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Whit's Knits: Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Booties

I have long loved these Elizabeth Zimmermann booties. Last year I made them with fingering weight yarn to fit my newborn baby, and they got him through his first cold winter. Recently my family received wonderful news that made me want to knit some bigger booties.

My sister-in-law has been trying to adopt a baby for a long time, and this month she was finally told that there is a beautiful baby boy who needs her. He gets to come home in January and, by then, will be ten months old. His name is James, and his smile would melt an ice cube.

From waiting in line to waiting for a baby to arrive, knitting is how I get through all the episodes in my life that challenge my patience. I'm pretty sure that the next three months are going to yield a whole pile of hand knits for little James!

The Materials

  • Three skeins (one skein makes one pair of booties) of Alchemy's Temple yarn, 100% superwash, superfine merino. These colors are Michelle's Marigold, Champagne and Mica.
  • One set of US #7 needles (straight or circular)
  • Two US #7 double pointed needles
  • Elizabeth Zimmermann's The Opinionated Knitter. (The bootie pattern is on page 108. On the same page is an adorable matching bonnet.)

Whenever I knit something for a baby my first thought is, "Can I use Temple?" The hand dyed colors are so sumptuous and unusual, from perfectly warm pinks to strangely glowing greens to mysterious deep charcoals. If Elizabeth Zimmermann's insistence that itchy wool is good for a baby seems a liitle sadistic to you, you'll be happy to know that this superfine merino is also super soft. And, another concession to modernity, it's machine washable!

The original pattern uses yarn that gets 6 stitches to the inch for about a newborn to six month size. To make booties that will fit a ten month old I decided to use a sportweight yarn at 5 stitches to the inch. Knit a little bit loose, they have a lot of stretch and will fit most feet well past the one year mark.

The Pattern

Even in designing a humble bootie, Elizabeth Zimmermann engaged her fascinating mind to create a highly original object. My mind just marvels at hers! Here is what the bootie looks like right before you sew it together, kind of like origami!

Besides being a beautiful example of engineering simplicity, these booties fulfill all the practical concerns of moms and dads. Warm,yes; stretchy, yes; cushiony and cozy, yes. But let's face it, the most important thing in baby footwear is, Does it stay on?! Yes! Besides a good high cuff, the booties are held securely in place by I cord laces. I cast on three stitches to knit mine...

I am so excited to welcome my new nephew into our family with these gorgeous booties for his precious little feet. Thank you, Elizabeth Zimmermann! --Whitney

Reader Comments (39)

What wonderful news, and those booties are adorable.
October 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer
OMG these are ADORABLE!!! I just love love love them! These are my favorite colors together too. I can't get over how darling these are.
October 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAshley Schott
Congrats to your sister-in-law! James will be instantly blessed by these adorable little booties. I adore the colors.
October 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRoxanne
May God bless each and every step of James's journey in (and out of !) these adorable booties!! What a lucky little boy he is ~
October 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChristine
those are adorable booties! i've got that book, and a friend has a baby boy on the way (due in December) so i might just have to cast on a pair from her original pattern. despite the fact that i hate hate hate using fingering-weight yarns!
October 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrobyn
Congratulations to your SIL! We were blessed to welcome twin girls home from Vietnam in Dec of 2006. The wait is trying, but so very worth it in the end. Many blessings and thank you for all the patterns and projects you share!
October 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDeanne
So cute! These are perfect for the nephew-to-be showing up in December.
October 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercyndi
Those baby booties are soooo cute!!! Love the colours that you've chosen, very pretty!
October 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPetit Filoux
SO cute !
October 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterO fil de l'O
Diese Patscherl sind allerliebst!
Thank you for sharing this cute pattern! And best wishes and blessings for little James and for you and your little boy too!
October 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commentereleonor
I love the colors that you have chosen! Many congratulations to your sister in law.
October 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSally
I really like these. I always mean to make a stock pile of baby gifts to be ready for showers at short notice. These would be perfect.
October 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPizza and Pie
Oh those are the most adorable booties....may convince me to pick up the crochet hook!
October 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwaterrose
i love any color combined with gray. absolutely beautiful booties !
October 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersteph
EZ was a genius! Love her creative designs and ease of construction of many of the knit in the round projects. Think I've made 3 BSJ this summer. Working on a February sweater next.
November 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy H
What is the fabric in the background, behind your lovely knitting?
November 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLeila
I love the booties and good luck to your whole family with the arrival of baby James! Lori
November 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlori Gerber
I love the Elizabeth Zimmerman booties. Do I have to buy the book to get the pattern?
November 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMartha
Hi Martha,
Yes, this pattern is copyrighted and only available in the book. We promise that it is worth it, the book is full of amazing patterns just like the booties!

You can find all of our EZ titles at this link:,11
November 4, 2009 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
love the booties.. so cute.. love the colors.
November 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterhena tayeb
These are so cute. Adoption is every bit as much a miracle as birth- perhaps more so, as three hearts are knit into one family.
November 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCloth Diapers
When knitting these EZ booties, what was your solution to the decrease down to 3 stitches, and then having to "knit up" the 12 stitches on each side of the 3 stitches along the selvage? Did you have to break the yarn?
November 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLeanne H
Love the booties! Congrats to your SIL! That's amazing. I am new to knitting and am trying to find an easy, yet beautiful bootie for my new babe and I heart these! I have done simple knitting on double point, do you think that I can do this? In other words what is the skill level?
November 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda
Hi Leanne,

I didn't break the yarn. Instead, I knit the 3 stitches and continued along the row, picking up 12 stitches. Next I turned the work (with the wrong side facing me) and knit the 15 stitches. Then I picked up 12 stitches by bringing my right needle from the right side to the wrong side (toward me) and purling the stitch. Picking up the stitch this way keeps the seam on the wrong side of the bootie.

I took some photos of this technique for the Sullivan Street Bolero ( Scroll down to the "Knitting the Edges" section, and check out the last 4 pictures for a step by step explanation.

Thanks for asking this question. If you ever make Elizabeth Zimmermann's Surprise Jacket you'll see that this little trick comes in handy again!

November 19, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
Hi Amanda,

I would say that these booties are quite easy to knit (you don't even have to use double pointed needles!), but I would also warn you that Elizabeth Zimmermann is not much of a hand holder. Her patterns do tend to assume a certain level of knitting knowledge.

If you live near a good yarn store or have a knitting mentor, I would really encourage you to give them a try, because the actual knitting is simple. Or if you have a good mind for patterns, just go for it! Either way, you'll be so proud of the results.

Good luck!
November 19, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
Where are the instructions for the little booties????
January 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNoelene Iris Misquitta
Hi Noelene,
The pattern is copyrighted and only available in the book The Opinionated Knitter pictured above. We promise that it is worth it, the book is full of amazing patterns just like the booties!

You can find all of our EZ titles at this link:,11
January 17, 2010 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I'm knitting these booties right now and im stuck at the end of the pattern. it says knit to center and weave sides together and sew up back. what does that mean? i cant figure out what to do after i knit to the center...can i just cast off and sew the whole thing closed? thanks
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkim
Hi Kim,
You can indeed cast off and just sew it up, but if you weave the sides together you won't get a rigid seam. You would use kitchener stitch to finish the sole of the bootie and mattress stitch to sew up the back. We have a tutorial at the following link for kitchener stitch:
August 23, 2010 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Thank you! I got it sewed up. its really cute.
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkim
very nice !!!!!
September 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterchamaya
Hi! Love your blog. I just purchased the Elizabeth Zimmerman book to get the booties pattern you have featured on yours. I read the question about your solution to not breaking the yarn (dated November 19, 2009). You referred to a link titled "Knitting the Edges" but I cannot find it and would love to see the step by step instructions. Could you please clarify how I can find this link? Thanks so much! Debs
April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDebs
Hi Debs-

Sorry for the bad link. This one should work:

Thanks for writing in!

April 3, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I just cast on last night with worsted weight for my 1yo. I was wondering if you or anyone has ever t4ied to adapt the pattern to fit bigger kid feet? Say, age 10 and younger??
October 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterh
These are the cutest and most adorable things ever. Do you have to use the yarn you used to make this or is it free to choice? I have a baby niece on the way and I really really really want to make this for her. I was wondering if there was somewhere i can get the pattern or a walk through on how to make these booties since i'm fairly new to knitting.


November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMannie
Hi Mannie-

Yes, the yarn is available here!

And the pattern is in this book:

Thank you for your questions!

November 30, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
thank u from your info.i am hajar from iran
January 11, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterhajar
Oh my goodness, these are adorable!
January 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTiny Pinky Baby Boutique
The knitting the edges link has disappeared. Anywhere else to find it?
February 7, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterpoodles2

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