Tips for Hosting Your Own Swap

Aug 29, 2016

Now that I,ve not only participated but hosted several Instagram swaps, I thought I'd put some of my tips out there for those of you thinking of possibly hosting your own! I have learned a lot (good and bad) and wanted to share some things with you.

But first, let me just say that with my current swap (Maker's Tote Swap -  in progress) I followed all of my own advice listed below. So far there are no flakers, whiners, etc and everything is moving along beautifully. I practice what I preach!

The good, the bad, and the ugly...

Not all swappers are created equal. This is a fact. Some lie on their forms and say they're an expert when they're really a beginner. Some flake out half way through and others are finished extremely early. Some make a phenomenal package and others just don't.

Mentally prepare yourself to deal with all kinds of stuff. You'll hear every excuse in the book as to why someone cant or won't finish their swap items, why they're shipping late or complaints about shipping costs (as if you can control that). You'll hear it all. Everything... just get ready for it! My suggestion is to be civil and levelheaded even though its easy to be annoyed.

My biggest tip for this? CHECK THE NAUGHTY LISTS!!! There are swapper naughty lists out there (do some research online). One in particular details more than 700 instances of bad swappers for a multitude of reasons. No matter what, always ALWAYS check this before giving someone a swap partner - even if they're a follower or friend of yours. You'd be surprised at these lists.. honestly.

Also, Say upfront and outright that if people don't check-in on the first required date or reply to the partner email to confirm they've received it, that they'll be dropped and replaced. If you cut the flakers loose from the get-go you'll be so much better off - trust me! If someone can't reply to an email you probably will find them unreliable in the end as well.

Be prepared...

Make sure you plan ahead. Don't throw a swap together in a few minutes and post on social media before you have all the details worked out. I have been apart of swaps that were SO poorly organized :( Plus, people will ask questions - a lot of them. Don't post until you're 100% ready.

Create a swap timeline and include it on your swap form AND in the partner emails so everyone has easy access to it. Encourage people to write down the timeline dates and check-in with you on those dates. Timeline should at least include dates for the following: a day to expect their partner emails, fabric pull day, progress photo day, and ship day. Make sure your participants know they're expected to either check-in with you or post to their own timeline on these days no matter what.

I created a printable Swap Planner sheet for instances like this and encourage my participants to use it. It's free and you can share it with your swappers as well :)

Consider creating an email account separate from your own that is for your swaps only. This is something I wish I would have done from day one. Use it not only for the swaps you're hosting but also for ones you join. Being a Swap Mama means lots of emails sent and received and this can keep everything much more organized so you're not scrolling through your regular email inbox searching for a particular swap email you may or may not have lost in a sea of personal emails.

Prep a draft email ahead of time with any and all information you want the participants to have including the timeline dates, requirements, etc. Save it. Once you're ready to send partner emails use it as a template by copying and pasting it into each new partner email.

Create swap images before the swap begins and save them. You should have images for the following times during your swap:

  1. Main swap image: should include a background photo of the item you're swapping (tote, mini quilt, etc) the swap name in large bold font and your Instagram username somewhere on it so people know where to go if they see the image somewhere else on social media.
  2. Check in images: a background photo with large bold font of the swap name and the words "update" or "check-in" beneath that. Can be used multiple times throughout swap for all check ins.
  3. Shipping day image: background image plus large bold font of your swap name and the words "ship day" or "time to ship" on it.
Post these on your IG according to your swap timeline dates and tag swap participants in them. In the caption for the post detail what you want people to do for this check-in or what should be expected of them on that day. When people see these images posted on your feed they instantly know it's swap related so they can read it and check-in. If they don't check in after 24 hours tag individuals and say "please check in" so they know they're required to.

Once swap signups end, you'll likely have people who are sad they missed out. Tell them to leave you their email address if they're interested in stepping-in incase someone drops out. This will be a lifesaver in the long run... because inevitably someone WILL drop out and you'll have a handy little list of people ready to step in as soon as possible.

Give people some options...

In my experience having one main swap item is the best route. For example, my Super Tote Swap required everyone to make ONE Super Tote from the Noodlehead pattern and my Maker's Tote Swap requires you to make ONE Maker's Tote from the Noodlehead pattern as well. This way all participants are getting an equal package. They all make a tote and receive a tote. However, you need to give them options on wether they want to paper piece, do patchwork, epp, etc. Some have higher skill sets than others and its only fair to allow creative freedom.

In swaps I've participated in where there was a simple "theme" but the actual swap items and package was left up to the makers you can run into some issues. One person would make an amazing package with a large zippered bag, extras, and much more. And then in return they'd receive a tiny little mini quilt package that wasn't well made or put together. In my opinion this is not fair at all.

Match partners up according to skill level and location. Add an option on your sign up form where people check what skill level they are at and country they are from, and if they are willing to ship internationally or not.

Make sure there are requirements for everyone who is participating. For example: Everyone must make one particular item / everyone must use a form of patchwork, paper piecing, etc / everyone must be intermediate - expert level / everyone must use designer quilting cottons / everyone must post a mosaic to give partner ideas. These are key in a swap - it leaves nothing up to question when people sign up. They know exactly what they're getting into.

EXAMPLE: Mosaics should look similar to this. They have ideas for fabrics / colors / extras / etc. so your partner is never confused about what you want.


Below I've detailed / linked some great resources for you if you're thinking about hosting a swap.

  • Google Forms is a great place to start a sign-up form. Its easy to understand, allows you to control a lot of aspect of the sign up process and you can get instant emails when people sign up. It also allows you to turn sign-up form link on and off and sent yourself a spreadsheet of all swap responses. 
  • Google Sheets is a lifesaver for swap mamas. There is an option on your Google Form where you can click a little green spreadsheet icon and send yourself an organized list of ALL swap sign up responses. It literally does all the work for you. This is incredibly helpful when partnering people as this puts everyones name, address, and preferences all in one place. I use these spreadsheets throughout the entire process, making check marks and notes beside each person when they do (or don't) check-in and ship packages. You can also copy & paste the names and address into your partner emails - again a total time saver - so you're not typing them all out individually.
  • Gmail is by far my favorite email server. Not only is new account setup quick and easy but the interface is much more user friendly than other email accounts I've used and it links up flawlessly with Google Forms and Sheets which is a MUST if you're using them all.
  • PicMonkey is a great free online photo editor that you can use for creating swap images if you don't have a phone app or program on your computer to do this. You can add text, shapes, edit colors, add masks, etc.
  • My Swap Planner printable is great for participants and hosts. You can write down timeline dates, notes or ideas for swap, your partners info and much more. For hosts it includes a spreadsheet for writing down each person plus their partner as well as check box areas for marking if they checked-in with you on required dates or not.

I hope you've enjoyed this post and found it helpful. Feel free to comment with any and all questions regarding hosting or joining swaps and I'll do my best to answer! :)


Amista Baker © . Design by Berenica Designs.