This question brings a smile to my face. I remember the first bib I made for one of my children. It was in a class at church. The bibs were terry cloth and we appliquéd a woven cotton airplane on the front. The cotton was stiffened with iron-on pellon and the design drawn on with a pencil. Then it was put into a hoop and outlined with a fine zigzag. Finally, we trimmed the cotton and applied a wider zigzag. This was one of the longest lasting of any bibs I had. The two layers of terry cloth gave it thickness and the fact that they were cotton also made it super absorbent. No inter-lining was needed.
I would rate absorbency this way: Terry cloth, cotton flannelette, Minkee and woven cotton. Wow! Yes I said Minkee. I just went down to the laundry room and tried it out. Before washing the water rippled off, but after washing and drying, it soaked in quickly. Mine was the pink with little embossed stars. I have no idea how it does with stains. Polar fleece did not do well, but cotton sweatshirt was pretty good.
With Terry cloth you may need only a single layer with a binding or lace around the edge. As all of us know, some terry cloth towels are not so absorbent! So fabric softener on bibs is a no-no. Although it might prevent “stains” from soaking in, it will also repel the dribbles.
Two layers of Minkee should also do just fine. Be careful sewing so it doesn't stretch or the baby may be wearing a skewed bib. You might use a wash away stabilizer during construction. You should also consider putting a binding around the edge to firm-up the perimeter. Maybe include a bit of lace perking up from the binding if it's for a girl.
That new micro-fiber is also absorbent. It looks similar to polar fleece. My daughter found a scarf made of it and cannibalized it for burp cloths!
Cotton flannelette is softer on a baby’s sensitive skin. There’s good reason behind making infant sheets from flannelette. Woven cottons can scratch a baby’s face as he or she rubs on them. That’s why babies often seem to have a red rash on their cheeks. (I guess that’s dependant on whether putting a baby in bed face down is in vogue or not.) Use a double layer of flannelette.
Woven cotton may be the cutest and may match your baby’s outfit. Hopefully it’s not too tightly woven. With this you’ll definitely need another layer or two! It’s great for cute fusible appliqué too, but remember the fusible will slow down absorption.
In any case, pre-washing is a must before combining any two layers because they may shrink at different rates and even how you have the fabric “turned” can make a huge difference. Pre-washing the fabric for a gift bib will make it more absorbent and more likely for the new mother to want to choose your bib to use again and again!
This gets into the issue of batting which will also shrink. Of course it will be a small piece and can probably be stretched as you press it after sewing. A light cotton batting could add absorbency to a woven cotton or flannelette, but you wouldn’t want much or it could become bulky around the baby’s little chin. Instead I would consider added an inter-lining of flannelette for a small baby. Save the batting for 1 yr. old. (Polyester batting will not absorb well, but silk and linen both absorb. I don’t know about bamboo, but beech tree based micro-fiber is new on the market and is absorbent. Of course I’m thinking you’ll just be using scraps from your quilting projects!)
Some added plusses to my original bib were its a generous size and its red color. Yes, red is my favorite color and stains did not show! Let’s face it, some foods are going to stain, among them formula. Rinsing it out quickly is the best tip. Many foods darken as they are exposed to the air. Also, if you wait for food to dry it may be harder to get out of the terry loops. Hmm, it’s not as if a young mother has anything better to do than run to the sink frantically with her baby’s bib! So let’s just hope the cherished bib you’re making is not the one that is sacrificed!
Burp cloths are really popular now and making them to match an outfit and a bib is a great idea. Hmmm. My crafty daughter even make snapped diapers and now that we know minkee is absorbent, Wow the softness is endless.
Another little tip: if you want to put lace around the edge it can help stop the flow of the spill. I would use nylon. It’s hard to find, but it will last longer and is softer. (But can turn grey with repeated hot washings.)
Happy Baby-ing! Judy Lyon