Contest: Secret Pal 9 and the Lure of the Swap
Yesterday, I signed up for the Secret Pal 9 swap. I haven't participated in any of the previous 8 Secret Pal swaps, but I've enviously been reading posts about Swap 8 and thinking to myself that I have to get in on the next one. I've participated in smaller swaps hosted by Spindlers and MDK Swapcloth...it was only a matter of time before I went for the big 'un.
I've been wondering why I like swaps so much, whether of the anonymous, "secret pal" variety or the more straightforward, barter-type "I send you something and you send me something of equal value in lieu of cash" swap. After all, I recently got burned pretty badly when I sent off 3 pounds (yes, you read that right -- 3 pounds) of superwash merino in a barter deal and got absoltely nothing back for it, not even after many emails, a list mom intervention and a certified snail-mail letter. (Laurel Smith of Adkins, TX, if you happen to read this, I'm still waiting for my alpaca.) DH asked me as much after the "Superwash Incident," as it's come to be called in our house, and I think I've figured it out.
As a kid, I always loved surprise packages. I would dutifully send off my $1.99 (or $3.99, or -- if I managed to save up enough of my allowance for the giant-sized package, which in all honesty I don't think I ever did -- $7.99) for a Mystery Surprise Package from one of the knick-knack catalogs that my mom always got in the mail around Christmastime. I would then wait with anticipation until the day that my package arrived in the mail. They were always full of junk, whatever the mail-order company ordered too much of or hadn't sold enough of, but I loved it all nonetheless. I pretty much just loved opening up a box with no idea of what could be inside, knowing it was full of...stuff. Maybe great stuff, maybe kitschy stuff, maybe (probably) stuff I never would have bought if I'd seen it out on a shelf. No matter; if it came in a Mystery Surprise Package, the experience alone was enough to justify the expense.
As an adult, I no longer send away for random boxes of Carol Wright-esque crap. But, I still just love a surprise.
And so I'm willing to take a chance that the bulk of the knitters and spinners in this world are honest. I'm willing to send something off to someone else and get something back in return, sight unseen. And even moreso than in a barter-type exchange, I'm willing -- no, not just willing, actually eager, truly looking forward to -- putting together packages of stuff for a person I've never met; stuff picked with thought and care in the hope that the recipient will love getting that surprise box just as much as I enjoyed getting my surprise boxes all those years ago. And judging by the popularity of fiber swaps of all types, I'm not alone.
Are we fiber-folk just weird? I mean, I don't see the people on DH's listservs (mostly martial-arts and weapons-related sites) arranging to swap personalized gis or handmade pocketknives.
Hmm. I wonder what it is about fiber-folk that can account for that level of generosity, that degree of joy received in the giving. While some knit-lit writers (the Yarn Harlot comes to mind) write, mainly in jest, about not wanting to share their stash, I find that for the most part, fiber-folk are more than willing to do just that, whether in the form of sending stash yarns to people who had lost theirs, knitting for a variety of charities, or just making and giving handmade gifts to those they love. There must be some sort of chicken-and-egg conundrum going on here: Does working with fiber make people more giving, or are generous people somehow drawn to working with fiber?
In the spirit of giving, therefore, I'm creating a little contest. Leave a comment with your answer to the question above (Does working with fiber make people more giving, or are generous people somehow drawn to working with fiber?) and why you think it's so. I'll pick one answer that I think is particularly nifty and reward the writer with a surprise. The surprise will be a good one, and I may just check out the writer's blog a bit to get an idea of how to tailor the surprise to suit his or her likes and dislikes. So put your thinking caps on, everyone, and let me know what you think!