Idioms · Sewing

A stitch in time saves nine

A stitch in time saves nine – Here is an idiom we often hear that has roots in sewing. #astitchintime #idioms #savesnine

A stitch in time saves nine

A stitch in time saves nine - Here is an idiom we often hear that has roots in sewing. #astitchintime #idioms #savesnine

First off what is an idiom? I answer that too, so we can learn more about this phrase.

According to Google Dictionary which uses the Oxford Dictionary says an idiom is a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words.

One meaning can be if you sort out the problem before hand it can save extra work later making it a form of a proverb.

The term is believed to first appear in 1732 in Thomas Fuller’s Gnomologia, Adagies and Proverbs, Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British.

Perhaps the saying has been around even before that 1732 publication.

Another thought is that sewing up a small rip with one stitch means the tear is less likely to get bigger, and need more – or, well, nine – stitches later on.

Basically it is better to fix a problem when it is small than to wait and let it become a bigger problem.

Another meaning could relate to procrastination (putting something off for a later time). For example, it is better to spend extra time now than to wait until later. Waiting could make it worse and or take longer to deal with it.

It is not totally known who actually came up with the term originally or even the true significance with stitches or the number nine.

But yet another meaning could relate to weary mothers who were mending their children’s clothing.

Another way to rephrase this saying is to word it, “One stitch, in time, saves nine stitches,” meaning that mending a tear right away would only require one instead of the many stitches later if the tear goes unfixed and worsens.

similar idioms / proverbs

  • “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”
  • “there’s no time like the present”


  1. BBC
  2. Merrriam-Webster Dictionary
  3. Wonderopolis

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