Make a Clothespin Doll in Nigerian Dress

  • 01 of 04

    Make a Clothespin Doll in a Nigerian Traditional Dress

    Clothespin doll in Nigerian style dress.
    Clothespin doll in simplified traditional dress with a stole and gele. Photo © 2013 Lesley Shepherd

    This clothespin doll is shown in a traditional style clothing worn in Nigeria. Traditional dress in many African countries consists of a wrap skirt and a blouse. The Nigerian dress used to costume this clothespin doll consists of three pieces of fabric suggestive of traditional African clothing. I've used simple wax resist batiks as those are easiest to find in my local quilting store. The traditional dress consists of an iro or wrap skirt, a buba or blouse, an iborun or ipele scarf or stole, and a gele or wrapped headdress. I've added a hip wrap to transition between the buba and the iro or wrap skirt, as those are often found in various forms of similar dress. To make the costume easier, I've used wired ribbon for the traditional Nigerian headwrap or gele and the scarf or stole.

    In the steps which follow I'll show how the various clothing parts are made to fit the doll. The basic clothespin doll is made using the tutorial on clothespin dolls. The doll shown here was stained with a thin wash of brown acrylic paint. As this doll wears a gele, the hair has been left unfinished.

    There are also instructions on this site for dressing a clothespin doll in a traditional sari and a clothespin doll in a simplified kimono.

    Continue to 2 of 4 below.
  • 02 of 04

    Main Clothing Pieces To Dress the Nigerian Clothespin Doll

    Clothespin doll body with three batik fabrics for traditional Nigerian clothing.
    Three layers of batik fabric make the wrap skirt, or iro, the buba or blouse and a hip wrap for a doll in clothespin doll in dress suggestive of Nigerian women's wear. Photo © 2013 Lesley Shepherd

    The main clothing pieces for the Nigerian clothespin doll costume are made beginning with the "Iro" or wrap skirt. I cut a 2 1/4 (6cm) length of fabric, roughly 4 inches (10 cm) wide at the base, narrowing at the waist and treated it with fraycheck . The fabric was wrapped around the doll's body so the base of the skirt covered the doll support. I gathered the fabric into loose pleats at the waist and glued it to the doll's body.

    The "Buba" or blouse for my Nigerian clothespin doll is made by folding a 3 1/2 inch (9 cm) square of fabric in half and cutting a small hole in the center to insert the neck through. The fabric is set over the doll's arms then trimmed from the sleeve openings back to the body, cutting off the lower corners of the folded square. A bit of fabric glue or pva glue is used to hold the bottom edges of the sleeves together.

    To cover the edges of the blouse where it lies over the wrapped skirt, I cut a 1 1/4 inch wide strip of a co-ordinating fabric and folded the top edge down as a slight overhang. I then wrapped the strip over the bottom of the blouse, and glued it loosely together at the side to form a hip wrap.

    Continue to 3 of 4 below.
  • 03 of 04

    Adding a Shawl and Positioning the Arms of the Nigerian Clothespin Doll

    Shawl over the shoulder of traditional Yoruba dress style on a clothespin doll body.
    With the clothing layers on the doll, the stole is set in place and the arms brought forward into a natural pose. The stole is worn most often on the left, but is shown here on the right shoulder. Photo © 2013 Lesley Shepherd

    When the glue on the main dress pieces has dried, a length of wired ribbon, roughly 1 1/2 inches wide (4 cm) by 4 1/2 inches (13cm) long is treated with fraycheck or pva glue on the ends and bent to pver the doll's shoulder (left is preferred rather than right as shown) to form a shawl. The shawl should be made from the same ribbon as the gele or headdress.

    Once the shawl is in place over the doll's shoulder, the arms are bent at the elbow to hold the shawl in place and give the doll a natural position.

    Continue to 4 of 4 below.
  • 04 of 04

    Fitting a Gele Headdress on A Nigerian Clothespin Doll

    Nigerian headdress and stole made from wired ribbon to fit a clothespin doll.
    Wired ribbon used to make a traditional gele or headdress and a scarf or stole for a clothespin doll in Nigerian dress. Photo © 2013 Lesley Shepherd

    The Gele or headdress for the clothespin doll is fashioned from a length of wired ribbon. Fine stiff ribbon will also work as long as it is not too thick.

    To tie the gele, fold one long edge of a 12 inch (30cm) length of 1 1/2 inch (4cm) wide ribbon over by 1/4 inch (.5cm). Fold the ribbon length in half with the narrow folded edge underneath, and set the fold at the back of the doll's head with the narrow folded edge facing the dolls neck. Bring the ribbon around to the front of the doll's head above the eyes, then keeping the ribbon tight, (it is easiest if the doll's head is sitting loosely on a body clothespin) take the ribbon ends around to the back of the doll's head again, and tie the ribbon ends tightly at the base of the doll's neck using a reef knot. Pull the tied ribbon ends up to make the 'crown' and trim them to shape. Treat the trimmed ends with a bit of fray check or a narrow band of pva glue to prevent the ribbon from fraying. Allow to dry. When the edges of the ribbon are dry, gently manipulate the ribbon to form loose folds and gathers to style your Gele.

    In the photo on this page you can see the tied ribbon, which has been styled on the doll, and then removed so you can see the wrapping method used to style it and hold it in place. It goes from the back of the doll's head, over the front of the doll's head, back to the back where it is tied, then the bow ends fanned out.

    This traditional doll was inspired by the African Aids Angels project which helps African families affected by HIV/AIDS. Talk about a great way to use miniature skills!