15 Common Sewing and Tailoring Idioms We Use in Daily Life Without Realizing It

The English language is full of interesting idioms and short catchphrases that we use in everyday life without thinking about their literal meaning or the origin of the saying.

Here are 15 examples of sewing-related idioms that can actually apply to sewing but, more often than not, are used daily by many of us for their figurative meaning.

Measure twice, cut once

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The concept of measuring twice and cutting once can of course be applied to sewing. It is essential to make sure all measurements are correct before cutting a piece of fabric, especially if it is expensive.

However, this idiom is used in a much broader sense. The saying emphasizes the importance of careful planning and checking everything before taking irreversible action.

Cut from the same fabric

Kitchen gloves in the same fabric
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In the world of sewing, it is certainly relevant to talk about clothing or items made from materials cut from the same fabric. It's pretty self-explanatory.

Outside of sewing, this idiom is used to describe people who have very similar personalities, characteristics, or beliefs, for example: “These two troublemakers are made of the same cloth!”

Needle in a haystack

Organized sewing room
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This is the first idiom that is not directly related to sewing but could very well be used in a sewing context.

Most often, however, this idiom is used in the context of looking for something very small and difficult to locate, much like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Sew the seeds

teach children to sew
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This phrase is often used to describe the process of initiating or starting something by dropping little hints or suggestions – planting an idea, so to speak. For example: “She sowed the seeds of creativity in her children. »

Hold the thread..

Close Up of Woman's Hand Sewing Quilt
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Sewing involves bringing a needle and thread to a piece of fabric, and controlling the thread is crucial to ensuring it is sewn correctly.

The same reasoning can be used in a broader sense, in which the phrase “holding the thread” can be used to express control or influence over a situation. For example: “She held the thread of the negotiations”.

Cut a wide windrow

good seamstress cutting fabric
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When it comes to sewing, cutting a wide strip means using a wide, quick motion with scissors.

Outside of the sewing room, the expression is used to describe someone who behaves in an expansive or pushy manner, resulting in significant influence due to their impression of force.

In points

Close-up view of the sewing process.  Female hands sew white fabric on a professional manufacturing machine at the workplace.  Seamstress hands holding textile for dress production.  Slightly blurred background
Image credit: anatoliy_gleb/Shutterstock.com

First used by Shakespeare in Twelfth nightthis idiom is often used to express the act of suddenly laughing out loud.

Although not directly related to sewing, the origin of this saying actually comes from the needle: just as a needle prick causes a bout of pain, a comedian, for example, can cause a burst to laugh, and Make the audience “angry” whatever story they are telling.

Fix things

unstitched patchwork quilt
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Another sewing-related language that refers to the act of repairing or reconciling a relationship or situation, much like how you would patch a hole in fabric.

Suitable for attachment

Woman tying a knot
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Learning how to tie certain knots, such as a finishing knot, is an important part of the sewing process.

But this expression has a much darker origin. First appearing in the early 1880s, this saying is often used to express extreme, uncontrollable anger. For example, “Dad was ready to be tied up when I crashed his car!” »

The term was (allegedly) used to refer to certain patients in psychiatric institutions with uncontrollable seizures who required being tied up with rope or cloth. Fortunately, this outdated form of constraint has been replaced by more appropriate measures; however, the expression still remains today.

Come untangled

Tangled thread on black background
Image credit: Lucky Team Studio / Shutterstock.

In sewing, unraveling means separating or untangling the threads. This saying is also used outside of the sewing world, but with a similar meaning.

If something or someone “comes undone,” it means they are falling apart or losing their composure, just like a poorly sewn seam.

Tangled web

Colorful tangled thread
Image credit: xenon.studio / Shutterstock.

Although not directly related to sewing, this idiom is often used to describe a complex and confusing situation, much like a network of threads.

One could have said sarcastically: “What a tangled web we weave!” referring to how they might have overcomplicated a situation.

Be up to the task

Seamstress checking quality
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This expression, although not exclusive to sewing, can be related to ensuring that something meets a particular standard or expectation, much like measuring fabric accurately. “Up to the task at hand!” » an employer might say to his team.

A stitch in time is worth nine

a concentrated caucasian blonde seamstress sits using a modern sewing machine.  The seamstress works in a textile workshop.  Sewing, tailoring as a small business or hobby concept.  sewing process
Image credit: Roman Chazov/Shutterstock.com

If you're lucky enough to spot a small hole in a piece of fabric and repair it before the problem gets worse, you might have avoided replacing that item of clothing.

This proverb explains just that, and outside of the sewing world, it suggests that addressing a problem early can prevent it from getting worse and more difficult to repair – much like repairing a small tear in the fabric.

Sewing up a storm

Handsome fashion designer sewing with a sewing machine
Image credit: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock.com

Comically, this idiom could indeed refer to a seamstress who sews with energy. However, it can also be applied metaphorically to refer to intense or rapid activity in any context.

The word sew could also be replaced with a multitude of other words to better fit the situation, such as “cooking up a storm”, “dancing up a storm”, “speaking up a storm”, etc.

Don't leave any ending hanging

buttons at the market
Image credit: SewCan She.

“Leaving no loose ends” refers to completing a task thoroughly, without leaving anything unresolved or open to question, much like finishing a sewing project with all the loose threads carefully secured.

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Disclosure: Some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of these links, I may receive a small commission, so please support SewCanShe when you shop! All opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂




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