Monday, March 14, 2016


A few years ago I started hosting handmade goods exchanges. It started organically, after I started canning and some close friends wanted to learn how. I hosted canning days in which I and a couple friends would make and can batch after batch of jams. It became apparent that we maybe didn't each need a dozen jars of the same kind of jam, at least not for a childless adult who only eats a normal amount of PB&Js, such as myself. Once they felt comfortable canning on their own, I suggested that since they'd be canning at home and we each didn't necessarily need the full yield of any one batch, that we swap our extras.

I found an article on Pinterest about a community handmade goods swap somewhere on the east coast and decided to expand our parameters to anything homemade/handmade/homegrown. As the word got out it became popular pretty quickly; more friends wanted to learn how to can and get in on the swap. I started a Facebook group to accommodate it, named it Homespun and began hosting canning workshops for interested friends and acquaintances as well as planning bi-monthly or quarterly exchanges. Some of the exchanges I read about employ a barter system in which the exchange is like a market, and you'd have to have a desirable item to entice a trade for the item you covet. We decided as a group that as long as it isn't a huge number of people participating in any one exchange, we'd rather each bring one for everyone, and go home with one of everything. So far that has been a well-liked system.

Doing this has pushed me to explore food-crafts towards which I might otherwise not have ventured. I'm sure I'll miss something, but so far for Homespun I have made from scratch: sunflower seed butter, pickled garlic, pickled jalapenos, almond butter, mozzarella cheese, olive tapenade, barbecue sauce, grenadine, taco seasoning, strawberry lemonade concentrate, and just this last weekend, marshmallows. Some people make canned goods, some dried goods, textiles, or soap. It's really fun and inspiring to see what everyone else makes, and exciting to go home with a haul of surprise items that are quality and handmade goods made by people you've met. I especially love receiving homegrown vegetables or eggs from backyard chickens. Gathering for the trade also gives everyone the chance to discuss what went into making things or exchange recipes.

It has been suggested that I ought to turn this into a business, and while I love doing it and do plan to continue, I haven't found any way for it to generate revenue while preserving the core principles of what it is. I wouldn't want to charge anyone to participate. The price of admission is your handmade contribution. The canning workshops could potentially be a source of income, however, most of the people I've taught are friends and I was happy to spend the time with them. I think it boils down to the fact that I wouldn't be a very good entrepreneur, because I'd rather organize and host these for free than risk excluding someone. I'd rather have your presence and creativity than your money.

Last Saturday was one of many successful exchanges, and I look forward to the next. I just have to think of what I'll make. Hmm...

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