Taking this one step further (a big step) by essentially mummifying the piece with matte acrylic medium was just me, trying new things.
Before you run out and buy anything please read through all the steps. It's not that there are a lot of materials or equipment necessary. It's the intent of the process and the outcome that matters. Please do a small test with a stitched piece to make sure you understand what a fiber fossil is like when it's finished. Once finished, there's no turning back.
I was repairing an old picnic quilt that I made almost 35 years ago from old blue jeans and there was a section made from a pair of bell bottoms that I had worn in high school - real vintage!. There were places on it where I wiped off a brush loaded with matte acrylic gel - I used to use it as a sealer over a variety of mediums. Although hard to the touch, the denim underneath the acrylic looked as it did when it was new while the surrounding fabric was very worn. I wanted to try it on a small stitched piece "freezing it" in time. "Mayhem" was the first. The process will darken certain fabrics so that would be a first consideration - the values of your composition will be altered and not consistently. Some fabrics do not darken, others will so you must test some scraps with this in mind. OK...I've warned you up front. It would not be a bad idea to create a small sampler using all the kinds of fabric and stitching that you normally use in your work just to see what they are going to look like after the change.
I use piece of medium grit sandpaper to rough up the gesso on the stretched canvas just a little bit. I've centered the piece on the canvas mostly by eye but use a ruler to make sure. I have learned (the hard way) that if you do this in a room with natural light coming from one source you are very likely to make errors.
My studio is flooded with light in the morning and I love working in there at that time of day but the shadows will trick you when you are eyeballing something. Check your margins with a ruler on all four sides. Once the glue is dry, you are committed. I suppose you could cut a piece out of the canvas and start over but what a waste!
You can see here that I work my pieces on a thin cotton batting. It grabs the canvas nicely so before gluing so you can tilt a piece up almost vertically and stand back to make sure the position and orientation is pleasing before you start gluing it down.
The irrevocability of this whole process, starting with the "glue down" was intimidating to me at first. Taking these steps, you have to be very sure that you are willing to part with all the tactile qualities of a stitched piece - the softness, the flexibility, the hand of the cloth - will be forever changed, frozen.
I fold one half of the piece back, apply the white glue sparingly
and keep it back from the edges of the piece about an inch. This
is so that if I decide later to paint or otherwise alter the edge
of the piece it's not locked down. Fold the glued side back over
onto the canvas, press lightly and then repeat with the other half.
Press lightly from the front and then flip it over onto a clean surface and press firmly from the back. Now set the piece aside where can dry flat for a minimum 24 hours.
OK. If that wasn't scary enough, now it's time to apply the acrylic medium. I mix it with water until it's a little thicker than heavy cream. I make it up as I go in a small bowl, maybe a table spoon of medium at time. It dries quick and messy. I can't be more scientific about the proportions because how much water you use varies depending on how the fabric accepts the mixture and how it looks as you apply it.
Due to the way I build my pieces, this dark fabric extends underneath the white and will show through the white if I apply the dilute medium to it so I've lightly brushed all the bright white areas with full strength medium straight from the jar allowing it to dry completely before proceeding.
I use a variety of brushes to apply the diluted medium working it into the fabric, sculpting the wet fabric and underlying batting. Sometimes I do not apply medium to the stitched elements at all. I have left small sections of cloth untreated altogether because I know in advance how they will change. There's no way to anticipate this, you will learn as you go so TEST beforehand.
This is "Old Comfort" a day after the medium was applied. I love the way it looks. It's hard to the touch of course - that tactile comfort is gone but the visual impact is still there, enhanced even. There's a depth here now, similar to encaustic. I'm still thinking about painting in the margin. If I do, I will mask the hardened cloth with a little plastic wrap to protect it from my messiness.
So that's it..no mysteries in the making here. Plenty in the outcomes, step by step. Please email me if you have any questions or thought about the process.
I have heard from several people who have purchased my work from the web store that the pieces were all that they expected and more, in strange and wonderful ways.