I know I've mentioned my all the swaps I'm in. It's true that they take time and cost money, but I have come to absolutely love how they challenge me.
1) I'm not a huge fan of purple. I don't hate it, but I'm certainly not going to decorate my house with purple. But I keep getting matched with people who love purple, so I have to find nice purple fabrics (that I normally wouldn't consider) and think about how to incorporate it into my design sense.
2) Playing with fabric combinations. I have TONS of fabric (as you may know), so swaps are a great time to take out what I have and mix and match...and maybe buy more??
3) Gnomes, mushrooms, and laundry lines. Would I ever have thought to make myself something with a Gnome and Mushroom even though I think they are adorable? NO! But thanks to my partner, I spent the day looking at patterns and coming up with a design. Another partner inspired me to make a window scene. And work with diamonds again. And finally try half-hexagons.
So I spent the day coloring and designing. You see, I gave a test today and test days are almost as good as days off. :)