organizers" on the swaps board!
Normally there is just one organizer who is featured, but we always work together, so Susan and I each got a questionnaire to fill out. I was afraid we would duplicate each other's answers, so I asked Susan to send her answers to me, and I edited them together so it would sound like we had been interviewed together. I will include the entire interview at the end of this post; but first I want to show you a fabulous badges I just got from the equally fabulous sewphie. She and I recently did a personal swap of felt badges (I've shown you the fishes and heart badges I sent her) and she sent me not two, but three beautiful badges!
Clockwise from top: a spool of thread with measuring-tape boarder (because I love to sew); a Siamese cat (because I love Siamese cats!); and a Swap Organizer badge.
This Swap Organizer badge really touched me, because sewpie said she made it in honor of my being a featured organizer! I love it when swap partners do something so special and personal.
And now, here is the interview as it appears on the Craftster website:
Many of you have seen (and contributed!) to the "Great Organizers I have Known" thread. We love hearing about what makes a swap run smoothly for you and we love all the positive energy that the thread has created.
In that spirit, we've created this feature to highlight some of our special and outstanding organizers from the swap boards. We'll meet some of our amazing organizers and pick their brains about how they keep on top of everything organizing requires. This time we have chosen to feature a dynamic duo who have co-organized 15 swaps together in the past year!
Without further delay, let's give a warm, hearty Craftster congrats to Leslieshappyheart and susanab, our newest featured organizers!
What made you two first decide to start organizing together?
(Susan) It's a crazy crazy story. Leslie and I were randomly teamed up on Words With Friends and I think I had a scissors logo at the time and she asked me if I sewed. I said, "Yes", not realizing that this wordsmith was also a REAL sewist and after a couple of moves then I was pitching Craftster to her. How crazy is that? I mean what are the odds?
(Leslie) That’s the story of how we ended up knowing each other on Craftster. After I had been on Craftster for a while, Susan had the impulse to try hosting a swap of the Ninni monster stuffies, and since we chatted daily about Craftster-related things anyway, she asked me to co-organize. From then on, organizing swaps has been something of an addiction for us both!
What is your favourite thing about organizing together?
(Susan) Co-organizing with Leslie has always has a feel of "Thelma and Louise" to it. We love the adventure of thinking up swaps, seeing what happens on the idea thread, then posting it, partner day, send outs--when you organize with someone who you work great with, every part of the swap has its thrills, really.
(Leslie) I love the "Thelma and Louise" comparison! I have to say that the best thing about working with Susan is the security of knowing that my friend is there in case I need something, or if something goes wrong (which it sometimes does!) Having her to discuss the swap with is really what makes organizing fun for me.
How do you split up organizing responsibilities, do you switch it up for each swap?
(Susan) We started out thinking that's how it was going to go--Leslie would organize, then I would. But it really made more sense for Leslie to be the official organizer for us. I travel for business throughout the year but, even if not, Leslie is the more organized of the two of us and she really plans the timelines and is really on the lookout that everything is running smoothly. And she's just amazing on the boards. She's naturally encouraging and helpful and if there's a snag--and they do happen when you organize as many swaps as we have--she takes all the right steps.
(Leslie) Thank you, Susan! So yes, since I have more free time, now I do most of the set-up of the swaps, such as starting the idea thread, opening the swap, matching partners, and sending questionnaires. Susan is in charge of setting up the gallery, and if it is a small swap (less than 20 swappers) Susan will also give all the feedback.
How do you match up partners in a swap?
(Susan) That one’s yours, Leslie.
(Leslie) Matching up partners is the hardest part of any swap, and this question is always the one I read the most closely in every one of the organizer features! I’m such a hands-on person that I need to have the information in front of me, so I print out all the questionnaires, then highlight the information I use to match the swappers: location and willingness to send internationally; allergies and allergens; then likes, dislikes, preferences, style—I try to match people who are most similar to each other if possible, so they will be comfortable crafting for each other. So if I have two roller derby players who both like Harry Potter, that’s a perfect match in my book! I paperclip the questionnaires together if I feel that they are a match, and once it’s a sure thing, I staple them together.
Any particular tricks or tips you'd be willing to share with other organizers?
(Susan) That’s you again, Leslie!
(Leslie) I would say, one of the key things is to have all the important information about the swap right at your fingertips—so I keep a swap notebook next to my computer. For each swap I list the name, start date, and send-out date of the swap; then I list each swapper, including the Craftster username, real first name, location, and whether or not this is their first swap; and the list of partners. That’s all I need to know to address any issue that comes up. The other thing you have to do is make a label in your pm inbox for the swap, and move all the questionnaires there as soon as you add a person to the swap. When they are in a separate folder like that, you can access them quickly to send them to the partners, and if there is a question later about anything that was on a questionnaire, you can locate it easily.
What would you say is the most important element of making a swap fun for everyone?
(Susan) In making it fun? I think you have to be posting on your swap board, really. Organizing is like having guests in your place and you should want to be there welcoming first time swappers, welcoming back regulars. There's a lot of real fun and a lot of real caring going on in the swaps because you're together for a period of time and on a creative journey together. AND you're going to give that creation to somebody in the swap. There really is a lot going on in swaps.
(Leslie) Well said, Susan! I think the most fun thing in every swap is Susan’s famous “partner day dance”…the regulars know to expect it, and those who haven’t swapped with us before quickly realize that it’s okay to be silly with this group!
Who comes up with the swap ideas, where do you find your swapping AND organizing inspiration?
(Susan) I come up with a lot of them and most of those either come from or are inspired by crafts and tutes I see on the web. But it's Leslie who test drives everything to see if it will work AND to improve it for the swap.
(Leslie) Yes, Susan is the “idea” person, for sure. She is always emailing me links to things she finds online that might work for a swap. We both prefer sewing to other forms of crafting, so that’s the type of thing Susan looks for. When we both get really excited about an idea, I will make a sample of it to make sure it’s do-able for a swap (and that sample will usually end up being the picture for the swap thread). It’s so fun to share an idea that excites us with this crafting community, and when others get excited about it too—that’s what inspires us to keep organizing swaps.
What was your favourite swap you organized and what do your think made it a success?
(Susan) I just looked at the list of what we've done and it made it HARDER to decide. Swaps where Craftster's can really add their own touch and personalize for their partners--like Monster Ninni, Mystery Critter, Fabric Jewelry, Journal Cover, definitely others, -- were very successful.
(Leslie) Without question my favorite swap was the very first one we organized, the Monster Ninni Swap. It was HUGE and we were total newbies at organizing, and there was so much to think about and keep track of, that made it really exciting for me!
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
(Susan) If anyone has that thought of organizing a swap dancing in their head, go for it. Remember that you can cap off how many people are in the swap so, if you want to start real slowly, stop at 10. And STILL get a co-organizer even if you don't have to. You can start an amazing friendship this way.
(Leslie) Organizing a swap with a co-organizer is a lot of fun! I would suggest that anyone who wants to give it a try should ask offer to co-organize a swap that’s just opened for sign-ups; you can learn the ropes that way, with the experienced organizer’s help.