Autograph Quilt Block Exchange:

Part 2, Getting Started

Rissa Peace Root 2004

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From the moment the first block came in the mail, I knew that this was going to be a wonderful swap.  It took a little discussion to get the guidelines and procedures outlined, but so far, this project seems to be working out very well.  The final group decision was that regardless of the size of the block, the finished area would be 6" square, with the maker's name or initials on the front.  Most participants have sent blocks that were between 6.5" and 7", but almost all have had a 6" design area.  There should be enough uniformity to ensure that the recipient can make a quilt, book or other item out of the exchange blocks.   We also agreed that each block should be signed on the back and accompanied by an explanation of the significance of the block or a short note about the maker.  We also decided to set a monthly schedule for doing the actual swap.  Currently the mailing deadline for each swap is the second Saturday of the month.

The first thing that needed to be done was to make sure the block and the accompanying card/note were placed in a plastic bag to keep them from getting damaged or separated. Then there was the matter of how to randomly swap the blocks and get them mailed back to the participants.  After some deep contemplation in the middle of my living room floor, it came to me.  I placed all of the blocks in one shopping bag and all of the envelopes into a second one, then drew an envelope and checked the name on the envelope against a list to determine how many blocks were sent, then I drew the appropriate number of blocks from the second bag and noted whose blocks went to whom.  If the block pulled was made by the person whose envelope I had or if they already had a block from that person, I just put it back in the bag and drew again.  It took about a half hour to get them all swapped the first month, not including the double and triple checking before the envelopes were sealed.  They all had to be weighed on a postal scale before they could be returned to ensure enough postage was affixed.  On average, one block in a padded envelope costs $0.83 to mail or $0.60 in a small brown Kraft envelope without any padding. 

By the second month, it was a little more difficult to keep track of everything, so it took several hours to get the swapping done.  I was forced to reshuffle the blocks when the last envelope drawn needed more blocks than were left without duplication.  It was a lesson learned.  The third month, I started with the envelopes of those participants who sent the most blocks.  It still took more than three hours to sort and I could not make it work out without holding one block over for the next month. 

The most important part of being successful when hosting a large swap like this is to keep good records! I have a spreadsheet with every detail documented.  I keep a running tally of who got what from whom posted on the Yahoo Group website and I update it after each monthly swap.  It turned out to be a blessing that my husband bought me a Pocket PC, because I have used it regularly to keep track of this swap and the swappers.  This is the first large scale swap of this kind I have ever hosted and it is a learning experience.  I hope to continue this swap as long as participants are interested in exchanging blocks. 

In the month of February, twenty eight blocks from sixteen different participants were swapped.  Click here to see a photo montage of all the blocks included in the February exchange.

In the month of March, forty three blocks from sixteen different participants were swapped. Click here to see a photo montage of all the blocks included in the March exchange. 

In the month of April, forty three blocks from sixteen participants were swapped.  Click here to see a photo montage of all the blocks included in the April exchange.

There are currently about forty members on the exchange list and they are all participating at different levels of commitment.  Some have yet to send their first block; some have sent one block, and a few have sent several each month.  One person has swapped with virtually everyone on the list already.  All told there have been a total of twenty three different people who have sent blocks to be exchanged since the inception of this swap and 114 blocks have passed through my hands.  Every seems to be having fun, and there is always a sense of excitement in the days following a mail out.  This is an open-ended swap that will continue for at least a year, so there is still room for anyone who would like to join.  Just send an e-mail to the address below, or contact me through the CQMagOnline group on Yahoo. 

This project has made me stretch my CQ skills and made me commit to a regular schedule for creating blocks - something I have never really done in the past.  Besides, what better reason to cut up my wedding dress than to include a piece of it in each one of the blocks I am making for this exchange.  This has been a positive personal experience and I can not wait to have enough blocks of my own to make a Friendship Quilt. 

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