So, what goes on in the Mini Swap? It is a closed group,so once you miss the sign up,which is usually a week or so, you won’t see anything until the end. Here, I will reveal all.

I think the first UKQU Mini Swap was about 6 or 7 years ago. Someone ( Juliet Nice perhaps) had a brilliant idea, and – off it went! Groups were formed, friends were made, for a while, or for ever, and imaginations laboured over the perfect little quilt to send your mystery partner. Some were fun, some were frankly fabulous, some were subtle,some were riotous with colour but all were made with a lot if care and a pinch of love. Some years saw lots of animals, some years saw lots of pictures, some years saw lots of traditional patterns. But all Swaps saw lots of careful planning by the makers , sneaky stalking of the partner, fun exchanges between groups, and imaginative gift creation. Some years we had 2 swaps, the Spring one and a Christmas one! I know I have made 8, but I am not always sure which belongs in which swap.

*If you don’t know the basic rules, this is for you. If you do, feel free to miss this bit.

You sign up with a proforma which teases out strands of your likes and dislikes.

You are assigned a group; you will have said how experienced you are so you can be matched. You agree to keep in touch with your group and your leader, Swap Mumma.

You start asking and answering lots of questions and begin peeking at your partner’s likes and dislikes, answers and hints, until and after you feel you have an idea. Because while you need to know what to make for your swapee, the third person in this triangle needs to know what to make for you!

You make your mini. Up to 20” square, made of cotton.

You choose your gift, usually set at a low price, but many people make their gift. For instance I received a fabulous Bionic Bag made by my swap Jean Hobbs, last year. It is far better than any I could achieve!

You send it off once your Mumma tells you: signed for, tracked, no lost quilts here! And you…wait….

There are pitfalls! You may love purple and hate pink, your swap may hate purple and love pink. So, do you make something you hate? Or do you add in some of you? I always go by my swapee’s answers, but, because I am the maker, it will never be the purple s/he sees – but then I adore colour, any colour, so it doesn’t matter to me if s/he adores neon orange and green op art fabrics or taupe and grey. She may love nothing but stars, but you decide on wonky stars, random stars, sparkly stars…..whatever you wish.

Or you may find the perfect idea, just outside your comfort zone. That’s ok! Tone it down-applique instead of fpp perhaps, or upsize very fiddly blocks, or else use this chance to learn something new and go for it! After all, the mini will only be 20” or so and you have lots of time. Maybe you want to embellish but are not very skilled. Again, it is not the Sistine Chapel or the Forth Road Bridge. It is a mini quilt and anything is possible.

Along the way, there are also benefits: new quilts to be viewed, new skills are learned, new ideas discussed, new friends made. Because I take part, I have learned to Foundation Paper Piece, so sew accurate curves, to free-motion quilt and to applique. A bonus is that from seeing sludgy colours as unappealing, I now see the beauty in fine gradations of colour. Look at Yoko Saito’s taupe creations if you don’t believe me!

As a rule, your Swap Mumma will ok your idea before you start and must see your finished work by the deadline. Lots of chivvying goes on here! There is nothing as impatient as a group of swappers desperate for the unveiling!

And then, we reveal our surprise delivery! We put up a picture, thanking our swap, who will have tried hard to picture and to please us. I have received perfect sunshine arcs, gentle appliqué leaves, stunning batik Drunkard’s paths, vivid geometrics, and a lovely bright, black-based quilt which my husband loved so much he asked if we could hang it in our bedroom which it matched perfectly! So we did.

If it is not to our liking, perhaps we could have been clearer. Perhaps we could have shown more of your ideals, or answered more questions. Perhaps we stopped engaging so much once we knew where we were headed?

Why do we do it? For all the above reasons. The mystery, the camaraderie, the pleasure of making, the joy of receiving, the feeling of belonging, the being part of a tribe which “gets” us. And of course, the shopping! You never quite have exactly what you need in your stash. Odd, isn’t it?

So, beginner or professional, there is a place for you. Will I see you there next year? Look out for the announcement!