The Real Meaning Of “Tying Up Loose Ends”

(1.)Tie up loose ends


(Idiomatic) To deal with the minor consequences of a previous action; to tidy up, finish, or complete. “Removing her name from the mailing list was her way of tying up loose ends.”

It’s an expression most of us have heard or used at one time or another. But do you know the origin of the expression? Do you know what it really means?

The expression “tie up loose ends” is a weaving term. When a newly woven item is first cut off a loom, sometimes the warp ends are unbound. The warp ends must be finished in some way to prevent the weft from unraveling. It is the intersection of warp and weft materials that creates a woven fabric.

Rag Rugs On A Loom Have Loose Ends

Rag Rugs On A Loom

To “tie up loose ends” is literally just that. It’s the process of tying up the warp ends to prevent the weft material of a fabric from becoming unwoven and separating.
The example below illustrates the idea.

This is the bottom of rag rug that was cut off a floor loom.

Loose Ends Of A Rag Rug

Rag Rug Right Off The Loom

The rug is unfinished at this stage. Notice the blue filler yarn that has been woven into the warp (long threads at the top & bottom) and prevents the brown and white rags (the weft) from coming loose. The filler thread will be unraveled and the loose ends exposed and then tied off with a knot.

Tying Knots

Knots Are Tied To Prevent Raveling

The knot will become the fringe for the rug.
At one time the home production of cloth was an everyday household affair. Back then people well understood the concept of “tying up loose ends”.

Loose Ends Are tied Up

Tying Up Loose Ends On A Rag Rug

The expression later became a part of our colloquial speech founded in an everyday familiarity to describe the necessity for finishing or completing a project.

Rag Rug

Rag Rug By Basement Door

Do you think we should let Wiktionary in on it?

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