Sunday, 10 December 2017

Swaps, surprises and the joy of giving

 Everyone loves getting a parcel!

But a lot of the post I receive on a daily basis is pretty boring - bills, glossy ads from companies I once patronised, lenders pressing me to sign up for yet another credit card and unsolicited charity mailshots.  Most goes directly into the recycling bin.  I love getting packages in the post and that's what first made me curious about swaps. 

I signed up to the Perfect Strangers swap when it began in 2013.  Throwback to a younger me!  At the time I was subscribing to Oh Comely magazine which organises this on-line event. 
Here's some of  the goodies my American swap partner sent me.  I never took a photo of the contents of the parcel I posted to the States - I only know I enjoyed assembling the contents and wrapping them up in the knowledge they'd make someone, somewhere smile.  The downside was that the postage cost me more than the contents were worth!  Hey, ho - you live and learn.

The following year I signed up again and you could tell your partner a little bit about yourself and what you liked.  You could also choose to have a partner in the same country as yourself so postage costs were more manageable.  I knew my swap partner was a young woman with a sweet tooth who liked Disney.  Here's what I sent to her.
I crocheted her a scarf...
... and must have mentioned that I was a knitter as here's what I received.

Two years ago I took part in two swaps for knitters.  I'd started listening to knitting podcasts around that time and was enjoying being part of the crafting community on Ravelry, the world-wide on-line go-to site for knitters, crocheters, spinners and dyers. I joined the groups associated with the podcasts I liked and followed the discussion threads.  

The Caithness Craft Collective podcast is hosted by lovely Louise Hunt, who I've been lucky enough to meet, and she organised a swap where you had to make a decoration and include something for the other person to make or do.  Here's my parcel contents, destined for Oregon, including the crocheted Christmas tree I made, one I bought and some Scottish bits and bobs - a calendar and National Trust tea towel.  I also included a wee kit to sew a felt gingerbread man and some stickers.
Caroline, my swap partner, blew me away with her thoughtfulness, even including some treats for our pets.  I got a Christmas themed project bag, handy snips, glitzy tape, a pad of postcards to colour in and a multi-tip gel pen.
But it was her handmade item which nearly made me cry - hand knitted bobble hat bunting!  How cute is this?

Another Christmas swap  from 2015 was coordinated by the Shinybees Podcast, hosted by the inimitable Jo Milmine for her listeners.  This time the swap was yarn related and all participants had to upload a photo to reflect the colours they liked.  

Unfortunately, I didn't keep note of what I sent to Katy from London but she saw my inspiration photo of a vibrant tree in spring and sent me this gorgeous zingy hand-dyed yarn from one of my favourite indie dyers, Jess from Ginger Twist Studios.  Katy also included a Christmas tree decoration and family favourite Lindor chocolates. They didn't last long as I remember!

These swaps were such fun that this year I decided to take part in the Caithness Craft Collective Podcast swap once again.  My partner this time is Laila from Denmark and we had to make, or buy, a decoration to fit with our partner's holiday traditions and tell them about where we live.  

A few days ago my parcel arrived from Laila containing the most beautiful natural Christmas tree decoration, a handwritten note about Laila's home and some delicious mint chocolates.
I had real fun making my decoration for Laila.  Following this cute pattern by Sarah at Imagined Landscapes, I followed her pattern modifications to knit Santa-esque Gnicholas Gnome.  In fact, I may have made more than one...
Gnicholas was accompanied on his journey to Denmark by some Scottish soap, tablet, biscuits and a key ring.  I also enclosed a tourist map of my village and a personal letter.
Swapping with a stranger I have found over the years to be a heart warming experience and there's as much to be gained from the act of giving as there is in receiving.  Making something personal for my swap partner is something I enjoy, as is finding appropriate little gifts for their parcel.  I love wrapping the items carefully so the package is pretty.

I will treasure my new Danish tree decoration from Laila and hope she likes her knitted Scottish gnome.  They say 'it's better to give than to receive' and I couldn't agree more.  (but getting stuff rocks too!)


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