One of my favorite things in the world is to get together with my girlfriends and work on scrapbooks. These crops are the modern day equivalent to the quilting bee or barn-raising parties of the past. It's an opportunity for social interaction, artistic inspiration and friendly collaboration, as well as a time to be productive.
As much fun as attending a crop can be, it is twice as much fun to host the crop yourself! Here are a few tips and tricks I've picked up over the years that will make your next crop a success.
To Theme...or not to Theme
I start my crop preparations by deciding what, if any, kind of theme my crop will have. Choosing a theme for your crop is fun. It makes coordinating goodie bags and invitations easy, and it really makes the event something for your guests to remember. If you do want to choose a theme for your crop here are a few suggestions:
- "Mommy and Me"
- "Garden Party"
- "70's or Disco"
- "Couples Crop"
- "Spa" or "Relaxation"
- "Dinner and a Movie"
- "Chocolate Decadence"
The "Mommy and Me" crops are wonderful. Older children love scrapbooking and being involved with their mom's creative process. This type of crop is usually very successful during the summer when kids are out of school and moms are looking for a fun afternoon activity to do together.
Garden party crops are all about location. A pretty outdoor setting under covered awnings or the pool house of your apartment/condo make lovely venues for hosting a floral-themed event.
70's and Disco-themed crops can have fun games involving photos of yourself or others from that era, bold and funky colored invites, and some groovy background music to set the mood.
If most of your scrapbook circle is married then a couple's crop can be tons of fun. While the guys entertain each other or enjoy the game on T.V., the girls can be cropping and chatting away. It's entertainment for the whole family.
Spa crops or relaxation-themed crops blend scrapbooking with pampering yourself. What a great combo! I have heard of ladies pooling their funds to hire a massage therapist to come and give 15-minute back and neck rubs. I've also heard of ladies who hire a pedicurist to give each lady a pedicure and color.
The dinner and a movie crop includes a potluck meal and a chick-flick. All you need is a set of fun friends, your favorite romantic comedy to play in the background, and lots of tasty food to share.
If you love chocolate then maybe a chocolate decadence crop is more your style. This potluck event usually needs to be hosted at someone's home, or other location where you have access to a kitchen. It's tons of fun and so yummy too.
Once you have decided what kind of theme, if any, you need to choose a location to host your party. If you have the room it's usually most convenient to host your event at home. If you don't have the space, or if your family style isn't conducive to having many people over then try one of these places instead:
- community center
- scrapbook or craft store
- school cafeteria
- Grange Hall or lodge
- pool house
- rented cottages or cabins
- community college
Each venue will have its own restrictions, associated costs, and potential requirements. Be sure to investigate your options. If a damage deposit is required you may choose to ask each guest to contribute a small amount to cover this fee.
When possible it's a great idea to have your crop close to a scrapbooking or crafting store. This way people can restock supplies they run out of, or pick up something they may have forgotten to pack. A fun option is to start your crop by meeting at your local scrapbook store, shopping for supplies, and then going caravan style to the location of the event.
The nature of scrapbooking is that it is usually a lengthy process. Many crafters feel that if you are going to go to all of the effort of planning and packing up your supplies it should be for the chance at a large block of uninterrupted scrap time. I usually suggest no less than eight hours. This allows your friends time to arrive, unpack, work on their albums a while, and still not feel rushed. A lunch or dinner break is an option when you have a nice long event planned.
Having an extended crop is especially important if you are choosing to host a spa-type event. Each lady will not only want the chance to work on her albums, but to be pampered as well.
Getting a mailed invitation out to each guest is very important. In this era of email and instant messaging I think people have started to overlook the very personal nature of a lovely invitation arriving in the mail. Invitations need not be homemade, but if you have the time it certainly adds something special to your event.
Be sure to get your invitation in the mail early. For an all-day event most ladies will need at least two weeks to prepare and coordinate child care.
Your invitation will be the first clue to the theme you are establishing for your crop. Have fun with this! Even if you are not doing an obvious theme, you can choose a color combination for your crop and reflect this in the invitations, serving pieces, and small goody bags you use.
Snacks and Food
No gathering is complete without some kind of food. Snacks or hot dishes, potluck or delivery, you'll have a quite a few options here. When doing a dessert-themed crop each participant brings a favorite treat. If you are hosting a potluck event it's fun to ask your guests to bring printed recipes for the dish they share.
Food can be a decorative element for your crop as well as reinforcement of your theme. If you are doing a tropical-themed crop it would be great to serve tropical punch, a half watermelon hollowed out and filled with melon balls and pineapple chunks, and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. Be creative with not only your food choices, but your serving pieces as well.
Cropping Space and Set Up
One of the most important things to consider when setting up for your crop is the amount of space each person will have to work. Many of us are spreaders by nature, meaning we seem to bring everything we own and spread it all out around us as we work. Ideally no more than two people would share a six-foot table.
If you have less space than that to offer your guests it will be very important to have a separate area for food, for placing large totes out of the way, and for communal tools to be stored and used.
When cropping at home it's okay to set up smaller tables where people can work in groups of two or three. Just make sure that as the hostess you rotate around and make sure everyone is having a good time. It is usually a good idea to place your scrapbooking work spaces close to the kitchen so that people can grab drinks and snacks as necessary.
Having a garbage can near each table is always appreciated, and small lunch sacks can be taped to the edge of the table for paper scraps. I personally like to place small waste baskets in the center of each table as well. It's much easier to work when you are not surrounded by leftover sticker sheets and used adhesive packaging.
Prizes, Give-Aways, and Goody Bags
I think it is so much fun to have a little thank-you gift to send home with your guests. This doesn't need to be anything elaborate or expensive, but something thoughtful and fun. Small paper sacks can be decorated with foam stamps and acrylic paint, lovely papers, and even silk flowers to create a memorable gift your guests will really enjoy. I like to include something that either coordinates with my theme, or is a personal treat for my friends. Miniature hand lotions, small scented candles, an assortment of 24-inch strips of decorative ribbons, or even a small candy treat make great gifts.
Sometimes I've found something really fabulous on sale and wanted to share my exciting find with my scrapbooking friends. When this happens I use the item as a door prize for my crops. I draw names from a hat and someone gets to go home with a wonderful prize.
The last few tips I would like to share are a little random. These are fun things I've seen or done that help make a crop a success
- Community tools: Have a table where die-cut machines, Cricuts, and other larger tools will be available for use during the crop. This cuts down on the amount of stuff that people feel the need to bring. It also is a treat for those people who don't usually have access to these kinds of tools at home.
- Freebie table:Have a small table or area set up where your guests can bring idea books and supplies they no longer need. It's a great way to recycle tools and books that are still in good shape, but no longer used by the original owner. Each guest can wander over to the freebie pile and take items they'll be able to make good use of.
- Checking directions to your location:This is a simple thing that can save your guests a big headache. For example, Mapquest will lead people to an empty field on the other side of the town I live in if you put in my address. It never fails that someone will use Mapquest.com for driving directions and call me, late, lost, and frustrated. Now I provide a small map in the invitation I send out, as well as calling each guest and verifying directions with them a day or two before the event.
- Name tags:Be sure to have some kind of name tag for your guests. This way people who have not met before can call each other by name. I've done something as simple as peel-and-stick name tags from the office supply store, and as elaborate as handmade tags with stamped names to coordinate with the colors of my crop theme.
- Childcare:Many moms have a hard time getting child care, or because of having nursing infants cannot leave their children for more than an hour or two. I've been to a number of crops where a teenage student or other young adult was hired to provide child care. This allowed the mothers to crop and socialize, and still have their children close by. If this is something you can offer your guests it certainly is well appreciated.
- Make-and-Take Project: If you, or any of your friends, work in the scrapbook or craft business it's fun to create a make-and-take project to complete at the crop. Usually a card, embellished tag, or other small project works best. Have the pieces all pre-cut so that it's simply a matter of assembly. This is a fun opportunity for your guests to learn a new technique.
With a little planning and a little hard work, you can host the crop of all crops. People will remember you as the considerate hostess and they will be sure to attend your events in the future. It's fun to plan and execute a successful party, and to know that your friends enjoyed attending just as much as you enjoyed hosting!