Tuesday 27 January 2009

To hostess...or not to hostess

I have had several people ask at various points if I was going to run a third round of this swap, and after a great deal of thought, I think I probably will, but with several caveats. The first is that I think this round, when it's announced (which won't be just yet) will be an Art Quilt only round. The second, and more important, is that this round is going to be by invitation only. I'm not going to accept anyone I haven't swapped with before and not going to allow in anyone who I have had to spent serious time nagging. I'm sure you know who you are! If I don't get enough players by invitation, I may accept some swappers with extremely good references, but we'll burn that bridge when we come to it, so to speak...

There is a good reason for this, and in the interest of fairness and because I think it's important that you guys are aware of what goes on behind the scenes of these swaps, I've decided to talk about it a little. Feel free to skip the following paragraphs, if you don't care!

As some of you know, I have had some problems with round 2 of this swap (round one produced almost no problems at all, which was lovely - and perhaps unusual, unfortunately). Two quilts were lost in the post. I have no reason to suspect that they weren't mailed and given the number of players, I suppose it's not too surprising some were lost. Annoying, yes, but not surprising. Both were US internal mailings, which leads me to stress to you all - please pay the extra few dollars to send this sort of thing registered/signature required/whatever. Two people who have been reliable in the past had some personal issues and were originally late with their quilts - I have subsequently not heard from either of them, so have no idea if they are going to complete their committment or not. One person vanished completely part way through the swap and has never been heard from since. And one person produced a quilt with some serious construction issues, which had to be replaced.

All the missing quilts have now been replaced, so everyone should have in their possession a mini quilt from this swap. Which is good. And thanks to those who were angels or who offered to be!

However, what is STILL causing me stress is the saga of the quilt which was badly quilted. I have mentioned this before, so I won't go into cast quantities of detail, but in a nutshell - the quilt top was pretty and fairly well constructed, but in a hope to get it finished on time, the maker machine quilted it when she'd never tried machine quilting before. It didn't work. The recipient contacted me, said she was unhappy with it and asked what to do. I, at this point, asked to see some photos of the problems. This was so I could check that the recipient wasn't being overly fussy - after all, this is a swap, you take some risks that you will receive something not as well made as you could do yourself due to lesser skills. She sent me photos - she was right, the quilting was VERY bad. The quilt had huge rucks - on the front. It had holes in the seam. This quilt was, frankly, not acceptable.

So I wrote to the maker. I have yet to work out a way to tell someone that their work isn't very good without causing some hurt, however, I did take great care to be as kind as possible and I did mention that I had seen photos of the quilt - this was to reassure her that I was not simply taking someone's word for it, but that I was verifying for myself just was involved. It's not my aim to humiliate people or be the Uber Quilt Police, but on the other hand, I would not have wanted to display this quilt myself, with the problems in the quilting, and it is my responsibility to assure that everyone receives a quilt which is acceptable. Not perfect necessarily, not their dream quilt, but acceptable.

After some negotiation, it was agreed that the recipient would return the quilt and the maker would keep it herself. And here's where it begins to get bizarre. The maker posted on her blog about this. Which is fine - I have no objection to that AT ALL. I also have no objection to her mentioning what swap it was, that I was the hostess or who the recipient was. But I did remind her to take care when mentioning the swap that her comments - in particular those about me - were fair. I may well have reminded her that I had seen photos of the quilt and could therefore provide evidence to back up all of the points I raised about her work. To this end, I was accused of keeping the photos in order to "blackmail her into not talking about the swap" - frankly, this is complete and utter bullshit. She can talk about it all she likes. She should go for it. I just don't want my name slandered. And although so far I have neither mentioned her name or shown the photos to illustrate just how bad the work is, you can imagine how sorely tempted I am at this point! I'm not going to do it, though, as I am not a mean-spririted person. I also find it rather telling that although she had a long rant about it on her blog and gathered lots of sympathy from others, she didn't show photos there of her quilting. That may simply be because she hadn't taken them, but I suspect that if she had, she'd have had a lot less sympathy. But it's not my aim to humiliate people or be mean, so I didn't go down that road.

As if this wasn't enough, although the recipient agreed to return the maker's quilt, she STILL has not done so. I appreciate there are some issues with that, which we have discussed privately, but frankly, it's getting ridiculous and I have a lot of sympathy with the maker, who not surprisingly, has been in touch with me several times checking to see where her quilt is. I'd have even more if she hadn't accused me of the whole blackmail thing.

And you know what? I am SO BORED of this. For heaven's sake ladies, grow up, and act like adults. Recipient - mail the quilt back. Do it now. Just do it. Maker - if she doesn't send the quilt back, live with it - you still have the quilt you got from the swap itself, which I did NOT ask you to return, so you really have nothing to complain about.

As for what either of them says about me at this point, I have stopped caring. I think my reputation can take it. I have hosted a number of swaps and have never let anyone finish a swap without the quilt (or blocks) they were entitled to, even if it meant making them myself. I have spent far more time than I should have had to following up and chasing people and listening to complaints, settling disputes, and so on. On the other end of things, I have participated in many, many swaps over the years and have never been late with anything I was due to make by more than a week, and frankly, rarely even that much. And on the few occasions where I was going to be late with something, I LET THE PEOPLE INVOLVED KNOW, whether it was the hostess in a centralised swap or the recipients in a direct swap (like with a batch of postcards). I do pretty good work and would never send anything out which wasn't up to scratch. And where I feel my work has any issues at all or where I'm not sure I've correctly interpreted someone's preferences, I have always offered to make something different if the piece doesn't suit.

So, that's all I have to say (if the word "all" can be applied to so long a rant as that!) - if you are still reading all the way down here, well, what can I say. Thanks for your interest. As for ALQS3, look for that in the spring - if you aren't invited to take part, I hope you will at least come along and look at some of the work produced. Despite all the sagas, I have to say, ALQS2 produced some AMAZING quilts and hopefully, a lot of happy swappers.