Sierra Leone’s Print Embroidery | How African Print Embroidery Are Made

Predominantly worn by the Creoles of Sierra Leone. The print is a specific cotton design with a unique type of embroidery for ladies. It is a loose-fitting dress with matching scarf of a particular colorful cotton printed fabric made purposely for that. The surface is pleated from the imperial waistline down. Necklines may be square or

be in an asymmetrical zigzag decorative

pattern. Sleeves are three-quarter length,

with ruffles around the cuff. The bottom of the dress has a decorative ruffle sewn just above the bottom hem. Only white or off white thread was used for the stitches. The dress has side pockets. The dress is then adorned with embroidery around the neckline, pockets and back shoulder. This is what the typical print/Kabba slot Embroidery looks likes. 

At LeoneCulture our aim is to rejuvenate the print embroidery by embracing modern styles and designs using vibrant Africa Wax/Cotton, different colored thread, and unique cutwork to bring the Print Embroidery to life. While maintaining the foundation and respect for the women before us. We don’t want the prints to be limited to only women as is used to be. That is why we are creating for both sexes.

Sierra Leone's Traditional Attires

Sierra Leone has a few traditional attires such as the Print/Kabba Slot Embroidery, Country Cloth Smock, Ronko Smock, Batik(gara tie-dye). Over the years not much has changed fashion-wise especially, for the Print embroidery in comparison to the Kente and Ero and Buba by our counterparts in West Africa such as Nigeria and Ghana. Fashion keeps evolving and for a particular style to stay relevant it has to be flexible and adaptable. Willing to evolve and change with times and we have not seen in the print embroidery fashion industry. We have seen the same materials, design, and threads been used since the 1950s. Thereby pushing away a lot of young people or none creoles from embracing the print embroidery culture. Most have resigned from wearing it and have left it in the hands of the aged.


Our mission is to get more young people (both sexes) in Sierra Leone and elsewhere to be interested in wearing the print as a national symbol and pride by styling and designing it in more attractive ways.


The first step is to make the stitches on a particular type of paper or canvas. After stitching, the next step is cutwork of designs on the yoke of the “Kabba slot,” the perimeters of the cutwork are intricately bound with bias tape or the cotton. Then the cutwork is joined together to bring the design to life.


Print embroidery has a rich heritage and has moved from one generation to the next. It is resilient as the women of Sierra Leone. The Cotton fabrics utilized for the dress called “kabbalah slot” were printed in Europe. A well-known firm in Manchester was manufacturing the fabrics. During the height of the fashion in the 1950s, the company sent representatives with specimens to Freetown to research the preferences of women and then created the favorite designs for the Krio market women. Some of the design chosen was called “Birds Eating Rice.” “Bananas.” “Flowers” and so forth.


The Sierra Leone Creole people (Krio people) are descendants of freed African American, West Indian, Jamaican Maroons, NovaScotians, Recaptives, and Liberated African Slaves. They settled in the Western Area of Sierra Leone between 1787 and about 1885. The colony was founded by the British, supported by abolitionists, under the Sierra Leone Company as a place for freedmen. The settlers called their new settlement Freetown. Today. The Sierra Leone Creoles comprise 1.3% of the population of Sierra Leone.

The Creoles went on to become some of Africa’s first professionals and experts, becoming physicians, solicitors, managers, supervisors and pioneers. Some of them would later move through the course of their work to go settle in Ghana, Gambia, and Nigeria as important actors in the business and public service.

©By Rahima Vandy Kargbo known as Dasalonetiti Rahima

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