What is the meaning of the saying 'a stitch in time saves nine'?

The idea is that if you repair a tear in clothing as soon as it happens, you might fix it with one stitch of thread, but if you wait, it will tear more and you will end up using ten stitches to fix it. And so it is in general with things that need to be done--often if you do it promptly, it saves work in the long run.