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‘Abayomi’ is the name of a traditional African rag doll made from knots tied on rags (recycled fabric). Abayomi dolls have been around for over three hundred years in certain parts of Africa.
These traditional dolls come from the Yoruba people, an ethnic group of people found in south-western Nigeria and southern Benin and also in smaller concentrations in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone. They constitute 35 million people in total, the majority of which are located in Nigeria.
The word ‘Abayomi’ in the Yoruba language means ‘one who brings happiness’ or ‘precious encounter’: ‘ABAY’ meaning ‘meeting’ and ‘OMI’ meaning ‘precious’.
This craft is suitable for ‘Black History Month’ and other general celebrations of native people including: NAIDOC, Native American Heritage Day and National Aboriginal Day. You can dress the doll according to the native traditions of the occasion (American Indian, Aborigine, Inuit).
Stretch fabric in any colours - Old T-shirts or any other knitted fabric garments no longer used or needed.
Scraps of colourful fabrics
Ribbons or cut strip from ‘skirt’ fabric
Flexible magnets (If making refrigerator magnet dolls)
Key rings (If making key ring dolls)
Watch the video below for a demonstration.
Cut all the necessary parts as per instructions found under the ‘measurements’ heading.
Gather ‘body’ rectangle and make a knot at one end leaving 1 inch flap for ‘hair’.
Fold ‘shirt’ fabric in the middle and make a small cut
Insert ‘shirt’ through lower ‘body’
Take ‘arms’ rectangle and tie under ‘shirt’ and ‘head’
Make knots on both ends of ‘arms’ and trim if necessary
Make ‘legs’ by folding lower ‘body’ in the middle and cutting up to 2 thirds of the way.
Make knots on both ‘legs’ to form ‘feet’ and trim if necessary.
Cut ‘hair’ into thin strips and tie a bow or a turban (a turban made of stretch fabric holds better).
Dress Abayomi doll the way you wish.
Stretch fabric should be not be too thick; thick fabric will make it difficult to tie the knots.
Every doll you make will be different depending on the thickness of the stretch fabric you use.
Make jewellery for dolls and add features if you wish (Traditional Abayomi do not have features)
These measurements are to make an 8 inch (20 cm) tall Abayomi doll:
One rectangle of stretch fabric: 12” X 5” or 30cm X 12cm
One rectangle of stretch fabric 3” X 10” inches or 8cm X 25cm
One rectangle 11” X 4” or 28cm 10cm (skirt)
One rectangle 2” X 5 “ or 5cm X 13cm (shirt/top)
One strip of fabric 6” inches or 15cm long and 1.2 inch wide (sash or belt). Alternatively use a ribbon.
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