Baby quilts are a wonderful gift to give and provide a great opportunity to practice beginning quilting skills or try a new free-form design. Choose a design that is simple and even so the quilting density remains consistent. The quilt pictured below features an edge-to-edge clamshell design.
These small quilts take a lot of wear and tear, so an even amount of quilting is really necessary for keeping the quilt held together as long as possible. Skimping on the quilting because it's "only a baby quilt" will result in a short life for the quilt. Large, open areas need to be quilted evenly so they don't get distorted and worn over time.
Minimal quilting and regular washing cause baby quilts to wear out in the first year. Rather than tossing a quilt in a regular wash cycle, try soaking out stains. A short time spent soaking is better than the agitation of the washing machine. Use a eco-friendly washing product for all your quilts. I like Orvus Paste and Ivory hand dish liquid. Detergents contain phosphates which are harsh and will strip the colors from quilts over time.
I usually let the washing machine fill with lukewarm water and the recommended soap. Let the quilt soak in this solution for about 20 mins.; spin out, rinse and spin again. A little agitation is OK but don't let the entire cycle run if you can manipulate this on your machine. My washer is 20 years old and I can control the dials but newer models might not allow changes in the cycle because they "lock in".
Another option is to use a clean dishpan, tub or sink for the soaking and rinsing. Use a large bath towel to roll the quilt and squeeze out moisture. Lay flat on a dry towel to air dry the quilt. Choosing a gentle washing/drying method will keep fabric intact longer. When giving a quilt as a gift, a little written note on how to care for the quilt and a small bottle of washing soap will be appreciated by the quilt owner!
Use a breathable, natural fiber batting such as Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 (cotton/poly blend) or Hobbs Wool. Avoid battings that recommend quilting 8-10" apart, such as Warm and Natural. Save these products for wall hangings or tablerunners. Also, 100% polyester battings don't breathe like a cotton batting. This means they insulate well but can be too warm for swaddling. Stick with natural fibers--cotton, wool, silk, with a bit of polyester mixed in for durability--and you will have a batting that can be quilted heavily and still maintain the drapability of a cozy quilt.
Copyright©2011, Sharon Baggs