Making FibreShare Friends
In 2015, Ashley Thurman, a weaver from the United States, and Cherry Greenslade, a crocheter from Australia, came up with a simple idea: an online fiber and yarn swap between friends. It received an enthusiastic response from participants. We asked current FibreShare organizers Ashley Thurman and Beth Meyer, also from the United States, to tell us about the friendly exchange.
Spin Off (SO): How many shares have you facilitated? What countries participate besides the United States?
FibreShare (FS): We’ve had eight shares so far and generally aim to have three rounds of FibreShare each year. In our most recent round, we had 1,691 participants spanning thirty-five countries. Overall, our largest base is definitely from the United States, but we also have hundreds of folks signing up from Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. We’ve also had participants from Denmark, Finland, France, Israel, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Brazil, Belgium, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland, even Bahrain! We love the idea that people from so many parts of the world are connecting through yarn and the spirit of giving. Editor’s note: Since this article was first published in the Fall 2017 issue of Spin Off, participation in FibreShare has grown to a grand total of 7,259 participants from 48 countries.
SO: What are some of the biggest logistical challenges in organizing FibreShare?
FS: There is a ton of behind-the-scenes work that isn’t glamorous. The two biggest challenges: the process of getting everyone successfully signed up and matching partners. Beth and her husband, Jacob, built the FibreShare website, and it took a huge amount of work to figure out the best ways to get everyone signed up. We had to make sure that the website could handle large volumes of traffic during the sign-up weeks, not to mention keeping everything secure, because we’re handling people’s personal information and payments. We’re really thankful for Jacob’s expertise and involvement in this process; he’s our tech-savvy “Oz” behind the pretty website. Beth manages the day-to-day parts of the website, including maintaining the overall website and sign-up process and publishing all of our blog posts, which highlight small businesses and various people shining within our community.
The other huge logistical challenge is getting all the partners matched, which is Ashley’s job. She does all the matching by hand, meaning she literally sits in front of Excel spreadsheets reading people’s preferences and pairs them up. It’s a uniquely personal matching process that takes great time and care. After matching everyone with two partners, one to send to and one to receive from, Ashley sends everyone an individual email containing the details of their new fiber friends. We believe that this personal matching process is absolutely something that sets FibreShare apart from other swaps. It’s really important to us that people can feel the human element, attention to detail, and passion in our work.
One other thing that sets us apart is that we automatically have an insurance policy for all our participants. In the event that your FibreShare partner flakes out or your package is lost in the mail, we send a replacement package that is tailored to your specific sign-up preferences. Typically, only about 2 percent of packages turn out to be truly missing. However, it’s a big job to follow up with the senders and receivers of these late packages and get to the bottom of the situation.
SO: How do you see it evolving in the future?
FS: We’re brainstorming about ways to better unite and support our participants. We’re about to launch a second Instagram account, @fibresharetribe, which will be a platform to repost all the neat things our participants are up to. We want to bring everyone together in a genuine way, as opposed to focusing on glamorous Instagram flat lays of yarn. Don’t get us wrong, we clearly have an obsession with pretty bundles of yarn. But we want to make sure we make FibreShare a space where participants can find new friendships. We are also thinking about ways to connect participants in their hometowns, face-to-face, and would love to start having a physical presence at wool festivals. Strangely, we (Ashley and Beth) have not actually met in real life! All of our work has been facilitated through online chats and lots of text messaging. The idea of finally meeting and traveling together, then meeting members of our FibreShare tribe in person, is extremely exciting! Editor’s note: To learn more about photographing your yarn and fiber for social media, read “How to Photograph Crafts: Become the Master of Your Lighting.”
SO: What tips do you have for those seeking to participate in the next share?
FS: The number one thing: Please don’t be intimidated! We hear this sentiment often, and it’s understandable. The only solid requirement is to send 200 grams of fiber that you think your partner will enjoy. Sometimes people worry they can’t afford to make a big enough package. You don’t have to be rich to participate in FibreShare!
We encourage people to send little gems from their own yarn stashes as well as to include handmade extras for their partner. You can absolutely make a gorgeous package without breaking the bank.
SO: What has delighted you most about the fiber community’s response to FibreShare?
FS: We honestly are just overwhelmed by how generous everyone is! We have been floored by how this community rallies together in excitement, and truly focuses on sharing and giving, as opposed to receiving. Many participants say that FibreShare is like Christmas for adults, and we couldn’t agree more!
The latest exchange has just wrapped up, but to learn more about the next FibreShare event, visit www.fibreshare.org.
Featured Image: Gina Allewelt (@spinningminion) assembled a generous gift for her FibreShare partner Elizabeth Prose (@lottaloops), which included some local fibers and handspun yarn.