The other day someone asked why I participate in so many swaps. That is a really good question that has many layers to its answer. When I was a child in school, one of the teachers signed us up for Pen Pals. Most of us were excited to make those connections with kids in Europe. My connection didn't work. I wrote and wrote and wrote, but for whatever reason, and most likely it was not about me, my Pen Pal never replied. The other kids got letters, holiday greetings and even gifts that they shared with the class. Not me. My little girl heart was broken and stayed broken for decades.
In the course of my evolution, things like these events surfaced and called for healing. No one could fix it then and only I could do the work to ease the pain now. My first swaps were iffy at best, and then something started to change. Short term relationships among my swapping partners began to form and my little girl heart began to heal.
One of the swaps I am involved in now is a Fat Quarter swap. My partner for this month asked for fabric with mushrooms or small animals on it, and also gave the option of white fabric with dots. When I first started this swap, the requests were easily filled from my stash. One of the benefits of this swap is that I took time to organize my stash better, bundling pieces first by size and then by color. Last month my partner requested brights and specifically yellow. I went to the store and purchased half yard pieces (this month too), cut them into two FQs, sent one off and kept the other for myself. I did the same with this swap, and also pulled out cut squares that had either dots or small animals on them. Now my stash includes FQs of these and when I use them, this new friend will come to mind.
Another swap I am in is for 6.5" fabric squares. This represents what I've received so far from the Halloween swap. I plan to use them for the back of a quilt I am making my younger Sister in 2015. If everyone sends their swap, I will receive 120 pieces. Of course there are already some duplicates and because I am hoping to make this a charm back (meaning a fabric is used only once), the duplicates go elsewhere.
My friend Rex suggested I join swapbot.com. I did and then deleted the account because of all the rules and my inability to understand the links. I rejoined to discover that once an account is deleted, the person is too! I found a way around it & signed up for my first five swaps. The newbie swaps are set up for folks to test their own integrity and are pretty easy, like sending a post card with three facts about your town or state.
This swap was to make and send a Halloween Mug Rug. Just the other day I started going through the stash bin that holds my orphans from other projects and pulled out the pieces of Halloween fabric. Lo and behold, I was able to use the scraps and joined pieces to make the front, back and binding for this mug rug. A little batting, some machine stitching and its done! The front is cuter, & it works.
I think the whole swapping process is one of trust in strangers that they honor simple commitments. Organizers do their best to facilitate the partnerships but cannot control the outside forces that might present problems for a swapper to send their swap out.
Over the decades, I've thought a lot about this girl who had been my Pen Pal. Sure I went through the heartbreak, the shame too, feeling it was my fault and something I must have said. At the time, I never thought about outside influences that could have blocked her. She's my age so who knows what she thought or if she thought or if she's even alive. Did she think of me? What happened? In her evolution of spirit, was she able to forgive the forces that prevented her from participating? Did she get all my letters? What happened when my letters stopped?
With each swap, there is a constant awareness of our human connections and how fragile they are, how fragile we are. I think about the pressures everyone faces and how we all want to do good. I really believe in our heart of hearts we want to do good. Now I know about the things that get in our way like lack of finances, someone else who has power over us (our parents at the time), and maybe health issues. I have long forgiven those circumstances and her.
What has happened with all these swaps is that my heart is open again. Open and vulnerable. All I know is that I have a responsibility to swap and send to someone, a stranger, what I might like to receive. As I send each thing off, I imagine what it is like to get a package in the mail and tear it open, just like a kid. Because that is exactly what I do each and every time. I smile, my heart is warmed, and the world spins just a little more in my favor.