How to make a Zafu

First, what is a zafu? It’s a cushion to sit on during sitting meditation.

Do I need one? Nope.

Having said that, here are some instructions which I borrowed from a wonderful web site called No Zendo. Unfortunately they are no longer online. The following information was originally published by the Zen Center of Los Angeles and was found in one of their fine books, entitled “To Forget the Self: An Illustrated Guide to Zen Meditation” by John Daishin Buksbazen. Unfortunately, this book is now out of print. It is gratefully presented here as a help for those getting started on their own.

SUGGESTED FABRIC
A sturdy material such as a cotton/polyester blend

SUGGESTED FILLING
Kapok fiber, although buckwheat hulls can be used for those who prefer a firmer seat

BASIC PIECES

  • Length of cloth 59 inches long, 6 inches to 9 inches wide (depending on how high you would like your cushion to be).
  • Two circles of cloth, each with a diameter of 11 inches to 13 inches (depending on how large around you would like your cushion to be.)

STEP 1. Pleat the length of cloth. There should be fourteen 3/4 inch pleats, 3 inches apart. To pleat: a) Beginning 6-1 /2 inches from the left edge of the length, make three marks, 3/4 inch apart, thus marking out the first pleat:

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Three inches after the first set of pleat markings, make the second set, as indicated above. Continue doing this till you have 14 pleats. When you finish, the last pleat marking should be 3 inches from the right edge. (If you wish to have narrower pleats, of course, simply increase the number of pleats.) b) Next, iron the pleats and pin them. They should all be folded and ironed in toward the left-hand side. For each set of pleat markings, fold the third in toward the first as shown, and then pin as shown at below:

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STEP 2. Now, having completed the first step, take the right edge of the pleated strip cloth and pin it to the left end of the strip, 3-1/4 inches from the left edge:

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STEP 3. Mark each circle of cloth at four equidistant points. Turn pleated length of cloth inside out. Pin each circle to the pleated strip, one circle to the top edge and one to the bottom edge, at each of the four points:

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STEP 4. Next, ease (pin) all the pleats in to the circles, top and bottom. Sew the circles to the length of cloth:

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STEP 5. Turn inside out and stuff with kapok or buckwheat hulls (through opening in the side that the zafu will have) It’s best to use a lot of stuffing material. Kapok will slowly compress with use and buckwheat hulls eventually breakdown:

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That’s it! You could sew a zipper in the opening or simply sew it closed.

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