Many Hands Make Light Work

We are in the midst of one of the big events of the year around here, and I thought you might like to have a peek into how things are actually run.

This is the fourth year I’ve hostessed the annual Bleuette Stash Swap, an activity I developed in order to help cope with the post-holiday, cabin fever doldrums. The Swap was born on one of the Yahoo groups to which I belong, but this year I decided to open it up to a wider audience, so I created a new group specifically for the Swap. My plans are to have a few other activities for the members sprinkled throughout the year, in addition to this grand kick off event. The basic premise for the Swap is that all of us end up with leftover “stuff” from our projects for our dolls. Minimum purchase might be one yard on a fabric, but we need only half that amount, or we stumble upon a gorgeous bolt of delicate lace on markdown, a box of vintage rickrack at a yard sale, etc. This stuff is wonderful, but our girls don’t want every outfit they own to have the exact same buttons or whatever. The solution is to swap our stash! To that end, each player sends me the items from the list I provide at the start of the event – two fat quarters, 2 yards of lace, 2 yards of other trim, 6-12 buttons, and optionally 2 mystery items and some yarn or thread for crochet or knitting.  These items are to be of an appropriate scale, style, and fiber for our Bleuettes, and not stuff we ourselves wouldn’t use. Each offering is wrapped and labeled, and arrives here with a $5 entry fee (which helps defray the cost of postage and prizes) and a mailing label (which makes the shipping easier and more accurate). We scramble the individual offerings and send them back out, no one getting more than one item from any other player. On Valentine’s Day, everyone opens their loot, grins… laughs… cries… and then phase two begins – the BIG BONUS ROUND. The goal is to use any three of the new treasures to create something for Bleuette or her immediate family – the thought being that a person hasn’t done any stash busting if they just stick the new stuff back on the shelf. Anyone who succeeds in using three items by the first day of spring wins a special prize – no competition among members, only with one’s self. In past years, prizes have been:

  • Year 1 – Bleuette scaled Eiffel Tower purchased beneath the real McCoy, and vintage French lace obtained in a flea market in Saintes (France).
  • Year 2 – A lovely goodie bag from Farmhouse fabric, jammed with vintage fabric, laces, and buttons
  • Year 3 – Fabrics and embroidery yarn brought home from a trip to Honduras

It’s always loads of fun for everyone – even me, once the shipping phase is over. ;o)  And now that I’ve explained the basics, here’s a peek into how the shipping process actually works around here…

There is never a shortage of volunteer workers, as you will see. This year, the boys took over the job of unpacking. Some of the stuff arrived in boxes, so Remy had to climb in and hand stuff down to the littler boys.


Of course, no one was watching Mikkey and Mariette for all of 30 seconds, so we didn’t realize what was going on until Mariette shrieked when she lost her grip on her twin’s foot. Those two…


Packages were toted over to Mariko and Claire who inventoried everything on the master list. This is an important step because of the optional items. We want to be careful to make sure everyone gets back in kind.


Not entirely trusting the little boys for some reason, Flora gathered the money and delivered it to Rikki, who was our acting banker this year.


Once items are checked in, they go to the “mountain,” as the crew was calling it. Memo to self for future years: Don’t leave the room when inventory is nearly finished…


At least this stuff isn’t breakable!


And not to be a tattletale or anything, but yes, I caught Mariette trying to figure out what was in this enticingly curious mystery package. Can’t say as I blame her. The mystery packages about drive me crazy! However, my arm doesn’t fit. ;o)


Next step is to sort all the little packages by type – fat quarters to one stack, lace to another, and so on. The girls were surprised to realize that there was more than 10 yards of fabric in the tower!


While the kids do the sorting, I’m busy creating a second chart designed to make sure that no one gets two items from the same swapper, none of their own, and everyone gets what they should. This also solves mysteries like “Uh-oh! There’s a package of buttons left over!” I can just check the chart to see where they belong instead of opening every single packed envelope and box. When everything is sorted and the chart is ready, we chase the little ones out of the way and get down to the serious work. Each of the older volunteers has his or her own station, and I must say they make an excellent team! I was very proud of their efforts this year. We only had two small mistakes, and it was the biggest Swap we’ve ever packed!


The last step is mine – taking the mountain of parcels off to the post office. I’m glad I live in a small town at times like this, and even more glad that we have such a wonderful and friendly postmistress. It took nearly 45 minutes to get everything finished up and paid, and I came home ready for a nap. Even with the help of my crew, the project took me 6 hours longer than I’d set aside, and I was tired! I went to tell the kids I was going to lay down for a while, and was very glad I did. I’d made another error in judgment, it seems…


In response to my calm and evenly tempered query into what was going on, Mikkey explained, “We is getting us a be-cation! Gonna see Tante Nancy!” Memo two to self: Stop saying, “I need to get myself packed for the trip…” Sigh…

Published in: on February 11, 2009 at 12:11 am  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. ohmygoodness, De-De, Seeing all your helpers is a real treat! It’s so wonderful and fun. Thanks for all the work on this, it is really looked forward to!

  2. Hi De-De! Looks like a lot of work and MUCH Fun!!!!

  3. DeDe! I just today happened on your Blog. WONDERFUL! LOVE the photos for the story. Keep up the good work!! Beth W from Buffalo area

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