2016 Etsy New York Holiday Handmade Cavalcade

Handmade Cavalcade

How is your holiday shopping going? Want to help support independent artists while picking out super-unique gifts for your friends and family? Well, if you are in the New York City area, you are in luck! The Etsy NY Holiday Handmade Cavalcade is happening this week!

Let the Etsy NY Team help you find the perfect gift for everyone on your holiday list! More than 50 local indie vendors will be on hand with a selection of handmade wares including jewelry, stationery, art, beauty products, clothing, and more. The Holiday Handmade Cavalcade has nine years worth of history, and has become a must for holiday shoppers looking for unique and locally crafted gifts for their loved ones. Swap-bot has been a sponsor of the event for many of those years, including in 2010 and 2012, and we are once again a sponsor this year!

The 2016 Holiday Handmade Cavalcade will be held at Chelsea Market (410 West 16th Street) in Manhattan from Monday, December 5th, through Sunday, December 11th. There is a special “Sip n Shop” event at 6:30 on Thursday evening sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery. On Saturday and Sunday, the first 100 shoppers will receive goody bags packed with goodies, including some Swap-bot stuff!

I plan to do my shopping at the Holiday Handmade Cavalcade on Thursday night… see you there??

2016 Holiday Gift Donation Drive

donation drive

Did you know? Over 25,000 children are sleeping in New York municipal shelters tonight.

It is that time of year again when we can help brighten the holiday season for some of NYC’s homeless youth. Help us by donating to our 7th Annual Holiday Gift Donation Drive to benefit The Partnership for the Homeless!


The Partnership for the Homeless is a NYC charity committed to building a just and equitable society and creating lasting community change through solution-oriented programs and policy initiatives that eliminate the root causes of homelessness. They provide all sorts of services, support, and advocacy for the homeless in NYC and they would greatly appreciate our donations of new, unwrapped gifts and gift cards to be handed out to children at their Children’s Holiday Party in Brooklyn on December 17th, 2016.

A message from The Partnership for the Homeless:

Last year, your generosity brought smiles to the faces of 300 children! We thank you for your past support and look forward to your continued sponsorship as we put on our annual Holiday Party for these children and their families.

This year we are expecting even more children to attend the party. The day will be magical for these children with music, games, crafts, face painting, tasty food and even a picture with Santa! We hope that this will result in an abundance of laughter and fond memories.

It is our goal to send each child home with toys, games, clothes and books, but more importantly, a smile from ear to ear! These ‘gifts from Santa’ are only possible through donations, toy drives and the generous spirit of our contributors. As a non-profit, we depend on people like you, to help us make this a truly special afternoon.”

partnership for the homeless

Let’s put together a huge donation of gifts for The Partnership!!

We can accept the following items for donation: Gift cards in $10 or $20 amounts to stores like Target, Barnes and Noble, H&M, Gap, Old Navy, Forever 21, Aeropostale, and Best Buy. Gift cards must be new and unused and must be to stores that are accessible in NYC. Gift cards are the most requested item by The Partnership for the Homeless because they are versatile and good for older kids, but we can also accept new, unwrapped toys, books, and winter gear (hats, gloves, scarves, etc) donations. Read more info about what can be donated here.

Send your donations by Monday, December 5th, 2016, to:

Rachel Johnson
285 5th Ave PMB 415
Brooklyn, NY 11215

And here is the extra-special holiday bonus reward for your donation: Each Swap-bot member who sends in a donation of a gift card or item will earn the removal of one low (1 or 3) rating from their account!! You must mail your donation to Swap-bot headquarters (address above) by Monday, December 5th, 2016. If you do not have a poor rating on your account, you will receive a credit for one future rating removal. Each person can only earn one rating removal credit during this donation drive –- although you are welcome to donate more than one item!


The Fine Print: All ratings removed in exchange for a donation must be at least six months old and/or the user must have exhausted all options for making up the swap. The rating removal credit is meant to remove unfair or unfixable ratings — it is not a “free pass” for flaking. Everyone who donates will receive an email from me with the details of the rating removal credit. You can reply to that message any time to “cash in” your credit. I also make a permanent admin note (only visible to admin) on each donor’s account stating that they have a rating removal credit.

International option: If you are unable to purchase appropriate gift cards in your area or ship other gifts, I am willing to accept cash donations via Paypal. I will then buy a gift card in your name to donate OR donate the money directly to the Partnership for the Homeless, depending on their greater need. Use the link below to donate OR send Paypal donations to rachel@swap-bot.com. All Paypal donations of $10 or more will count toward a rating removal.

Click here to donate via PayPal.

As always, let me know if you have any questions.

Check out our past six Donation Drives:
2010 \ 2011 \ 2012 \ 2013 \ 2014 \ 2015

Pipsticks Giveaway Winner

Thank you to all 71 of you who entered our Pipsticks sponsored giveaway! I know you are anxious to find out which two lucky commenters won the awesome Pipsticks Studio Sticker Prize Packs. I used Random.org to select the two winners… and without further ado… the winners are:

froggy2974 & thisismeAXiD

Congratulations! Your prize packs will be mailed directly from Pipsticks.

Each of winners will receive one of these awesome boxes (worth $50!) packed full with a variety of stickers, blank postcards, and 2 washi tapes!

If you did not win this time, stay tuned to the blog for future giveaways!

Check It Out: Pipsticks - Subscription for Sticker Lovers

Do you love stickers? And snail mail?? Of course you do! And so do I. I have been collecting stickers since I was in grade school and can’t bear to part with much of my collection. It is a little crazy, but I know I am not the only one out there with a slight obsession with stickers.

This is how my very first Pipsticks subscription pack arrived in the mail, with real stamps! Fun!

Late last year, I discovered Pipsticks via Swap-bot user luluvision’s Instagram. In April, I couldn’t resist any longer and I subscribed to the monthly sticker mailing! Above you can see how my first Pipsticks mailing arrived. I love how the sticker packs are mailed with real stamps, and the vellum envelopes are so lovely. The packs are basically excellent mail art stuffed with stickers! Below you can see some of the contents of that first sticker pack I received. The stickers are all high quality from a wide range of manufacturers, including some I’ve never seen before. Of course, there are hits and misses when it comes to loving everything in these types of surprise subscription services, but so far, I really like and know I will use the majority of what I have received in my two Pipsticks mailings.

My first Pipsticks pack contained tons of stickers, plus a newsletter, quote card, and pre-stamped postcard.

Pipsticks was started in September of 2014 by Maureen, a mom of four living in California. The full Pipsticks operation is run by her and her husband in a small cottage on their property. They send stickers to thousands of subscribers in over 50 countries! Wow. You can read a lot more about the business in this interview on Babyccino.

The full contents of my second Pipsticks pack.

There are a couple different Pipsticks subscription options for both kids and adults, but all of them come with lots of stickers and some extra paper goodies. The larger subscriptions come with a pre-stamped postcard that you can decorate with your stickers and pop in the mail – perfect for our postcard swaps!

A close up shot of some of the stickers in my second Pipsticks subscription pack. I love the ice cream cuties and the neon hearts!

If you use and enjoy stickers, or if you are an avid sticker swapper here on the ‘bot, I think you would love Pipsticks. You can learn more about subscribing here. You can also follow Pipsticks on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Or, if you just want some creative inspiration in your email box, sign up for the Pipsticks “happEmail” newsletter.

The awesome news is that Pipsticks is sponsoring a giveaway for YOU, the Swap-bot community! Hooray! Pipsticks has created two huge Studio Sticker Boxes (seen below) full of stickers, postcards, and washi tape to mail to two lucky Swap-bot blog readers.

Win one of these awesome boxes (worth $50!) packed full with a variety of stickers, blank postcards, and 2 washi tapes!

To enter this generous giveaway you must be a Swap-bot member, and you must comment on this blog post with an answer to this question:

What are your all-time favorite stickers?

For example, my all-time favorite stickers are Star Trek: The Next Generation stickers that I bought during the previous millennium. I still have a few sheets!

Be sure to include your Swap-bot username in your comment. You must enter to win this giveaway by commenting before July 18th, 2016. The two winners will be randomly chosen and announced by July 22nd. Your sticker prize pack will be mailed directly from Pipsticks, so by entering this giveaway you agree to have your mailing address shared with Pipsticks if you win. As always, let me know if you have any questions… and, Good luck!

Writing with Fountain Pens

This is the first (of hopefully many!) guest posts from our Netherlands Ambassador, MissThundercat. Enjoy!

From left to right: TWSBI Diamond 540 smoke, TWSBI VAC 700 Amber, Visconti Opera Elements Air, TWSBI Diamond 580 green, Omas Ogiva Alba LE Green, Pelikan M620 Athens, TWISBI Diamond 540 blue, Sheaffer No Nonsense Demo smoke, Omas Arte Italiana Vision Liquid Green and Edison Nouveau Premiere LE 2014 Caribbean Sea.

If you follow my Instagram or blog, you probably have noticed that I am an avid fountain pen collector and use them regularly. My love for these pens started when I first learned how to write with them in elementary school. And I still write with them on a daily basis. I thought it would be fun to tell you all the basics of writing with fountain pens and give you a few tips if you wanted to start up writing with them too.

Close up shot of the nib on my Pelikan M805 Vibrant blue.

With fountain pens it’s all about the nib! You have round nibs that have a round tipping and variates with a line width of extra fine to double broads and even oblique’s. And then you have stub or italic nibs which have a flat tip with which you can create lovely line variation in the down and cross strokes (usually these nibs are used for calligraphy). When starting off it’s advised to begin with a fine or medium round nib to see what suits your handwriting before starting off big like a triple broad nib.

For example, my handwriting has bigger rounded letters and I like writing with at least a medium, or even better, a broad or a stub. My husband has really small writing and often writes in small caps so he prefers using an extra fine nib to make his writing look legible. To help you on your way, Jetpens has a great blog post on choosing the right fountain pen nib. It’s a great resource and explains the various nib sizes, functions, and comparisons with brands worldwide.

Pen: Pelikan M250 with an older flexible nib. Ink: Akkerman Bezuidenwoud Groen, written on Tomoe River paper. A tip: when you want to write on blank paper, put a notebook with lined paper underneath as a guide sheet for straight writing.

In the blogpost, they also talk about pens that are beginner friendly (and won’t break the bank). I started my writing with a Pelikan school pen and a Lamy Safari. Other fun beginner pens in my opinion are the Pilot Kaküno, the Kaweco Sport, and the Pilot Metropolitan. The Lamy Safari (and Al-star) also has easy interchangeable nib options, and they come in fun colors and styles.

Top to bottom: Pilot Metropolitan (or MR), Kaweco sport skyline mint, Pilot Kaküno and the Lamy Safari (limited edition Dark Lilac)

What I like most about fountain pens is the fact that there is an array of ink available to use! Ink comes in cartridges, but you can also get a converter and fill from bottled ink. A number of companies, like Goulet pens, Anderson pens (US), Pure Pens (UK) and Apelboompennen (NL), also sell vials with ink samples so you can try out some fun colors before you decide on getting a whole bottle.

Fountain pen ink swabs on Maruman word cards.

In a future blog post I will talk about the various inks that are available, and how you can do a lot more than just write with them. But hopefully this will inspire you to pick up a fountain pen, ink it up, and start writing.

Once you get the feel of it, I hope you will join me in the Fountain Pen pal: summer edition 2016 swap. BetsyPreston hosted many of these swaps before and graciously gave me permission to host one this time around. The deadline to sign up is July 14th and you have to send your letter by July 31st. The theme is summer and you have to write at least 4 A5 pages (front) on the theme. It can be either your current summer vacation plans, your fave summer ever, memories of a fun summer you had as a child, or your thoughts on summer in general… feel free to be as creative with the theme as you can be. Just take your fountain pen, some fun stationery and write away!

Mini Swapper Meet-up in the Netherlands

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting up with MissThundercat while I was traveling through Amsterdam. MissThundercat is our Swap-bot Ambassador to the Netherlands and she is a prolific artist and snail mailer. We met up once before in 2010 when she was visiting New York City. She is kind and creative, and I am happy to have her as an online and IRL friend. You can check out her mail art on her Instagram and her blog, Contemplations of a Kitty. And, follow her on Twitter!

I am excited to announce that you will soon be reading guest posts by MissThundercat here, on the Swap-bot blog. Look for her post on fountain pens later this month!

I love traveling and I LOVE meeting up with our Swap-bot members. It is always heart-warming to hear how individuals use and enjoy the ‘bot! If you are a Swap-bot lover, stay tuned to the blog to learn how you can become a Swap-bot Ambassador. We will be accepting applications for a new batch of Ambassadors soon. Until then, happy swapping!

Blog Improvements Underway

Hello Swappers! The Swap-bot blog is not dead! I promise.

The blog is hosted separately from the main Swap-bot site and was originally set up using Wordpress. We had been having quite a bit of trouble recently with the Wordpress platform, so we made the decision to transfer the blog to a more static and much more secure set up. But it is taking some effort to get it back into shape. We are working hard and hopefully it will be better and more user-friendly than ever, with lots of fun, crafty, swappy, snail-mail-y content.

Swap-bot was created and has been run for more than a decade by me (racheljohnson) and my husband, Travis. It is a big, every-single-day job just to keep the site up and running. But we love it. And we want to keep making it better and better. We have so many big ideas and so many improvements in the works! And we are working on ways to dedicate more of our time to the ‘bot, so hopefully you will be seeing changes a bit more frequently.

The community is what makes Swap-bot fun and creative. Thanks for sticking with us! As long as you all are swapping, we will keep working to improve the site for you.

2015 Holiday Gift Donation Drive Update

Thank you to everyone who participated in our 2015 Holiday Gift Donation Drive to benefit The Partnership for the Homeless! Together we raised $1,050 in cash and gift card donations and collected more than a dozen toy and gift items. All of the donations were distributed at the Children’s Holiday Party on December 12th, which served more than 250 local NYC kids.


Arnold S. Cohen, President & CEO of The Partnership for the Homeless, sent the following message of thanks:

“I want to thank you for your generous participation in the year’s Annual Children’s Holiday Party. Thanks to you, the party was a huge success with over 250 children and their families enjoying a day of fun at Genesis Home-Help USA, Brooklyn, NY where they enjoyed great food, crafts, games, and gifts. These photos of the party show the joy and excitement you helped create.

It’s hard to imagine how precious a fun day is to these families. Many have spent months living in homeless shelters, with none of the familiarity and warmth of home. And others are on the brink of falling into homelessness. The Partnership’s staff at our Family Resource Center is working with these families to get them back into an apartment or working to prevent them from falling into homelessness. They also go beyond immediate needs to assist families in securing the best healthcare and education options for themselves and their children, financial counseling and job development.

All of us at the Partnership thank you Swap-bot for helping our families experience the support of a community, especially as they face the many challenges in their lives. We look forward to partnering together again for next year’s party.”

It is great to hear that we helped make the party a success!! Thank you all for your donations and enthusiastic support each year. This is a very special community. Happy 2016!! xoxo

Ambassador Introduction: MissThundercat

ambassadors_miniThe Ambassador program has been going strong for a year and a half!! It has taken me much longer than I would have liked to introduce all 29 of our Ambassadors — but this is the final Intro!! Yay! The Ambassadors are all enthusiastic, fun, active, positive members who are asked to help promote Swap-bot in their local communities. If you are interested in representing Swap-bot in your area and sending out Swap-bot swag, stay tuned for info about our upcoming second round of Ambassador applications happening in January.


Meet our next Ambassador, MissThundercat!

Ambassador Region: The Netherlands

I am not going to say that I saved the best for last (because I think all of our Ambassadors are the best!) but MissThundercat is definitely a very special Swap-bot member and Ambassador. She is an Original Member who has been swapping on the ‘bot since March of 2007. She has completed more that 500 swaps and often posts about Swap-bot and snail mail on social media. A truly avid snail mailer and crafter, she loves hand-carving stamps, coloring, calligraphy with fountain pens, ATCs, and many other types of art and crafts. MissThundercat holds a special place in my heart because in 2010 I had the privilege of meeting her in real life while she was visiting NYC — such fun!!


How MissThundercat found Swap-bot: “I found swapbot through a friend of mine on flickr who introduced me to matchbox swaps.”

Why she enjoys Swap-bot: “I’ve met a lot of fun people through Swap-bot, and met a few of them in real life, as well. A recent one is my friend Orit from Israel, I met last year in October. And that’s the main reason why I love swapbot, it brings a lot of crafty people together on and off line.”

Her favorite type of swap: “I love doing themed swaps, especially Matchbox swaps, ATC’s, and Mail Art (I did a 365 Mail art project in 2012/2013 and sent out many RAKs to swapbot members through a signup in the forums). Crafty swaps are my favorite kind. This is one of the fave things I’ve sent — combining my love for stamp carving and matchbox swaps.”


Little Monster stamp and matchbox made by MissThundercat.


Mix Tape hand-carved stamps made by MissThundercat.

Fun facts about MissThundercat:

  • “I collect and repair old/vintage fountain pens… and then write letters with them!”

QUICK Swap-bot T-shirt GIVEAWAY!


Many, many years ago (2009 to be exact) we created some Swap-bot t-shirts to giveaway at our first ever Member Appreciation Event. I have had some of these shirts hanging around ever since! Would you like one??


Quick! The first four people who comment on this post will win a Swap-bot t-shirt!

Here’s the catch: The shirts only come in size SMALL and MEDIUM. And, I was not entirely happy with the digital printing job of the shirts. (Hence, the reason why I have not sold them or given them away since 2009.) BUT, they are high quality 100% cotton shirts. If not worn, the shirts could be used in Swap-bot-themed sewing crafts. Or, you can use them in whatever creative way you choose! Plus, I will throw in some additional Swap-bot swag (postcards, stickers, buttons, etc) and crafty goodies with each shirt package. Nice!


Rules: You must be a Swap-bot member to enter the giveaway and you MUST include your username in your comment. If you do not include your username, your entry will not be valid. You can request your size preference (small or medium) but I can’t guarantee I can fulfill it. I have two of each size. I’ll mail out the prizes to the four winners this week. Good luck!!