Have you ever heard one of your grandparents say, “A stitch in time saves nine”? They may have uttered this phrase with a wise nod of the head after a subtle recommendation to do something now, rather than waiting until later. You may have thought, “Saves nine what?” If so, read on…

“A stitch in time saves nine” is an idiom, which is a phrase whose symbolic or intended meaning is different from the literal meaning of the words themselves.

Historians believe it first appeared in print in 1732 in Thomas Fuller’s Gnomologia, Adagies and Proverbs, Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British. Of course, if Fuller considered this saying to be a proverb in 1732, it was probably around for many years before that.

Its meaning is quite simple: Don’t procrastinate! Procrastination means to delay or put off doing something until a later time.

People use “a stitch in time saves nine” to express that it’s better to spend a little time and effort to deal with a problem right now than to wait until later, when it may get worse and take longer to deal with. Many believe procrastination — putting off doing something until later — creates more work in the long run.

Although no one knows for sure who came up with this saying or what significance stitches or the number nine have, many people believe it was started by mothers weary of mending their children’s clothing.

The phrase thus might be stated more clearly as, “One stitch, in time, saves nine stitches,” meaning that mending a tear right away would only require one stitch instead of the 10 stitches necessary later if the tear goes unfixed and worsens.

Many people shorten the phrase to just “a stitch in time.” Other similar proverbs include “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and “there’s no time like the present.”


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  1. This is an archaic phrase that is based on the poem of Havamal in the sense that if the spear was used instead of the noose or impaling by crucifixion the “Dying Go” would need not suffer so long see also;

    Here is the Celtic form;

    I know that I hung on a windy tree
    Nine long nights,
    Wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin,
    Myself to myself,
    On that tree of which no man knows
    From where its roots run.

    It has been turned into a folklore common sense tale.

    • Thanks for WONDERing with us, David! That information is WONDERful and definitely keeps us WONDERing about such a common phrase! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why do people say, “A stitch in time saves nine”?
  • What is procrastination?
  • How can you stop procrastinating?

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Try It Out

So what do you think? Does a stitch, in time, really save nine?

Discuss procrastination with your family. Are there things that they need to do but they’ve been avoiding? If so, why? What is it about those tasks that make them not want to do them?

Help your children make a list of a couple of things they’ve been avoiding doing. Actually, if it’s easier, just wait until tomorrow to make the list. NOT! Do it with them now!

For each item on their list, ask them to think about some consequences of waiting to accomplish the task. These will obviously vary by task, but they could include things such as too little time to complete the task, poor quality due to rushing to meet a deadline, extra time required to complete a bigger, more difficult task, etc.

For example, if your children are like most, cleaning their room might not be at the top of their list of “fun” things to do. Many children tend to procrastinate, putting off this unpleasant task until it becomes a real chore that takes up a lot of time.

Explain to them that doing a little bit of cleaning every day, though, keeps their room clean all the time and saves them from spending hours on a Saturday when they could be outside instead.

Hopefully, making a list and discussing it with your children will help them see that there are good reasons for doing things sooner rather than later. If they want to keep track of their “to do” list online and feel the satisfaction of checking things off that list as they complete them, go online with them to check out TeuxDeux!


Still Wondering

Visit Illuminations’ Grouchy Lessons of Time lesson plan, which includes activities that focus on the attributes of time and enables children to develop knowledge and skills in using time.


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