Sunday, June 9, 2024

100 Days of Paint, Paper, Stitch—a recap

100 days. 40 watercolor compositions. This year’s 100 Day Project, Paint Paper Stitch, is finished.

My stack of watercolor and stitched compositions from The 100 Day Project 2024.

My 2024 100 Day Project involved watercolor painting on watercolor paper with the addition of hand stitching and some slow drawing. I participated with my quilting friend, Tari, who worked on mixed media compositions with a “leaf” theme. We kept each other on task with weekly reviews and photo exchanges.

Tools and supplies

Most of the tools and supplies needed for this project I had on hand. I did purchase a jumbo tablet of watercolor paper, but found a spiral sketchbook worked better as I was able to turn the sketchbook orientation as needed during some of the painting exercises. The thick tablet was more cumbersome. 

Willa Wander’s “Watercolor for Relaxation” course was the perfect starting point to learn about watercolor painting and I found her class exercises so helpful and informative. I took one of her other online courses and would highly recommend her classes.

Stitching and painting supplies and tools.

The frame jig I cut from a piece of cardboard (shown below on the right) was so helpful. I was able to line up the square frame on a page, draw a light pencil line for the painting boundary, and I was ready to paint. This kept the composition size consistent and the square format was conducive for posing online. 

The plastic drafting templates—tools from my days as a paste-up artist—resurfaced in the toolbox and were used for various painting exercises and as a guidelines for punching holes for stitching.

Various templates used for painting and stitching.

My process

I started with the painting exercises—loading brushes, color mixing, creating a color palette—to learn how to work with the watercolors. 

Color mixing with watercolor paints.

As the project progressed, I began to add stitching to compositions. The stitching started with simple lines following the painted shapes. 

Days 38 (painting) and Days 45, 92 (stitching added).

Days 14: drawn flowers with a background wash. Day 73: petals were painted.
Stitching on Days 74 ,75, 84.

Once comfortable with stitching through paper, I started to think about using the stitching on its own as another layer of design. 

and Day 89

Layer upon layer

Many compositions entailed multiple days of both painting and stitching. Some of the painting exercises required drying time before the next technique was added to a piece, so spanned over a day or so.

Day 32. Painting shapes and then learning background flat washes.

Later in the project, I began to revisit earlier compositions to enhance them: stitching, drawing, and adding depth and texture.

Days 64, 69, 70,71, 93. Adding stitching to the painted compositions at different stages.

Drawing and stitching were added to this painting.

Days 48 (painting), 50 (drawing), 79-82 (stitching).

Beneath the Surface

The following composition, called "Beneath the Surface," was worked on the most number of days. It started as a painting exercise (Day 6) and got more complex with each day of stitching. This composition taught me the most about different weights of thread, using stitch patterns, and reusing holes.

Day 6 (left) ad Day 99.

I used Floral Stitches by Judith Baker Montano as inspiration for trying different stitches on this composition.

Using Floral Stitches by Judith Baker Montano for stitch inspiration.

Below is the final composition. It was started on Day 6 with a watercolor painting. Stitches were added on Days 46 47, 49, 90, 91, 94. On Day 95, I went back into the background and painted more shapes. More stitching was added on Days 96 - 99.

"Beneath the Surface" Day 99.

A few close-ups of Beneath the Surface.

Detail of "Beneath the Surface."

Detail of "Beneath the Surface."

And here is the back view.

"Beneath the Surface," back view.


I used various threads for stitching: embroidery floss, perle cotton, a few yarn scraps, and tested two new threads from Scanfil (a 4-ply cotton and a wool/nylon mending thread).

Days 76 and 83 using a cotton mending thread.

Days 77 - 78 using a wool mending thread.

Day 100: the final composition

For my final composition, I went back to the beginning of my daily process and pulled a color mixing exercise (3 primary colors) from Day 5. A successful flat wash was painting in the background (a technique I’ve been steadily improving on). Then, with whatever threads were left in my working needles, I stitched a sampling of patterns in circular motifs on the painting. 

Threads remaining in the working needles and pre-punched holes ready for stitching.

Day 100, final composition.

A wonderful learning experience!

With this 100 Day Project, I learned more about watercolor painting and practiced many techniques through the “Watercolor for Relaxation” course with @willa.wanders. I discovered the challenges of and learned the differences between stitching through [watercolor] paper vs fabric. I found ways and tools to adapt to this technique and have the results feel like it was successful. 

Things I learned about the stitching on paper
  • pre-punching the holes is a must! At one point I found a awl tool that helped with this.
  • stitching through paper is not like stitching on fabric. I had to turn the paper over when sending the needle and thread back to the front of the work.
  • use a needle "just big enough" to handle the thread. It will minimize the holes in the paper.
  • the same hole could be used for multiple passes for the same or different motifs.
  • once a hole was punched in the paper, I was pretty well committed to the stitch path (unlike on fabric).
  • I found the combination of the watercolor, drawing, and stitching, very interesting, different and rewarding.
Future explorations include trying different threads, yarn and silk ribbon.

Day 86

Watercolor painting techniques I learned
  • color mixing
  • how to make the colors in a color palette relatable
  • flat washes and glazes
  • "more water, less paint"
  • There is no need to clean the palette after every painting session. Watercolor paints can be rejuvenated and used for future sessions.
  • Watercolor painting is very frugal… a little goes a long way.

My 100 Day Project for 2024 resulted in 40 watercolor compositions/exercises. Some are on loose sheets of watercolor paper, a few are in a spiral sketchbook, and many are in a perfect bound watercolor tablet. 

I still have opportunities to continue this practice and I'm confident I'll use these techniques in various ways in future art. Thanks to everyone who cheered me on with "likes" and comments on my posts.

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