Another installment of gift ideas for knitters! This one focuses on patterns.

Mochimochi Land (

Some of the mochi mochi patterns I have made in the past

An online shop and blog from New York. Probably some of the cutest toy patterns around, they are based on the idea of amigurumi. This is basically cute knitting at a small or tiny size, but some of the mochimochi patterns are a lot bigger. The toys aren’t traditional knitting subjects like teddy bears or rabbits but odd monsters, tiny vikings and squirrels on roller skates. Awesome! Individual patterns cost from $3 to $7 which works out pretty good for us UK knitters with the current exchange rate. Books are also available through the site, but since US to UK shipping is extortionate you are better going through amazon or waterstones. Some books are even available on kindle, which is nice and handy as a portable pattern!

Ravelry (

Ravelry has a lot to answer for, in a good way. If you are a knitter then you probably already know about it, if you don’t then go pay it a visit! Free, easy to use and with more knitting patterns and knowledge than you could ever need. You need a log in to use it, so maybe more one for knitters buying for other knitters. It has thousands of free patterns but if you really want to make a knitters day and they are on Ravelry, then check out if they have any patterns in their wish list, queue, favourites or shopping basket that you could buy for them. Many start from just £1 and the recipient will usually get pdf files sent to them, although some patterns are also available in hard copy if you like to wrap things!

Ysolda (

Some Ysolda patterns I have made in the past.

Bit biased here, since I’m sure there are lots of other Scottish designers who have lovely patterns too. But I haven’t knitted any of them, and I have made up some of these Ysolda ones. If you are looking for a gift for someone who likes to knit pretty lace, simple toys in the round or cosy cabled jumpers then there are some good options here.

Amazon would also be a good place to look, if you know the username of the person you want to buy for, since the wishlist feature can be very useful.

Some other tips, if you can, would be to check whether the person you are buying for has knitting preferences for patterns. These can include things like:

  • do they prefer knitting in the round or flat? Some patterns can be lovely but if they never knit in the round they might never use them and vice versa!
  • do they have a particular favourite yarn weight? It’s no use buying lovely lace shawl patterns if they only ever knit in chunky aran weight.
  • will the pattern you intend on buying mean that they might need other accessories? For example, more stitch markers or a certain size of needle.

I read a news article the other day which pondered why Harry Potter didn’t just use Google.

The book was published in 1997, so presumably written a few years before that. The article asks why, when faced with a search for some information, Harry had to struggle through the library to find a book. Now, I’ve never read the Potter books so i have no idea how arduous a task this was but I get the impression death and disaster were imminent. The author of the article suggests that younger Potter readers, brought up in the information age, would google what Harry needed rather than have to go through the library trauma in the first place. The point is that Hogwarts wouldn’t have had internet access in that day and age and that Google didn’t really take off until the year after the book came out.

What does this have to do with archaeology journals? Well, I miss my equivalent of Hogwarts library. Yes, I have a very good ‘local’ library (National library of Scotland) and am also a member of the National Museums Research Library and can borrow books and journals from both. I also have excellent broadband at home so the world of archaeological research should be mine for the taking.

But it isn’t. Without the backup of institutional subscriptions many journals are out of my reach. I’m not the first person to realise this but work at the day job has recently made me more aware than ever of what I could be missing out on.

Spending the last few weeks reviewing bibliographies, checking for misplaced commas and references for thousands of entries, I have had my eyes opened to the many and varied sources used for discussing archaeology in Scotland today. There are the usual suspects one might expect (Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Antiquity etc) as well as more specialised reading and some rare gems – mostly local history society transactions and self published monographs.

Most of them are subscription only, not as many are open access. Although this situation might be changing for some (find a very good list here) it is unrealistic to expect that verything will become free to view, nor should it – journals cost money to produce and will always need people to work on them. Obviously, there is a difference here between leviathans of publishing such as Elsevier making millions and smaller more independant publications who are still peer reviewed and of excellent quality but who barely make a profit. Arguably, if it wasn’t for the whole impact factor issue more journals could afford to be open and reach more people, I could go on.

My point is, that in order to subscribe to all the journals I want to for the next year say, I will need to spend at least £350 (but that includes my New Scientists! :p). As I said, I don’t mind and actually is really isn’t that much when you consider everything. However, this is only for a few core publications (Internet Archaeology, Proc Soc Antiq Scot, JRS, Britannia and some others). I’d like the opportunity to read more, but when individual articles can be up to $20 it does sort of put you off. I’m lucky, given that my interests are databases, publication of archives and Romans – if I was into science it’d be much much more costly (see this post for example.)

I guess if i didn’t want to broaden my mind, keep up to date with archaeological goings on and think about future jobs and maybe post docs I could just not subscribe at all, but where would the fun be in that?

Waterstones have an awesome half price offer on some ‘celebrity books’ just now, which happily for me includes the new Nigella. Simply entitled ‘Kitchen‘ ( I like it for the recipes, of which 95% seem to be new for Nigella and aren’t in the other books of hers I have and Andy is loving it for the pictures of her cooking. Emphasis on the ‘her’ there. I’ve already tried the banana/cherry/coconut loaf and it was melt in the mouthy. Very similar to my usual banana bread recipe but the coconut added a nice sweetness and texture.

After the relative £13 splurge on that, the next cookbook came from a Lothian Road charity shop. The classic ‘Austrian Cooking‘ by Gretel Beer (read her interesting obituary here) – published 1954. Largely about pastries and pigs knuckles.You can’t even attempt a recipe from it without stocking up on lard, cream and rum first of all so I can’t wait to try it out at the weekend. It also includes handy austrian cookery tips, so if you didn’t know already; “remember that brushing pastries with rum before deep frying will help stop them absorbing too much fat”. Rum and pastries and deep frying – lucky for this cookbook that it ended up in Scotland!

I’ll post details/pics from any related cooking experiments when they happen – yum! has stolen my Saturday afternoon.

After a morning of food shopping in the glorious sunshine, then a few G&T’s, i remembered that a few years ago I opened an account on the Librarything website. If this sounds really book-geeky then let me explain:

“LibraryThing is an online service to help people catalog their books easily. You can access your catalog from anywhere—even on your mobile phone. Because everyone catalogs together, LibraryThing also connects people with the same books, comes up with suggestions for what to read next, and so forth.”

I guess the first question is why would you catalog your books? You aren’t a library! No, but I’ve always loved books but what with the transient lifestyle Archaeology so often forces upon you, having a good stock of them isn’t conducive to moving house every few months. Now that we will be in Edinburgh for a few years (hopefully!) we can once again pile the bookshelves and worry about the moving van when I’m well into my thirties.

Its easy peasy too – just enter the ISBN or author or title and Librarything searches Amazon, the Library of Congress and a whole bunch of other libraries to get the metadata for you. There is also a manual option, handy for those old and antiquarian books we’ve acquired.

I particularly like seeing what other books people have. Maybe it is just nosy, or a form of book stalking, but there is something friendly about it. For example, over 9000 people also have The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but only 5 other people have my Pottery in Anglo Saxon England shire publication. Maybe those 5 folk have interesting books on their list I could seek out?

It is also free, well, free for your first 200 books. After that you can make a paypal donation of any amount over $19 for lifetime membership and adding an unlimited number of tomes. Unlimited books. Bring it on!

If you are feeling nosy about what books I have, then check out the widget in the right hand side of this post, or look at: