Friday, July 20, 2012

Mullet Mats: my 2-in-1 Challenge entry

Believe it or not, mullets were really cool.  Seriously.  All the popular boys had mullets.  All of my favorite celebrities had mullets.  If there was boy I had a crush on during my teen years, I can guarantee you he had a mullet.  Only we didn't call them mullets back then.  It was just cool hair.  Look how sexy these guys were:

Later, when the world decided mullets were no longer cool, we began to poke fun at the ol' 'do:

What I love best about the mullet is what it stood for:  
Business up front and party in the back!!!!!
Who couldn't embrace that philosophy?  

For July's sewing challenge I asked the participants to sew something that had multiple looks or purposes.
I called it the 2-in-1 Challenge, and you can check out our homepage here:
2-in-1 Challenge Homepage
My goal was to create reversible place mats.  One side would be pretty and on display most of the time.  The other side would be plainer and stain-resistant and used during meal times.  That is  kind of like business up front and party in the back, right?  Turns out that in the midst of my place mat making venture, we had some family (Mr. Ricochet's cousin and her husband) from out of state come visit us.  They live full time in a RV, touring the US.  We had a blast visiting and touring around town with them.  I decided to make 2 extra place mats as a parting gift.  

  1. I started with some printed duck canvas...
  2. ...which I cut into squares..
  3. ...and trimmed in another print.  Then I framed it in cream and cut off the corners.
  4. I finished the corners with some scraps of the duck canvas and added 4 right triangles to each of the sides.  The result:  a cock-eyed window pane set in a square.
  5. I decided to use denim for the backing.  I traced Montana onto some freezer paper and ironed it onto the denim.  
  6. I stitched a tight, wide zig-zag over the tracing.  The paper just tore away when I was done.
  7. I added a little silver heart-shaped stud to mark where we live in Montana. I used a very thin batting and quilted through the mat.  I trimmed it up and finished the edges with bias tape.  Here's a look at the finished back.
  8. Here's the finished front.
For full time RV-ers like our cousins, space is at a premium in their little house on wheels.   The place mats won't take up a lot of space and can also be used as hot pads or for packing fragile items while traveling.  They'd work good inserted between a tush and a cold, concrete picnic bench  common to roadside rest stops.  They'd be pretty under a lamp or a plant as well.

So you can see my Mullet Mats have more than one look AND multiple purposes as well.  What do you think?  Ever have a crush on a Mullet Man?  Ever watch Joe Dirt?  Ever sew a place mat?

Thanks for taking the time to peruse my little blog.  Double thanks to all my new follows.  You rock!

Happy crafting and big hugs from Montana,
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Monday, July 9, 2012

Ways to increase your blog traffic

Hello and welcome to my little blog!  I've been publishing Ricochet and Away for one year now.  Happy bloggerversary to me!!!  Ricochet and Away hasn't become an overnight sensation or a household name over the last year.  However, I am now finally enjoying a steady, respectable amount of traffic that I am super proud of.  I have learned, mainly through trial and error, what works best for me and my abilities.  Today I'm going to share with you a few guidelines that I follow to make my blog feature-friendly and pin-able.

First, I'd like to go over some of my stats about where I'm at right now traffic-wise.  If you aren't already paying attention, you should be checking out your blog stats regularly.  Here's how I keep track of my referral traffic:

  • If you have a blogspot blog, this chart will look familiar.  Here are my top 10 referring sites of all time (basically my entire first year of blogging) as of July 9, 2012:

  • And here is all the above data put into a nifty pie chart:


Just in case you're wondering, referral traffic refers to other sites that have links 
to your blog and how many pageviews you get as a result of those links.  

  • I've been using Google Analytics since Novemeber 2011 and their top 10 referral sites differ only slightly:

There are some discrepancies between the two charts, especially in the numbers concerning google.  Any ideas why?  What I can confidently glean from all this data is that my top 3 referral sites are:

  1. Craftgawker
  2. CraftGossip
  3. Pinterest 
Why is it good to be square? is a tough nut to crack.  I have torn out my hair over that stinkin' site and I know I'm not alone.  My current stats with Craftgawker are 11 accepted and 40 declined submissions.  The photo you submit must be very good and have specific dimensions.  This is reason #1 why I always try to have one good square photo in every one of my instructional posts. is probably my all time fave craft site.  They have a little something for every type of crafter.  They frequently feature small-time bloggers like myself, and they are so nice!  Please take a minute and scroll down a few pages of  Take special notice of the images and photos.  The photos that were rectangular and wide end up looking pretty tiny on the narrow format.  This is reason #2 why I strive to have nice square-shaped photos--especially titles--in all my new posts.

My referrals are growing at a very fast rate, and I expect them to overtake my Craftgawker and CraftGossip referrals eventually.  If you're familiar with the site, you know how important a pin's image and description are in its chances of being re-pinned.  You also know that wide rectangle shaped images end up being pretty small once they're pinned.  In response to those facts, I've been trying to make post title graphics that are both pin-worthy and re-pin-worthy.  This is reason #3 why I'm loving the square format for my post images and graphics.

Link parties are great ways to meet other bloggers and add a few new followers to your blog.  I have been getting a respectable amount of traffic from Threading My Way's ongoing link parties.  I suggest you give them a try because there are no time limits or specific days in which to participate.  When I join a link party, I like it when I don't need to take the extra time to crop an image to go with my link.    This is reason #4 why having a square photo in all my crafty posts just makes life easier for me.

So, now do you know why it's good to be square?  Could you share some of your blogging tips?

Happy crafting and big hugs from Montana,
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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Wear it in Public Challenge Winners!

Garment Sewing Challenge: May 2012
[click image to see challenge homepage]

I think I can safely say that this challenge was fun and rewarding for all involved.  I don't want to downplay all the difficulty and frustration many of us faced though.  It's not easy to sew garments that fit our bodies and our sense of style.  It's not easy to find time to sew for ourselves when we have so many other projects piling up in the wings.  But we did it!  It wasn't easy, and sometimes it wasn't fun, but we did it!!!

Special thinks to all you ladies who signed up for this challenge!  Congratulations to all of you who met this challenge!  You all rock!  Let's take one more look at all our lovely entries:

  1. Adele refashioned an XL t-shirt into a cute halter top.  I agree with her assessment of the garment, "it's mint"!!!!  Visit Adele's blog and learn more about her refashion HERE.
  2. Katie made this cute tank in a flattering shade of blue/teal.  She altered the pattern and added another layer make it a bit longer.  The result is a perfectly finished top with a flirty flair.  Visit Katie's blog and learn about how she met her challenge HERE.
  3. June is rocking this pretty frock!  She made this dress with a fun summer print in my favorite color--green!  It looks great with belt and boots, but I imagine it looks good beltless and paired with sandals as well.  Visit June's recently revamped blog and read about her dress HERE.
  4. Lee made a few "practice" dresses that I thought were super cute before she came up with this very pretty outfit.  She paired a lovely floral top with a pleated teal skirt.  Visit Lee's blog and learn about fashion journey HERE.
  5. Kristin made her first ever garment!  Congrats on making something lovely for yourself!  Visit Kristin's blog and learn more about her top HERE.
  6. Kate made this lovely lined chiffon skirt in an hour!  It's even lined!  Visit Kate's blog and read about her entry HERE.
  7. Donatella created a wonderful wrap dress and versatile scarf out of a fabulous silk floral.  She looks great in it with her cool pink heels.  Visit Donatella's blog and see how she designed her entry HERE.
  8. Lucija has made a lovely skirt.  I bet it flows beautifully as she walks.  Visit Lucija's blog and learn more about her skirt HERE.
  9. Mah Lub created this stylish green pencil skirt with a poplin detail.  She really took the "wear it in public" part of the challenge to heart and actually wore it on television!  Learn about her cool skirt HERE.
  10. Kei's shirred top was inspired by a top she has hanging in her closet.  She drafted the pattern herself--no easy feat!  She learned the proper way to apply shirring and the result is lovely and really suit her.  Visit Kei's blog and learn about how she constructed her top HERE.
  11. KT was inspired by dress she tried on at Target.  She came up with this cute polka dotted dress and wore it to her college graduation.  Congrats on the dress and degree!  Visit Kt's blog and read about her submission HERE.
  12. Melody really got into the spirit of this challenge and made a whole outfit.  It's nearly winter where she lives so she made a cozy tunic dress and paired it with sexy lace leggings.  Visit Melody's new blog and learn about her submission HERE.
  13. Lana was a last minute entry to our challenge, but we're so pleased she shared her precious Mad Men-inspired dress.  The cutout is very sweet, isn't it?  Visit Lana's blog and read about how she made this dress HERE.
  14. Steph took on a whopper of a challenge and ended up with a great new swimsuit.  She had to remake the bottoms a few times--but the resulting finish is superb.  What determination!  Visit Stephanie's blog and learn about her entry HERE.
  15. Rikka (that's me!) tried shirring for the first time.  You can read about my dress HERE.
  16. Lakshmi made this classy BurdaStyle coat from cotton and lined it in velvet!  The buttons are wood painted silver--clever girl!!!  Visit Lakshmi's blog and read about her challenge submission HERE.
  17. Melanie looks terrific in this maxi dress.  It really suits her, doesn't it?  She worked with knits--always a challenge--and finished with style!  Visit Melanie's blog learn about her garment HERE.
  18. Mia Jonique didn't have much experience sewing, but that didn't stop her from entering a garment sewing challenge.  She refashion a t-shirt into a nice summer top with a pretty butterfly detail.  Visit Mia Jonique's blog and learn about sewing adventure HERE.
  19. Kadie confessed early on that she cut her fabric wrong.  We all have been there--it's so frustrating!  But our Kadie didn't give up, she worked with what she had and finished with style!  You'd never know any mistake was made looking at her finished dress.  Visit Kadie's blog and learn about her dress HERE.
  20. Pam has made herself a cool pair of zumba pants.  She's an accomplished seamstress so I imagine it took her a while to find something "new" to challenge herself with .  Visit's Pam's blog and learn about her challenge submission HERE.

I tried something new for the voting portion of this challenge.  I allowed 3 votes per person per day.  That gave us a lot more votes overall, and I think it gave the participants from smaller blogs a better chance.  So without further ado, the 3 projects that received the most votes are:

Golden Dress-form Winner!!!
<div align="center"><a href="" title="Golden Dress-form Winner!!!" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="Golden Dress-form Winner!!!" style="border:none;" /></a></div>
Kadie's knit maxi dress!
Silver Dress-form Winner!!!
<div align="center"><a href="" title="Silver Dress-form Winner!!!" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="Silver Dress-form Winner!!!" style="border:none;" /></a></div>
Lana's heart cut-out dress!
Bronze Dress-form Winner!!!
<div align="center"><a href="" title="Bronze Dress-form Winner!!!" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="Bronze Dress-form Winner!!!" style="border:none;" /></a></div>
Kei's shirred top!

Woo-hoo!!!!  Thanks to everyone who participated, all the looky-lous who followed the challenge, and all the voters!  You made this a fun, inspirational, and instructional challenge!  I say this every challenge, but it's true:  When you give a bunch of creative folks the same challenge and see them meet it in so many creative ways, it's almost magical and definitely inspiring.  Thank you so much!

Be sure to check out July's challenge.  Here's the button:

2-in-1 Challenge Homepage

Happy crafting and big hugs from Montana,

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