Beautiful and easy to make! Abayomi rag dolls are traditional of Africa and can be adapted to celebrate the native people of any country. They are also a lovely gift idea for any occasion.
This is one of many free activities.
Golden Carers has 1000s of activities and resources for senior care.

‘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.
  • Safety scissors
  • 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.

Files included:

Download Image

Abayomi Turban

Related Activities

Save time with 1000's of meaningful
activity ideas for every occasion.

Enter your email address to collect your free activities.

✓ 100% Privacy ✓ No Spam

Comments   Post a Comment

Ina 5th Nov 2018 Activities Coordinator
Cant wait to try this with my residents :)
vicki 1st Sep 2015 recreational facilities officer
My residents loved this, and so did we! A perfect way to use up scrap fabrics. We also made little necklaces with large beads. Will be doing this will make sure we have all the correct pieces cut first. thanks for a great activity!
Maurice 9th Jun 2015

Lovely feedback thank you, glad they enjoyed it!

Since the knots need to be trimmed anyway, one solution might be tying the knots with longer pieces of material so the loops are easier to make and handle, and then trimming the extra material at the end.
Solange 9th Jun 2015 Diversional Therapist
Hi Julia, you may use lycra for easy making knots however, you must increase the width of the 'body' rectangle (by a quarter more) otherwise the doll will look too skinny. Best wishes!
Julia 9th Jun 2015 recreational officer
I tried this last weekend the residents loved the dolls but did find it a little difficult tying the knots. I loved it and tied many knots. Thank you.
Hayat 7th Jun 2015 Recreation Officer
It's lovely activities I will showing my residents next week I am sure they will love to make the little dolls ...
Marjorie 2nd Jun 2015
What a lovely item to make. I will be showing my Day Centre clients how to do this in July. I am sure they will adore their little dolls. Dawn
No Avatar