Exchange Organizers Collected Wisdom
Collection maintained by: Marina S
So you want to organize a quilt block or fabric exchange? Here's
the FAQ for you!
This file contains advice collected from many organizers of various
types of block and fabric exchanges. None of their suggestions are
absolutely necessary to a successful exchange, however, you may save yourself
time and grief by at least considering their ideas before you jump in head first.
- If you have never participated in an
exchange, it may be better to wait until you've had a bit more
experience with this group. Organizing an exchange is a lot more
work than it seems!
- How often should you post about your exchange?
- post full instructions only once (you can send copies to everyone
who joins the exchange later on).
- accept "sign ups" for at least a week (allow those getting the
mailing list in the digest format time to sign up).
- post once or twice a week if there are still openings.
- post once when cycles are full (six people per exchange is
optimal, if you get more, consider breaking up into smaller groups).
- allow at least a month to make and mail stuff; two months would be
better for exchanges with more than 6 blocks per person.
- but if you allow too much time, people will procrastinate or
- NEVER post USMail addresses to the whole mail list! Some people will
view this as a violation of their privacy.
- Be prepared to forward email to other participants on behalf of every
participant. Some people will have trouble sending mail to other
participants, so you'll have to help them out.
- Try to settle final details about color or size among the exchange
group only, don't use the entire alias for this purpose.
- Think about what you want to exchange. Decide in advance whether
you want to organize variations on the same thing. For
instance, if you put out a call for Christmas stars, you're sure to
get responses from people who want Christmas 9-patches, etc. Don't
let yourself be talked into more than you can handle, if people want
something other than what you proposed they can organize it themselves.
You might also want to think about putting a limit on the number
of groups you're willing to coordinate. (if this is the first group
you have organized, it should probably be the only one!)
- The more precise you can be in your specifications (color, size, etc),
the more likely it is that the final blocks will all look good together.
"Spring colors" may be too vague, while "Lancaster Amish Solids" is
- If you get enough participants, think about setting up a beginner's
exchange, no more than 4-6 blocks and perhaps a simpler pattern.
For example, a "star" block exchange might include a pattern
mailed to everyone, and also a longer time period before the deadline.
Remind participants that:
Explain what you are willing to do as far as tracking blocks.
- they should send mail to you to join, not to the entire
mail list (folks are getting better about this)
- DO NOT use QuiltNet for exchange-related mail
- if they can't send email to a group of people, tell them to send
to you for forwarding
- they should be encouraged to:
- send mail to the group when blocks/fabric are mailed
- send mail to individuals when they receive block/fabric to
- acknowledge the receipt
- feel free to check up with individuals if they haven't
- received an acknowledgment
Various choices are:
Sometimes people join exchanges and then lose their net access, their jobs,
or both. These events are usually sudden and unplanned. You can avoid losing
contact with them if you:
- you will not keep track, it's up to individuals to settle problems
- you will check an "outstanding commitments list" only
- you will keep track of what you have received and will post
this to the exchange group occasionally so others can use it
to keep track
- you will follow up with email on blocks that appear to be late
- you will make blocks for others if there's a problem-person
Suggest that everyone print out a copy of the list of participants, or at
least your name and address, at the very beginning. Then if net access
is lost for some reason, they will be able to let someone know what is
going on, by snail mail or telephone if necessary.
Make sure to get a phone number and snail mail address for everyone in the
group right at the beginning, so you can contact them if their email
account doesn't work.
A basic block exchange can have many variations, but some basics are:
1. Size and shape of blocks (including seam allowances)
2. Number of members in a group (Six is plenty for the first one, once
you get good at this you can take on more).
3. How many blocks per member (usually = number of members, but
it's possible to ask for 3 sets per person of 9-patches, so that's 36
blocks per person)
4. Pattern restrictions, if any (This will usually be your
"theme". Examples are : butterflies, 9-patches, anything with
less than 20 pieces per block, cats, baby blocks, etc.)
5. Construction restrictions, if any (pieced, hand appliqued,
6. Material restrictions, if any (standard call is 100% cotton,
prewashed fabrics. Sometimes solids, or certain shades, or
unbleached muslin or fancy muslin, etc. Sometimes background only
is absolutely specified (muslin of some sort, for instance), with
some choice in the foreground (Xmas colors, etc.). The
restrictions are usually tied to the theme of the exchange.)
7. Signing (where on the block, suggested color, what information
(name, date, year, city, state, etc.)
8. Mailing deadline for the blocks.
9. Be sure to ask for their full name, snail-mailing address,
preferred e-mail address and number of blocks or groups they want
to make/be in. (Usually number of groups will suffice, except
when you also call for groups of varying sizes.)
10. Always give a return path for your address in the call.
11. Mention if you have instructions available on how to make the
pattern called for, or a list of books with patterns that can
12. Hand piecing? Pros and cons. It takes longer, and some people
are not that skilled at it. Ask if anyone wants to hand piece,
and talk with them about it privately before you agree to make
sure they can keep up with the rest of the group. They may be
better off in a beginner's exchange that has a longer time period.
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