Monday, November 5, 2012

Noche buena second-to-last call

We are down to the second-to-last month of the last block swap of 2012.  As I said in the original post, this is a mostly-copy of the african violet block from Block Lotto in 2011.  It may be an exact copy (that is what I was going for), but as I could not find the original instructions, I made my own.

The directions for the making the swap block are here .  Also, Sophie -the Queen of Block Lotto- was good enough to let me know the original pattern can be found on the Block Lotto's pattern page (go here & scroll down to Violet-they are alphabetical-so rational!).  The Block Lotto pattern has the added advantage of six different sizes (we are still swapping just the 8.5" unfinished/8" finished size). 

The directions for participating in the swap are unchanged, but we have enough new people (& more than a few who swapped, stopped swapping & have started up again) that it is worth a recap:

1-  We swap in sets of FIVE.  You make as many blocks as you like (I would recommend at least six, maybe even seven) but send me FIVE (or ten or fifteen) & you will get FIVE (or ten or fifteen) back.  If you send a quantity that is not divisible by FIVE, I will assume you intended the balance to go to our give-away quilt block thing, better known as 6th Block.  If you send nine blocks, you will get FIVE back & the other four will go to whichever swapper that month asked for them to make a quilt for her (so far, always a 'her') community.  If you send just four blocks, I will hunt you down & kill you.  No, I won't; I will assume all of these are intended for the 6th Block & you will get none back.  No, that is not true either.  You will very likely get all of your own blocks back in your pre-postage-paid envelope because anything that is not divisible by five hurts my brain.  That last one really was true.

2- Blocks are due IN-HOUSE the last Saturday of an even numbered month.  I know there are swaps & other contest-y type things that say 'postmarked by' but I am not that organized.  In a perfect world, the block envelopes all get chucked into a bag hanging off a chair in my kitchen until swap Saturday.  Then, on the following Sunday, I open the envelopes.  This is a switch from the old days when I used to open them as they came, but now we have so many people in the group (>100) that in a big month that means a horrible confusion come swap-time trying to make sure no one gets their own back. 

Where was I?  Right, on that Sunday I open the envelopes, swap & seal the return envelopes.  The blocks that are being returned in postage paid envelopes go out to my truck & wait until I have time to get to our local post office during their peculiar, staggered, money-saving window hours.  This is because even though the postage is paid, any envelope over a particular thickness (& quilt blocks almost always fall into that category) need to be hand cancelled.  In fact, I would say just dropping a thick envelope into a mailbox, even with way-over-the-top postage is maybe the most frequent reason that swap blocks get hung up.  The reason for this fun & not-at-all-inconvenient rule is anthrax.  At least that is what I have been told.

So on Monday (or Tuesday or Wednesday or) I go to the post office & mail the blocks back.  You can see how an envelope postmarked the Saturday before would just not make it in time.  If you mailed your blocks in a timely manner, but they still do not arrive & I know they are en route, we do have options.  There are a few local people who swap & don't get their blocks until I see them, so those can be scrambled at no inconvenience.  The person getting the 6th blocks usually has a bit of a wait because there are often extras that get sent not-for-swapping (often those same locals picking up late) & I like to get the 6th Blocker as much as I can.  The key here is I need to know that the blocks are MIA before I have handed the others around (I would actually rather know they have been sent before the deadline even; you would be stunned how often someone swears up&down they mailed their blocks way-in-time & then they arrive postmarked the day of the swap & now the story is "I thought they needed to be postmarked by the last Saturday of the even numbered, that's the way everyone else does it & you should do it that way, too..."

My personal favorite in this vein is the person who told me her blocks had already been sent about a week before the deadline.  That is, this is when she told me, a week before they were due.  The deadline passes, no blocks.  Another week passes, no blocks & she is not returning my on-line messages.  This is extra not good because she has signed up for not one but two special swaps (we used to have an special swap or two every year around a very particular theme such as 'the months of the year' or 'chanukah/christmas star', that kind of thing that limited the number of participants through an early sign-up & next year we will again, but this is the story of why we had none in 2012).  I finally get through to her & she apologizes, doesn't know what happened, yes she sent the blocks before the deadline, what bad luck they are missing, etc.  She also confirms she is absolutely participating in the second limited swap she signed up for & in fact is mailing those blocks that day, well before the deadline.  The next deadline comes & goes & you can guess, no sign of those blocks either.  I make one attempt to reach her & then give up.  To my surprise I get a reply in which she tells me a close relative died suddenly & that is why she never mailed either set.  & just for gravy she gives me a death-date: a full week after she had already mailed the second set of blocks, per her last message.  I don't know what or if I even replied; I think I just deleted her from the group & got on with my life until....I get  a notice from Facebook that the Quilt Block Swap Group is on double secret probation because a harassment complaint has been made & we are maybe-gonna be disbanded becasue there has been a harassment complaint(I will say this for Facebook, they are spineless; if we had in fact been harassing someone I am more or less convinced we could have happily gone on that way for months).  Of course I have no way of knowing who complained, except there is only one person who complained directly to me that I was harassing her & that was guess-who.  Even more amusing I had at this point made zero attempt to contact her or even reply to any of her messages, which continued to come to me with some regularity, all complaining about my harassment.  To paraphrase Inigo Montoya, "I don't think that word means what you think it means".

3-  Please include an envelope with postage for returning your blocks that has your address written clearly, otherwise my postmistress tosses it back in my face & tells me to go to hell.  Another lie, although she & I have spent many a cozy half hour trying to decipher zip codes.  She is actually a lovely person.  She calls when suspiciously squishy packages addressed to any remotely possible variation of my name & or address you can imagine show up.  She doesn't even make me come in for those mystery packages; she lets me know they are on the truck & if they are not for me, could I send them back tomorrow?  So far they are never not for me.

I used to go into ridiculous detail about the return envelope, saying things like "It is reasonable to assume the postage to get back to you will be the same as the postage to get here" & "please use an envelope that is the same size as the one you mailed your blocks in".  You really would not believe how many people sent blocks in large envelopes with say a dollar or so in postage & thought I could get their swapped blocks back to them in a #10 business envelope with a single first class stamp.  Actually, I think they were not quite making the connection between their outgoing & returning blocks & the role of the self-addressed envelope & postage in that process (seriously).  One person in particular did this every single swap & told me to just drop it in the mailbox, it would get there eventually & she was in no hurry.  Eventually I deleted her from the group.  Yes, I really did that.

Sometimes people send loose stamps or money.  This is fine with me, but I will use all of it.  If you send me five stamps & your envelope only needs three, I do not stand at the counter putting stamps on one at a time & saying "what about now?" to poor Gabriel (the lovely man at the counter almost every time I go; if there is a line he takes one look at me & calls for back-up).  Nope, I slap all those stamps on the envelope & the post office makes out like a bandit.  If you send cash, I pay for your postage & then put the change in whatever save the animals fund they are collecting for at the local feed & seed.  For a long time they were spaying stray kittens, although the last time I was in there it looked like a feed the starving horses group of some kind. One time there was a collection to help pay the medical bills of a family involved in not one but two different drunk driving accidents, but as they were the drunk drivers both times, I refused to give them money.  So I took it to my next errand (the library) & made a donation to the Friends of the Library. instead.

People outside the US can send their blocks & a fat quarter & I will pick up the postage for the return.  Obviously, the address should be included as well but frankly the international packages have never been a problem.  One person in the US asked if she could also pay by fat quarter as that was more convenient & I said sure (& then made the offer to the whole group), but it never happened.  I think the swapper realized that the cost of postage within the US was rarely even half the cost of a fat quarter.

So there it is.  More than you ever (thought you) needed to know about how to send a set of quilt blocks for swapping. Not really much about the current block though.  Sorry about that.

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