Welcome to SWAPS4Free,
where you can make them yourself, using my tips, tricks, printables, patterns, and detailed instructions.
While SWAPS can be made from a wide variety of materials, there are a few items that you will more than likely need during your crafting career. These items will speed things up, make things easier, and I recommend keeping them all in one place for convenience.
First and foremost: a Paper Trimmer
I have a Fiskars paper trimmer and have had it for years, so of course the new ones look different and fancy. They're nice and sturdy and you will be amazed by just how often you use it. All SWAPS need tags, and generally you print them by the sheet, meaning you have to cut them apart. All the adorable and informative little booklets need their pages cut apart. The tags for the many baggie SWAPS, including the poems, need cut apart. This type of cutter is super easy and can cut up to ten sheets of regular paper (some listings say ten, some say seven) and two to three sheets of cardstock (from my personal experience). You can even purchase replaceable blades, which just pop right in, when it starts getting dull. With as much paper as I cut making kits for sale for two years, I only needed to replace the blade on mine once. This saves your hands a great deal of cramping that using regular scissors for so much would cause, plus you're guaranteed straighter, neater lines.
This is available at multiple websites, including Wal-Mart, Michaels, and Amazon for relatively similar prices. It looks like the average daily price is between $20-$22, though while I write this; it is on sale at both Wal-Mart and Joann for around $12, so check around and get the best price possible!
It might be tempting to buy a pair of cheap scissors, but you're going to be cutting. Foam, ribbon, yarn, foil, paper, card stock, fabric... The list goes on. Most SWAPS will require some amount of cutting. Do your hands a favor and buy 'soft handled' or 'soft grip' scissors. They really don't cost much more than the hard plastic ones and the difference is definitely worth it. You know what? Buy two pair, because you're going to lose track of these all the time, only to find that you've been sitting on them.
You can find these just about anywhere, including Wal-Mart, Michaels, and if you're lucky, dollar stores!
1/4" Hole Punch
You can get cheap ones for just a few dollars, sometimes less, but I recommend paying a buck or two extra to get the ones with the padded handle. Those cheapies get uncomfortable and they're not that sturdy, either. I've bent multiple pairs. Again, Fiskars makes the good ones, so check out their site, especially if you want to see all the different options. Darice also has them available on Walmart.com, and they can be purchased in sets for very good prices. I suggest a new pair, because cutting paper dulls the punch, causing it to tear the craft foam rather than cut it, which leaves unsightly edges. If your punch begins to dull over time, you can sharpen it again by punching through sandpaper.
Hole punches come in so many different fun shapes! If you've got the spare dough, buy a couple others. First, I'd get the mini hole punch, the 1/8" circle. Some SWAPS look better with this smaller hole instead of the larger, but it's not a must have. You can always just stab the safety pin through it instead. They have butterflies, hearts, stars and more. An oval is necessary if you wish to make the little scout tunics/vests with patches I got a lot of my punches, both the hand type and the bigger ones, on eBay, so give it a peek before choosing where to buy.
School glue isn't going to cut it. If you want things to stay where you glued them, spring for the good stuff. Otherwise, things are going to fall apart and little girls will be devastated. I use Aleene's Tacky glue, but there are other options as well. In truth, it typically doesn't cost much more than school glue. You're going to want a couple of bottles if your scouts are going to be assembling their SWAPS as a group.
The emptier the bottles get, the harder it is to get the glue out because it's much thicker than school glue. So long as you don't lose the little lid, you can set them upside-down leaned against something or in a cup. When you go to use it, it won't explode all over you. It'll still behave nicely, only it will be easier to get out.
One Inch Circle Punch
Okay, so this one isn't completely essential, but when you're tracing and cutting out dozens of circles, you'll wish you had one. I used mine to make all the face-type swaps, cookies, and more. Circles can be rough to cut out by hand. Now, you have to make sure the punch has a big enough opening to slide craft foam in there, so I recommend the style in the picture, rather than the flat, hinged types, as I can't find any information about thickness and I've never used this newer style. Again, I found a great deal of my punches on eBay, so give it a peek and while you're there, check out all the other shapes and sizes!
Just like with the hand punches, these larger punches will eventually begin to dull, but a few punches through sand paper sharpens them right up!
A Good Printer/Ink + Paper/Card Stock
You'll need it at the very least for your SWAPS tags, but likely for a great deal more. Bag SWAPS have their tags with poems/explanations. There are booklet SWAPS that meet so many different themes. There are hundreds of different SWAPS that need one aspect or another printed, including those adorable mini cookie boxes and license plates. When you go to buy your paper, don't spring for the super bright white. The cheaper kind works great. It doesn't look gray or dingy, so why pay more for something that you won't even notice? You will definitely need white card stock, but you might want to grab a pack of colored card stock while you're in that aisle. Tags really pop of the bright colors and some booklets can also be printed on colors for a little variety.
I know ink can be very expensive, which is why I get mine at Amazon.com. They have generic or refilled cartridges for most printers for surprisingly low prices. I recently bought a set of cartridges for my printer, because I do a ton of printing as a homeschooling mom. I got three of each: Magenta, Yellow, Cyan, and Black, for under $10. You should definitely give the site a search and see if they have ones that are compatible with your printer before shelling out $30-$50 per cartridge. Then you can print and print to your heart's content without guilt!