make a silk purse (out) of a sow's ear

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make a silk purse (out) of a sow's ear

1. To create something beautiful, desirable, or valuable out of poor tools or materials. Often used in negative constructions. You want me to make a wedding dress out of this tacky fabric? I'm sorry, but you can't expect me to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear! You say you want to take professional-quality photos, but you're still using a digital camera from 2003. You're not going to magically make a silk purse of a sow's ear, you know.
2. To turn a negative or undesirable thing or situation into something positive or worthwhile. Our consultancy firm specializes in making silk purses out of sows' ears. We identify and rectify inherent structural problems in an organization and get it working to the best of its potential. The mayoral candidate has an indefatigable optimism about the crime-ridden city, promising to make a silk purse of a sow's ear.
See also: ear, make, of, purse, silk
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

make a silk purse out of a sow's ear

turn something inferior into something of top quality.
The observation that you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear has been proverbial since the late 16th century; there was an earlier version which featured a goat's fleece instead of a sow's ear .
See also: ear, make, of, out, purse, silk
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

make a silk ˌpurse out of a sow’s ˈear

succeed in making something good out of material that does not seem very good at all: If you’re serious about taking up painting, invest in good quality brushes and canvas. After all, it’s no good trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
See also: ear, make, of, out, purse, silk
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
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