I speak not of pirate plunder nor pert derrieres here. I'm talking little soft shoe-like things folks put on babies who don't really need shoes 'cause they can't yet walk. It's also the name for those disposable coverings folks slip over their shoes in places where they're trying to keep a sterile environment.
Bootie (s.) and booties (p.) is a spelling variant of bootee and the one with which I am familiar. The -ee is a diminutive that sometimes shows up attached to words like goatee and settee. The -ie variant is the appropriate singular ending, as it does not come from adding -s to a -y singular to create the plural form.
Bootee occurred in print as early as 1799, according to the OED. Bootee was a trade name for a kind of boot for women and a wool boot for infants. From the quotations in the OED, bootee essentially meant a short boot or a shoe that looked like a boot, but didn't have the high calf. The usage apparantly didn't stick with just women's and children's footwear since some of the quotations refer to men's bootees.
Since a bootie writeup would not be complete without a pattern for a baby bootie, I give you the one I finalized today. It's loosely based off of a mildly famous pattern from a 95 year old (at the time) knitter in California named Christine Bourquin. She had written to the editor of Threads magazine with her pattern, and in April, 1989 her letter was published. They look a little like spaceman boots, and her cute little booties have the extra cachet of staying on very well. A free copy of the pattern if you don't have Threads issue 22 can be found at the Fuzzy Galore website with the story.
My pattern is not quite as character filled as Christine Bourquin's. I needed a pattern which was not copyright restricted in any way and was thus free for me to knit up however I like for sale. The only way to guarantee this was to make up the pattern myself. I also wanted something plain and thus good for embroidery and other embellishments; a Jolly Roger would be an entertaining allusion for instance. They will also be easily modified into frog booties and such. Even, perhaps, duck booties.
Last, I thought about sizing because most of the patterns I have found are very vague on sizing. I did a little research on baby foot sizes and all I can say is that baby feet are big!
Anyway, I give you my base pattern for simple, knit baby booties. Sadly, I haven't had any babies around to double check the sizes. However, the actual dimensions are listed so if you have real measurments, they should still fit.
Knit Baby Booties
US#4 dpns; gauge: 5.57st/inch ~7r/inch. Also requires a crochet hook, I use a size F.
The smallest size uses about 50yds of DK weight yarn; the largest about 70yds. I recommend something machine washable and dryable. You will also need a bit of scrap yarn for the provisional cast-on.
small - 2"x3" (about 17" or 7 pounds)
medium - 2.25"x3.5" (about 23" or 12 pounds)
large - 2.5"x4" (about 27" or 17 pounds)
Invisible or provisional cast on 10st (11, 12), knit 1 row.
After the first row, continue in stockinette and slip all first stitches when working flat to create a selvedge edge. Increase 2 on second row at either end, and continue to work in stockinette for 2" (2.125", 2.33") or 14r (16, 18) total.
Decrease twice, working in one stitch on either end to maintain the selvedge edge. The decreases should slant away from the edge: ssp and p2tog on first decrease row, ssk and k2tog on second decrease row:
For small: decrease 2 on r15 and dec2 on r18, work to 21r total.
For medium: decrease 2 on r16 and dec2 on r20, work to 23r total.
For large: decrease 2 on r19 and dec2 on r24, work to 27r total
sl1, knit across 7st (9, 10) and then pick up 15st (18, 21) along the side (pick up and knit 1st in first loop, pick up 2 in second, repeat), knit across the 10 (11, 12) provisional stitches, and pick up another 15st (18, 21) along the other side.
Continue in the round in reverse stockinette for 6r (7, 8).
Break yarn. Work top of bootie in stockinette starting from toe end. Work 1st row knitting together 1 side stitch with 1 the first and last stitch on either side of the toe, make sure the stitch from the top of the bootie is always on top of the stitch from the side.
For the rest of the top of the bootie, slip first stitch and work the row, working together the last stitch w/a side stitch. Work this way until there are only 7 (8, 9) side stitches left. 32st (36, 40) remain.
After the last k2tog, continue in the round, working in 2x2 ribbing. For the small, begin ribbing [p2, k2] and continue. For the medium, begin ribbing [p2, k2] (although, for perfect symmetry, work one bootie [p2, k2] and the other [p1, k2]). For the large, begin ribbing [p1, k2] and continue in pattern. Work in pattern for 3r (3, 4). Work an eyelet into each pair of purl stitches ([yo, p2tog, k2], for perfect symmetry, do it this way for one bootie and [p2tog, yo, k2]). Then continue the ribbing for another inch or so: total 11r (12, 14). Bind off in pattern, chaining 3 stitches between each set of 2k or 2p. In other words, bind of 2 in purl, chain 3 (as if crocheting), bind off 2 in knit, chain 3, etc. all the way around. Join round and weave in all ends and make sure to closely clip all the excess yarn. Loose threads on the inside of booties, socks, etc. can hurt little toes by wrapping around them and cutting off circulation.
There is usually a gap where the top of the bootie meets the side, at the last slipped stitch on the top of the bootie. Using the tip of one needle, gently ease the slack across the stitches on the back of the bootie.
Crochet chain a tie for each bootie about 10" long or whatever length works best. Thread through the eyelets and secure the middle of each crochet chain permanently to the back of each bootie as well. This prevents the tie from falling out and getting lost in the wash, and it also keeps it from getting pulled off by the baby and turned into a choking hazard.
If the baby for whom these are intended is walking, purchase some non-skid fabric paint and apply it generously in an open pattern across the sole of the bootie to provide traction.
If you try these booties, feel free to msg me with any questions, and let me know how they turn out!
Glossary of abbreviations k= knit; p= purl; r= row; st= stitch; sl1= slip one; k2tog= knit 2 together; p2tog= purl 2 together; ssk= slip, slip, knit; ssp= slip, slip, purl through back of loops.