Where the Seventies had key-swapping parties the 21st Century has added an element of environmental concern to the social calendar. Swishing is the term coined by ‘green’ PR guru Lucy Shea in 2000 for the act of exchanging unwanted goods with friends at a party. It’s not a novel concept – the exchanging of excess products for other products of direct use to you (rather than for a token of value) remains the most common economic transaction the world over. The difference for those of us fortunate enough to live relatively affluently is that we have so much excess to exchange that it can become an event rather than a necessity.
For myself, I might have managed to develop some restraint in the purchase of clothes, food and entertainment items but my yarn stash reached SABLE (Stash Achieved Beyond Life Expectancy) proportions some years ago. And then grew some more. This new year, along with my O!RASH project, I had resolved to decrease the stash by at least 30%. The immediate purchase of 12 skeins of sock yarn in January demonstrated that I wasn’t going to achieve a yarn diet any time soon and there’s only so fast I can knit, so a yarn swish seemed the only solution. Happily ten knitter friends were thinking along the same lines, so we all met up in a house in SE London with bulging bags and some very stinky cheeses……….
The concern was that we’d have a mountain of acrylic which no-one would want to take away again.
In fact what turned up led to more of a worry that it might get brutal as too many sticky fingers lunged for the same skeins. We therefore developed a few simple rules.
- Yarn is to be given freely without conditions and without expectation of monetary gain or necessary recompense with similar value yarn
- All items to be placed on the table for viewing only for the first hour
- Numbers to be drawn to arrange an order of the first pass where each individual can take one item only (multiple balls of the same yarn to be considered one item)
- After the first pass all are free to take as much or as little yarn away from the table as they able to carry physically without the aid of giant ‘bags for life’
- Once yarn has been claimed the claimant is not to be subject to any form of coercion including, but not limited to, threats of the dissolution of friendship or violence at the end of a pointy stick
It all passed off pleasantly, aided by an abundance of scones, cupcakes, cucumber sandwiches and of course the cheese. When finally sated we turned to knitting, chit chat and some cackling over the models in Pat Menchini’s Beatrix Potter Knitting Book.
Amongst them was even some Fyberspates Tencel Super Sock in a delicious spring green-yellow variegated and some oddments of mulberry silk!
I also picked up a dress pattern and a blinging former Miss Piggy fancy dress costume which was in the fabric pile but suits my every-day-weird-chic to a T. Therein lies the success of the Swishing party; for those items that languish in the bottom of wardrobes that you don’t want to add to landfill but can’t see a niche for in the charity shop a delighted recipient may well be found amongst your friends. Unlike with the burden of presents, they’ll only take what they actually want and no onus is placed upon the recipient to spend money on a return ‘gift’. Waste is reduced, the environment is entirely saved and we are all living in a money-free Utopia. Well it’s a start anyway………