I had no idea what I was doing, but, scissors in hand, I happily sliced away at what was once a favorite T-shirt during last weekend's Bay Area Swap-O-Rama-Rama. I had never been to a swap before, but organized swapping has been gaining momentum across the country and online.
Swapping is when people trade items, typically giving up things they don’t want for things they do. It can be a thrifty way to makeover a wardrobe, restock a makeup cabinet, or refresh a bookshelf with unread titles, all while keeping unwanted items out of the landfill.
The Swap & Sew I attended took place in a gallery. There were sewing machines, snacks, and tables where swappers could put items that were up for grabs. I had read ahead and brought a bag full of old clothes, intending to combat my hoarder tendencies by culling my closet, but my intentions were thwarted when I found myself wanting to take home as many clothes as I was giving up. Tables quickly became piled with items, and were restocked with each wave of participants.
After perusing the items up for grabs I decided to venture into a DIY Reverse Applique T-Shirt workshop. Some participants (experts?) wielded their own stencils and shirts, while others, me included, were less prepared. The two organizers were more than happy to help.
I quickly got to hacking away at my old t-shirt and struck up conversations with the people around me. Most had never been to a swap, but they had all brought items to give away and found items they wanted to take home. Though some had never done a DIY project like the reverse applique technique, they were encouraged by the organizers. Anytime anyone said, “I think I did this wrong” they were told that there was no “wrong” way, and that doing it wrong was actually perfect.
At the end of the day I left with a bag full of "new" clothes, a shirt I had resigned to never wear again, and a headful of ideas for revamping my closet. I was also pretty excited at the prospect of another sewing circle full of impromptu conversation.
How you can swap
If joining an online swap forum, make sure you read the guidelines. Many of these online communities have rules and regulations. There are often rigorous verification processes in place to ensure the safety and security of members and transactions. On Reddit there are communities for clothes, nail polish, bras, makeup, books and more. Some are more stringent in their screening process than others. Always use caution when sharing personal information online.
If you want to give stuff away but don't want anything in return, check out Freecycle.org. The site has a list of freecycling groups by location. You must ask to join the groups, but after you're approved, you can post and browse freely.
Go to a clothing swap Meetup.
--Cover image courtesy of iStock/gemenacon
Bianca Hernandez is an editorial intern at Sierra. She recently received her MA in Visual Anthropology from the University of Southern California and has written for various publications.