Spoonflower I Spy: How It All Went Down

Before we begin the nitty gritty I Spy discussion, I must first say that today is the best day of my entire life so far.

Okay, that’s pretty dramatic. But it’s a really, really happy crafterhours day, because ADRIANNA WILL BE AT MY HOUSE IN JUST A FEW HOURS! We are pretty darn excited to get together. And… well.. we don’t know what to expect from the kids. Reuniting the four children after six months of only seeing each other on Skype and all sorts of developmental leaps and bounds promises to make for a fun few days, right? We’re hoping SOMETHING crafty will happen, after all, they have to go to bed eventually, right? A full report will be posted, I assure you.

Until then, I’ll attempt to entertain you with I Spy excitement. If you have no interest in I Spy fabric projects or swaps or Spoonflower or anything related to any of the above, my sincerest apologies. Please skip right on ahead to whatever is next in your reader queue and make a mental note that crafterhours has failed you today.

Even if you ARE interested in any of the above, you might find this to be a bit overly informative. And if you agree, you too may make a mental note that crafterhours has failed you today. I’ve done my best to break up the wordiness with some pretty pretty imagery to pretty pretty up the story. Like this! Oooooh!
Still reading? Mildly interested? Well, let me set the scene for you.

In the middle of July I found myself quarantined in a hotel suite. My husband and older daughter were visiting friends and running errands while I enjoyed the blissful quiet… in-between the intermittent feverish shrieks of pain emitted by my younger daughter. What began as a cold had become more sinister and we had a few days of snuggling and sleeping and slow healing that allowed me some quality time with my computer and a few brain cells.

With this time to sit and think, I thought about the crafty projects I wanted to work on when we had eventually settled into a house– and again had crafty time and space. I thought about how much I liked some of the I Spy-useable fabrics on Spoonflower. But at $11/fat quarter or $18/yard? Not practical.
But a swap! A swap would make it practical. -ish. And now that all of the corresponding, moderating, cutting, sorting, packing and mailing is complete, I can talk about how it happened. And here’s evidence that it’s DONE: (Note: My deepest appreciation to the postal worker who calmly contained her anxiety when I walked up to her desk with this in hand)
In order for a swap to work, the numbers had to be right. And by doing a Spoonflower I Spy Swap, we were venturing into the unknown. I couldn’t find any indication that anyone had done it before. Let the nail biting and by the seat of the pants flying begin! It’s extreme crafting, folks. Talk to your doctor before trying this at home. Or therapist. Or both. But don’t talk to Adrianna. She has no interest in anything I Spy. She doesn’t “get” it. She’ll just say “why would you want to do that when you could be sewing?”
Firstly, I decided to ignore Adrianna. Secondly, I had to decide what size squares to go with. Using the zoom feature and browsing fabrics on Spoonflower, it looked to me that if I went with 4″ squares, we’d be limited by the scale of prints available. With the cost of $18/yard plus shipping, fussy cutting would not be practical. We’d need each square to include identifiable objects. It appeared to me that by going with a 5″ square we’d have enough selection to work with.*
Each yard of Spoonflower quilting weight cotton has a printable area of about  42″ x 36″. When cut into 5″ squares, that creates 56 squares per yard with an inch or two remaining on two sides. If we could get 56 participants and each bought, cut and swapped two yards, that means each participant would get 112 different Spoonflower I Spy prints in return. Gulp. Could I find 56 people willing to spend over $40 and invest the time and energy?

I had to try. And I didn’t have a good therapist to talk me out of it. And Care gently confirmed that I might be nuts for trying, but she agreed to participate anyway. I tiptoed forward.
BUT WAIT! How could we be sure that participants chose 112 different fabrics? Otherwise we could have 47 of these on the left and 64 of those on the right? (Left side objectionable to me, right side objectionable to Adrianna simply for the purple factor.)
Easy. A closed Flickr group can solve that problem. Only the 56 chosen ones can upload, so that at the end we know exactly which 112 are in and can avoid duplicates. That also allowed me to keep a eye on the scale of prints to try to avoid any that would need to be fussy-cut or were generally problematic. After the 112 are in, the group can then be a place for Swap folks to post what they make. Perfect!
So finally I posted the swap here. I was so nervous that I wouldn’t have enough participants to make it work– and so I jumped around on I Spy and quilting blogs, posting it in places that I thought like-minded people might find it. And within about 48 hours we had our 56 participants. People joined just by commenting on the post, and then I e-mailed the particulars of the swap, including facts like:
– the Flickr pool information
– deadlines
– cutting information: no pre-washing, no tearing, pair your squares
– my mailing address for the cut squares and a self-addressed, stamped envelope
Folks jumped right in. There were fun discussions on the flickr group board where people suggested fabrics and talked through issues with viewing, uploading, Spoonflower questions and Flickr tricks. There were lots of e-mails to and fro from folks who were planning to make their first quilt, place their first Spoonflower order, use Flickr for the first time or making sure their fabric selection would work.

Fairly early on… we hit a snag. The original timeline would have to be pushed back. Spoonflower orders were taking about three weeks to print and ship– and I hadn’t anticipated it taking so long. 
* A second snag: What I didn’t know until after fabric selection had begun is that after a print is selected there is (or was? I haven’t tried it again yet) an option to resize the print. Sounds like a great option, right? More fabrics can be sized for the swap, right? Ummm…. yes and no. We found out the hard way that in a few cases the resizing resulted in a smaller than usual print area, with a wider than usual border. Because we were cutting almost all of the print area into swap squares, that meant that there weren’t enough squares. So a few folks worked with customer service at Spoonflower and found out that the re-size option is only supposed to be available to the designer, not to other buyers. (Disclaimer: this is hearsay on my part.) It sounded to me like Spoonflower was pretty helpful in resolving the problem for this handful of folks, and re-printed and speedily shipped fabric for those who needed it.

As packages of squares arrived, I opened each one and took a photo of the squares and the envelope. I was terrified I’d lose track of who had sent what and what had arrived. And as a matter of fact, my concern was well-founded. I did lose one package. Well, the squares. I still have the envelope they came in and had the return envelope. But the squares? Nowhere to be found. And if I could have chosen one package NOT to lose? It would have been Care‘s. And of COURSE it was Care’s that I lost. (Maybe I put hers somewhere “safe”?)

There were other challenges along the way. None insurmountable, just those that cause delays for everyone so patiently waiting. But now that the packages are out of my hands, I’m getting messages that are so great to find in my inbox that say “I just got my squares!”

And now? We wait. We create. We share. We see what others are creating and sharing. I’m as mushy as a forgotten overripe banana on a sunny windowsill just thinking about how cool it will be to see what’s produced with it. And there’s a Flickr pool waiting for uploads. Carolina was so excited she made a pincushion from her scraps!

Now that you’ve read through allllll of that discussion, really, truly, I’ve saved the best for last. Here’s a teeny tiny look at what the swappers got:

112 squares. 56 sets. That’s 6,272 squares. Teacups, sewing machines, chairs, elephants, beakers, cars, gumball machines, dominoes…
Mushrooms, parrots, foxes, pandas, bananas, xylophones….

And lots more. Lots, lots, lots more. So this is it for posts about swap mechanics. From this day forward, only posts about what we’re MAKING with Spoonflower I Spies! I promise!

Unless Adrianna hosts a swap?


  1. jasmina says

    Super cool! I just recently discovered the wonderful world of craft blogs, and I’ve seen a few posts about the I Spy swap and wondered what it was all about….what a great idea – Thanks for sharing!

  2. says


    I am so excited about my stack of squares! I was just talking to Cammie (another swapper) yesterday about what to do with them. I determined that I must hoard them and stroke them for a little while before I can decide. :o) What a fantastic group of squares!

    Thank you for having enough insanity — er — GUMPTION to go through with the swap. So, SO fun!!

    **Oh, and have a great time with Adrianna!!! Can’t wait to see what you two cook up!**

  3. says

    Great post, and thanks so much for being our fearless leader! Just got my package last night, in fact, so I am VERY excited to start planning my quilt!

  4. says

    Mine came too! My 12 year old daughter was trying to claim some of them for her own: )

    I wanted to tell you that I really liked the way you organized the swap. I had only ever heard of an eye spy quilt 3 days before I saw a link to this swap. 2 yards of fabric seemed very doable. I’ve seen several swaps since then where they wanted 10 different fabrics per person to participate– pretty overwhelming for a beginner. So thanks for making it easy!

  5. says

    you forgot to mention how INCREDIBLY patient and accomodating you were for us international participants! this was my first swap, only my second spoonflower order ever, and my first time using flicker… everyone was very helpful along the way! it’s so exciting to so many pics of my monster fabric! i’ve never seen it in person yet and i’m SO EXCITED!

  6. says

    Hmmmm… I’m not usually one for I Spy quilts, but I think my daughter might really like this when she gets older (I am a huge sucker for the books). I think I’d definitely be in if you did it again!

  7. says

    I got my fabrics! First thing I did was sort them by color! : ) Thank you so much for the hours and hours you spent organizing, sorting, stacking, e-mailing, posting, and mailing! I’m not quite sure what I’ll be doing with all of my yummy fabrics, but I am sooooo glad that I got in on the swap!! : )

  8. says

    they arrived today! i’d forgotten about them entirely and was yanking on the envelope trying to wrench it out of the mailbox with my giant mittens on, and when i got it inside and opened it up…


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