The Sicilian Village Tailor and The Mafia Boss


And How Quick Thinking with a few Stitches Saved the day.


Have you ever made a fatal mistake in sewing, only to discovered it at the last moment - too late to be able to do anything? Here's the story about that desperate moment.

There was once an old tailor who ran a small workshop in a tiny village in Sicily.

He was talented and well-known for making his clients look and feel amazing in his creation. People came from near and far to get their suits custom made by the tailor and his dedicated team.

Before long, words reached the mafia boss in town.

He got curious and decided to pay the tailor a visit himself.

So one day, a few flashy cars sped into the quiet village and pulled up in front of the workshop. The old tailor and his team opened the door to find themselves surrounded by large muscle men - each with gun holsters hidden in their suits - escorting the mafia boss into the now cramped workshop.

You see, the mafia boss needed a special suit to wear for his daughter's wedding, and wanted to look his best. Without batting an eyelid, the old tailor got busy. Measurements were taken (with outmost care), fabric selected (the finest of finest), and style discussed (at length).

The mafia boss left satisfied.

He was happy that he finally found a tailor he could trust. Bellissimo! He couldn't wait to look and feel amazing at his daughter's wedding. 

Within the next few weeks, he visited the tailor three more times for fitting - always a pleasure. Each time his confidence grew. Not long to go now!

Then it was the night before the wedding - the mafia boss had arranged to pick up his suit in the morning. The old tailor went to give the suit a final inspection - just a routine one. 

But what he found nearly gave him a heart attack because...

There was a tiny hole on the right trouser leg near the knee. It looked like a small burn - made by a fleck of hot coal from the iron, perhaps? Someone was no doubt careless with the final ironing. Who was it?!  The old tailor quizzed the whole team.

After a brief silence, the young apprentice bursted into tears and fell to his knees. He was responsible. And now everyone (and their family) would be in big trouble, because there wasn't time (or fabric) to remake the trousers - and they had no idea what the angry mob boss would do if the suit wasn't perfect for his daughters' wedding. What now?

The old tailor thought for a moment and got an idea.

With a needle and some embroidery silk, his nimble fingers turned the tiny hole into a fine eyelet, surrounded by a pair of wings. It was exquisite. The old tailor then instructed everyone to do the exact same embroidery - at the exact same spot - with their own trousers.

By morning the entire workshop team were sporting these winged embroideries on their own trouser leg near the right knee - they even had time to embroidered a few spare pairs to drape around the workshop and put in the display window.

Now the wait began.

Soon enough, the cars pulled up and the holster-wearing muscle men filed in, lead by the mafia boss - who had spring in his step and hummed a tune as he walked, for he was in an exceptionally good mood. The old tailor greeted him warmly and escorted him into the change room.

The humming continued for a few minutes, then silence. Followed by an angry growl. The mob boss bursted out of the change room...

"Tailor!! What's the meaning of THIS?!"

He bellowed while pointed at the embroidery on his right trouser leg. At that split second, each of his men reached for their guns on reflex. Everyone froze.

"Oh, this." Calmly said the old tailor, with all the certainty in the world, "it's the latest trend, Boss. Look." He casually displayed the same embroidery on his own trousers.

As if on cue, his entire team matter-of-factly showed their right trouser leg. These Sicilian village tailors - dressed immaculately in their own creation - beamed with unshakable esteem. No one said a word.

The room was filled with pride and confidence.

It was clear to all that the tailor and his elite team knew exactly what they were doing. Not only were they well-versed in the fine art of tailoring, they had such keen eyes for details, and savvy of latest trend to boot - of course.

A few seconds of stunned silence (which seemed like an eternity) later - the mafia boss broke into laughter. He ran his fingers over the embroidery, straightened his lapels, and checked himself in the mirror again.

This suit was indeed a fine piece of work. He looked and felt amazing.

More than satisfied... 

The mob boss handed the old tailor an extra wad of cash, before instructing all of his men to each get a suit made by this workshop - of course, all with this same embroidery, no? Because his entire gang would now be known as trend setters - the most stylish gangsters this side of Sicily!

As the mobs left to enjoy the wedding, the old tailor and his team let out a collective sigh of relief. Needless to say, business boomed and they went on to become one of the most prominent tailors this side of Sicily - known by their signature winged embroidery.

This was a story I learnt from an old tailor.

He may have been from Sicily - I didn't ask.

Over the years I've told this story many times to my fashion design friends and students, who - from time to time - would fall into self-doubt and despair, especially when things go wrong in the pursuit of perfection.

Mistakes and hiccups happen to us all.

What you do with them is up to you.

Simply OWN your "oh-I'm-doomed" moments and imperfections - so that you may find unexpected ways to turn these into something beautiful.

You are already amazing. You already have what it takes to be the best version of you. A deeper sense of self-believe will invite the rest of the world to have confidence in you.

Have you ever averted any potential drama by quick thinking - in sewing or otherwise?

Simply send me an email to Share your story with everyone :-)

Take Care, and Happy Sewing!



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Luv this story!

- Suzie


Thanks for the story.

Here is my little one.

I made a quilt for a friend my early quilting days. It was made up of 9 patch and hour glass blocks. I was not very competent yet in matching seams then. So, when it was finished I stood back to look at it and behold....there were about 12 spots that really stood out as mismatched. Oh dear, what to do.....! So, I cut out 12 small red heart shapes and hand appliqued them over the offending spots. It looked great, as if it was meant to be like that.

Elly M


Hi Shelley,

I certainly DO have a 'quick thinking' situation, when I was just 15 years old!

I was new to he city from the country, and needed a hair cut. My mother told me to go to the hairdresser down on the main road, so I did.
When I got home and my father saw my haircut, he blew up (he had always cut my brother's hair with clippers and scissors, and thought he knew how to cut hair...). He said HE would fix the awful haircut (it wasn't that bad), which he did by trimming it ALL back to 2-3 cm all over. This was BEFORE the famous Pixie Cut appeared on Mia Farrow !

So off I went, to my new high school, where all the loooong haired senior girls started laughing at me, and asking what on Earth I thought my hair style was.

I was always able to think quite quickly, but I surprised myself by coming out with the following..... "Oh this is the latest style in Europe. Haven't you seen it?" Much puzzlement, but they believed me !! Imagine MY surprise when, about 6 months later, the Pixie Cut appeared in Australia!! (And they had their loooong hair cut short too....)

This was in the mid 1960s, and newspapers and television weren't very fashion-conscious, so I was never caught out. My proud moment!!!



Hi Shelley,

I can certainly relate to there story of the Sicilian tailor.

About 15 years ago I was making a baby quilt to take to the USA for a friend of my son’s.

It was all hand embroidered and hand quilted - many hours of painstaking stitching and I was so proud of it. It certainly looked delightful!

I was just finishing off the sewing of the binding and dropped my sharp, pointed scissors, point down, onto the border of the quilt.

To my horror, I realised the scissors had cut a small nick in a very noticeable position.

No time to do any un-doing and replacing the border at this stage as I, too, had no more of that fabric and certainly no time to do anything again.

All I could do was to embroider a small blue winged fly over the hole. it looked like it was meant to be there. 

For many of my quilts after that one, I finished them off with my signature blue fly or a little ladybird beetle.



Dear Shelley

I Love this story! Particularly because my husband is Sicilian, and he can see magic in every mistake! (which he calls a misstep, btw).

I have one too.

When my daughter got married, she wanted a silk and rice paper canopy for the ceremony. I imported the silk, and hand stitched it to the rice paper in carefully measured strips. The edges of the 10 foot by 8 foot canopy were also hand stitched with silk ribbon. The centre of the canopy had the bride and groom's initials intertwined and embroidered. Oh, so much work, it was WEEKS of fine tuning to make sure everything lay just straight, no ruffles tucks or pulls. Just as I was finishing it, I pricked my finger, like Cinderella, but in this case it would have been the wicked new Mother In Law. I didn’t notice the blood in my haste to finish, and then to my horror, found about 5 blotches of pink/red/salmon around the corners. There was NO WAY this could have been washed, or cleaned. I had three solutions: 1. Throw myself off a cliff. 2. Persuade my daughter not to marry this man as obviously he was bad luck. 4. Suggest they get married under a tree. 4. Invent.

I chose option 4. I cut up some of the remaining silk and made them into tiny petal flowers, the centre of which was a tiny red silk heart, to cover my spilled blood. I rough tacked these, to look like they’d fallen from the skies. They looked like Iceberg roses, and I personally think it added enchantment and a personal story to my labours.

Of course Daughter noticed, and to be truthful I told her that I had literally spilled blood over her marriage! She loved my invention.

So many people commented on the beauty of this canopy that for a while I went into the wedding canopy business, until one too many bridezillas really did make me want to throw myself off a cliff, insisting everything had to be PERFECT.

The lesson from this was that everything, even cutting too small or short, can be rectified. Remodel into something else!

Thanks once again for your fabulous newsletters, I enjoy every one.