Over in our Facebook group UK Quilters United, we’ve completed seven Mini Swaps since 2015.

In the simplest explanation possible you are allocated a team and given the name of another team member to make a mini quilt for, and someone will make one for you, all in secret. It’s great fun.

But each team is allocated a Mumma – someone who watches over the team, makes sure they are on track, answers questions, helps with design and is generally there to make sure you have a good experience.

I have run the swap most years, some years other Admin have run it but we all also take on a Mumma role and have a team. As far as running it goes, I’m the person that announces the next swap, finds Mummas, and most importantly writes the Google form which asks lots of pertinent questions about your likes and dislikes for your partner. I start a new group for each swap, start a group for the Mummas to chat in, and gather any information together that we’ve learnt over the years – the rules, previous forms to copy, rules for the Mummas and makes everything available in the right places.

Being a Mumma is an interesting job. Some Mummas come back time and time again, some find it just too much and there’s rarely a shortage of members offering to ‘learn’ on the job.

To start, we all chat about the rules, the dates of the swap and make sure we all know what’s going where. The form is offered up in the swap group to be filled in for anyone joining in and the results go on a Google sheet – a spreadsheet that’s online and all the Mummas can access, but no one else can (we care about your privacy, it’s a very secure method of information gathering) Then when the entries are closed, the spreadsheet is sorted by me into teams and each batch of information given to a Mumma. Mummas get between 10 and 25 team members depending on how many people are in the swap, and how many Mummas we have.

Each Mumma sorts their spreadsheet out and allocates partners, and announces in the Facebook group who is in her team. Each team is called #TEAMJULIET (or whatever their name is) and the Mumma makes a banner piccy to identify her posts. This is mine this year. The banner piccy can be anything, I just happen to use guinea pigs.

Then the Mumma writes  out a letter to each team member, including some of the details off the spreadsheet letting them know who their partner is, what she put down as likes and dislikes, and themes she likes. If you know how to make that happen automatically you’re very lucky, most of us have to very carefully copy and paste for an hour. Each letter is emailed out making sure to gel the right letter to the right person and then the fun can really begin! Questions are asked in the FB group, always starting with their #TEAM****** to find out all sorts of useful information about their partner, by asking the whole team and then picking out the answer you were really looking for. Got to keep your partner secret! As a Mumma this is the most exhausting part – writing and sending out the letters and making sure everyone knows who they’re making for. There is often a few people who realise they will not be able to continue with the swap and at this early stage it’s not too hard to remove them and find them a new member who missed the sign up to take their place, but it does take time and effort to get everyone squared away.

The Mummas use either the spreadsheet or a notebook to write down who is making for whom, and to tick off various stages, such as ‘has a pattern’ ‘has the fabrics’ ‘has made a start’ ‘has finished the top’ etc. It’s important to keep track of your team so that everyone finishes on time. Some members ask their Mumma if they are confused about what to make, to confirm their idea is okay, or to let them know if they will be on holiday at some point during the swap.

Then you have to remember you have to make a mini for a partner too! In all the Mumma’ing, it’s easy to forget you also are in a team! It’s important not to look at other Mumma’s parts of the spreadsheet, you don’t want to accidentally find out who is making for you! So it’s time to ask your own questions and gather some information about your own partner. Honestly though, who is making for me is something I don’t think about whatsoever, I’m always so full of managing my team, and remembering that I’m in a team, to even contemplate who is asking questions to find out about me. You need to make sure all of your team answers as many questions as possible and answer as many yourself because the more information floating about the easier it is for each member to choose what to do.

For Carol Flynn
For Victoria Peat
For Donna Marie Selwood
For Emma Branch
For Gillian Bennett
For Noelle Burdett
For Mouse BAmford

These are the seven mini quilts that I have made for my swap partners over the years. Each one was made by carefully considering my partners likes, the kind of quilts she makes herself, the kind of thing she likes but would not attempt herself, personality, things learnt from her Facebook profile. I hope they were all appreciated as much as I liked them!!

So there you have it- Mumma’ing Part 1. For now we just keep an eye on our teams – there’s over two months to go till the end of the swap, and that’s where it gets really interesting again… I’ll tell you how in Part 2!