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‘This is ‘Knapping for You’ at 6 p.m. on the Shetland Undependable Corporate Knapping Station, and as we pass the half century mark, I’m speaking to Ms Moorit Loopy - graduate in intangible textiles and recently appointed advisor to the left chairleg of the recently formed swaara group, ShetlandForLoops - about the move to preserve the tradition of Shetland swaara in the wake of the recent swaara conference, Swaara '50.

‘Moorit, I understand that there has been some criticism of your attempt to introduce swaara into Shetland schools.’
    ‘Well, of course, there are still some people who believe that swaara is a thing of the past, like fishing...’
    ‘And what would you say to these people?’
    ‘I would ask them to look at the work produced by any of the half dozen creative knitters working in Shetland today to see that swaara is alive and well.’
    ‘I’ve also heard complaints that your approach ignores many of the traditional characteristics of Shetland swaara as described in Theory and Practice of The Shetland Swaara by Clew and Worsted.’
    ‘What characteristics would these be?’
    ‘The use of three knitting needles, for example...’
    ‘Oh? Oh, well, we feel that it would be difficult for children to learn to hold knitting needles. It might prevent them learning how to hold a pencil, knife and fork, and so on, and these are necessities of everyday life. We feel that they should knit spontaneously, just using what comes naturally to hand.’
    ‘Such as...’
    ‘Fingers, pencils, spoons, forks - anything that they’re comfortable with. It’s very important that they feel that they can knit swaara without having to learn any prescriptive techniques, such as transferring loops from one needle to another.’
    ‘And do you use the traditional colours of wool?’
    ‘Well, we do include some wool in our own examples of swaara of course, but if children wish to knit with other materials we would never say that that was wrong.’
    ‘You mean...?
    ‘String, paper, carrier bags, toilet roll inners - anything which they feel will express their own interest in and appreciation of swaara. It’s important to realise that all swaara is equally valid. The old purist concepts of "good" or "bad" swaara are now recognised to be educationally damaging.’
    ‘What would you say to those who suggest that in order to preserve swaara, certain standards and guidelines are necessary?’
    ‘Well, perhaps something of the sort may evolve in the future, but until then we must work with what we have.’
    ‘But we’ve had Theory and Practice of The Shetland Swaara for over...’
    ‘As I’ve already explained, we’ve taken that into consideration.’
    ‘And it’s been pointed out that other similar traditions have benefited from such standards - Harris Tweed, for example...’
    ‘Ah, but that’s tweed. Tweed has had standards for some time, but swaara is in a different category altogether. To artificially introduce swaara standards when there have never been any before would be - well - artificial.’
    ‘I’ve also come across a website which talks more generally about "makkin’" rather than just "swaara", and goes into some detail about traditional Fair Isle patterns...’
    ‘Oh spare me! There’s always some sad purist head-banger who wants to force swaara into a strait-jacket and bleed it dry of any spontaneity. He - I mean, they - should be locked in a traditional Shetland toilet with the key at the bottom of the bucket!’
    ‘O-kay. And - um - and do you teach the children to knit anything useful - hats or gloves, for example?’
    ‘Oh, heavens, no! It’s important to emphasise that knitting swaara is a creative activity in its own right. Swaara is just what you use to make Art out of. To use it for practical purposes would be jarringly unnatural - an abomination, in fact. Almost like putting a jersey on a sheep!’ (laughs)
    ‘But surely clothes used to be knitted...’
    ‘Yes, but that was before we had cybermarkets. Anyhow, you could knit a vest, but you can never, ever knit a nanocomputer, can you? And who wants to wear swaara underwear these days?’ (laughs).
    ‘And now, I understand, there may be a move to revive another old Shetland tradition - dialect.’
    ‘Oh yes - there’s an exciting move to dub some old movies into dialect. The first one is already in hand at the moment, actually...’
    ‘Which one is that?’
    ‘Well, it’s an old teenage movie from the late 1900’s, I think. It’s going to be called "I Seen Whit Youse Wans Done Lest Simmer."’
    ‘Well, we’ll look forward to that. Thank you, Moorit, and we can only say that we are 100% behind all your efforts, and hope that they will ensure the survival not only of Shetland swaara but of dialect as well for the foreseeable future.’