How to Enjoy Buying Fabric Traveling in Ghana as an American

Yes, I’m on the road again, and you have to know that any trip will include a deep dive to buy fabric; this time, it’s for fabric in Ghana.

Finding sewing fabric in Ghana can be an exciting and overwhelming experience, especially for those who are new to the city or country. Ghana is known for its vibrant and colorful textiles, which are often made with traditional techniques such as batik, tie-dye, and kente weaving. There are several places to find sewing fabric in Accra, ranging from local markets to modern malls.

Another option for finding sewing fabric in Accra is to visit one of the many fabric shops located in the city. These shops offer a more curated selection of fabrics and often have a wider range of options, including imported fabrics from Europe and Asia. Some popular fabric shops in Accra include Tex Styles Ghana, Vlisco Boutique, and Woodin Boutique. These shops offer a more modern and upscale shopping experience, with air-conditioned spaces and helpful staff to assist with fabric selection.

Fabric shopping in Ghana is a bit of an experience and might take a little more planning than shopping in the US.

What kind of fabric will you find in Ghana?

You probably already guessed, most of your fabrics will be wax-printed Ankara. These are mostly imported. Reread that. Yes, imported and manufactured from Holland or China. Unless you read below and buy consciously while in the country.

Consider consciously purchasing fabric in Ghana

There are many vendors of African print fabrics.

I pride myself in doing a little research before I buy but I have to confess I missed the boat on this one.

On my first visit, I fell in love with Vlisco fabrics, their edgy, modern, and hip print is absolutely fire 🔥. I inaccurately thought: 1) they were owned by the same folks who own Woodin fabrics and 2) they were all made in Holland. Neither of these two thoughts is true.

My desire for this visit was to figure out where the Ghana-made fabrics were. Since I was there on a medical mission and my colleague has dual citizenship, I asked a simple question: ‘what company is Ghana owned and designed’? His simple answer is GTP and Woodin. And there are others, Printex and ATL. My mind was officially blown. Because sometimes Woodin is sold in a Vlisco shop and visa versa, I erroneously concluded they were the same company.

Ghana used to brag about over 13 textile factories, but like everything else—pirating prevails; at the time of this article, there are only three factories. One can easily see the dilemma of buying knockoff fabrics. When we buy authentic fabrics, we support the industry in a powerful way because we ultimately support those African workers.

These are batiks,

History of Ankara, Dutch wax

As I write this, please note I’m not a historian, but I aim to educate myself on how and why certain fabrics came into existence. Additionally, the origins of the craft and the tools of the craft and relevant and important.

For the purposes of this article, I will interchangeably use the terms ‘Ankara’ and ‘Dutch wax.’ Ghanaians May have no idea what you are asking for if you ask for ‘Ankara’ as the term isn’t used there. My collègue asked me if I wanted cloth. After a few puzzled expressions, I said, yes, fabric.

The origin of the name Ankara is debatable. Some believe the name is from the capital city of Turkey —Ankara. Others believe the term is sort of a mispronounced Accra, the capital of Ghana, used by traders. Accra was the central hub for this unique textile.

Be careful not to confuse Kente and Ankara. Kente is specific to West Africa and is distinctly associated with the Ashanti and Ewe weavers. This fabric is distinct to Ghana, and West African culture in general. Printed Kente is fairly ubiquitous; authentic cloth is much more difficult to source. Originally worn by royalty, the various patterns are easily recognizable. Like quilting, there is meaning in the patterns and designs, hidden symbols used to communicate.

The weaving techniques seen in the Kente cloth are also found in basket weaving, placemats, and other household items.

The Dutch were mixing up fresh batik patterns to sell and trade in Indonesia, but it didn’t catch on. The patterns were brightly colored with symbols oriented like tribal markings. Naturally, those of African descent, especially West Africans—Ghanaians, Nigerians, and similar cultures.

Don’t forget this…

If you are shopping for Ankara:

  • Most of what you buy will be printed wax designs
  • Not everything that looks authentic is true batik or wax print—-there are plenty of fakes.
  • Kente cloth is NOT Ankara.
  • Mud cloth is NOT Ankara.
  • Authentic Ankara will be 100% cotton
  • The fabric is 45” wide; plan accordingly, and buy more if you need to
  • It’s sold in 6 or 12 meters unless it’s already been cut

The first few times I went on this adventure, all I purchased were batiks, wax prints, and cotton. Keep this in mind; some of the vibrant colors are difficult, if not impossible, to match with a solid once you return to the States. Therefore, don’t forget to buy coordinating solid cotton for every piece you purchase, even if you just use it for the lining. Additionally, having the matching cotton will save you time and energy later. The coordinating solid will be on hand to use any way you want when the time comes.

Where to fabric shop as an American Tourist

As an American tourist, you will likely land by airplane in Accra, Ghana. This is a city bustling with all sorts of industries. In the city, you will find American creature comforts along with fabrics of all colors and styles. The high-end fabrics will definitely come from places called Vlisco and Woodin. You can order from the US, but it’s so much nicer to personally encounter the fabric in-house. Also, shipping is an entirely imported process. Get free shipping by ordering enough to hit the threshold. It will go through customs and take some time to arrive, so if you are in Ghana, simply buy fabric direct.

The are several locations in Accra. I’ve been to the ones in the Accra Mall, Osu, and Junction Mall. ……

Moreover, one popular destination for fabric shopping in Accra is Makola Market. This bustling open-air market is located in the heart of the city and is known for its wide selection of textiles, including wax prints, lace, and brocade. Shoppers can browse through the rows of vendors to find the perfect fabric for their sewing projects. Bargaining is expected, so shoppers should be prepared to negotiate prices.

INSERT locations

You will need transportation, a driver and possibly a native speaker.

Literally, everywhere in the market areas, there is fabric. In my five trips to Ghana and my exploration of Accra, Sunyani, Kumasi, Cape Coast, and the Elmina area, I’ve never come away desperate for fabric. Every marketplace will have some display or offering of fabric.

Plan your Fabric shopping trip.

So now that you understand that the fabric is everywhere, you need to plan your trip to make the best of your luggage situation 😝. Or you will certainly need additional luggage. Since this past trip was not my first, I knew that I was looking for purple Ankara.

Overall, finding sewing fabric in Accra, Ghana, can be an exciting and rewarding experience for those who are willing to explore the city’s markets and shops. Whether you’re looking for traditional African textiles or modern, imported fabrics, there are plenty of options to choose from. With a little bit of patience and a willingness to bargain, you’re sure to find the perfect fabric for your next sewing project.

Check out my other adventures in travel and sewing here:

What places have you had good fabric shopping experiences? Drop me a comment below.

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