Make your own zafu

A previous survey of zafu prices found the average online price to hover around $47. This is a lot of money, so I wanted to find out how much it costs if you make your own zafu. Sadly I don’t have that kind of time. Fortunately I have a friend who wanted to make her own zafu. I sent her these zafu making instructions, and asked her to keep track of the cost and time spent making it. She went out and bought $11 of fabric from Joann, which was twice the necessary amount. I went out and bought three pounds of kapok ($20), enough for more than two zafus. My friend took out her sewing machine and while watching Star Wars, sewed together the cushion (about two and a half hours). She packed in the stuffing this past weekend. So I’d say a reasonable estimate is $16 for making this zafu from scratch. Compared with the $47 you’d pay for a meditation cushion online, that means these zafu sellers are making an outrageous profit! If you feel crafty enough, I’d say that you should go make your own meditation cushion. You save money and you walk away with a greater sense of accomplishment!

21 Replies to “Make your own zafu”

  1. If you factor in the time to make and stuff the zafu the $30 difference between the cost of the materials and the retail price of the zafu doesn’t seem that much to me. 2.5 hours of my time is certainly worth more to me than $30.

  2. Drat, I was hoping no one would catch me on that! But thank you for pointing that out, because this is indeed an important point. If I were running my friend like a business, then I’d actually have to pay out at least $40 to abide by California minimum wage laws, including labor and transport, plus the cost of gas for fetching the materials, which adds another $5. Outrageous!

    You can actually sew and stuff this meditation cushion in 30 minutes from the moment you measure the fabric. (Just don’t watch an epic trilogy while you do this.) But truth is we’re not really doing this for the money.

    We love crafts. I alone spend endless weeks knitting scarves, hats and socks (with expensive yarn) that I could buy at a retail outlet for less money than a restaurant dinner. If I ever sew my own meditation cushion, I will probably do it by hand, which will probably take a week. Nevertheless, I do it because I enjoy it and then breathe a slight sigh of relief that I saved $30 (or more) in my bank account.

    I certainly don’t think meditation cushion makers are trying to rob the Buddhist public. Surely they’re just trying to make a decent margin. The high prices might be justified by low sales and a made-to-order scheme, but I can’t say because I don’t know their business structure. The nature of the price distribution suggests that the zafu competition isn’t exactly searing. I suspect a $50 cushion makes a good profit, but it surely isn’t buying a trip to the Bahamas.

    Still, there’s nothing wrong with comparison shopping or haggling for the best price. This isn’t to say I’m trying to knock the bottom out of the zafu market. But at least now you know where your money’s (not) going.

  3. If you are too busy to make a zafu, you are too busy to meditate. Try thinking of making a zafu as a meditation in itself and use the first couple of times you would have spent meditating on making the cushion.
    “You should know that there is one who is not busy.”
    Namaste

  4. It’s a rainy day here and I have the day off. I’m looking forward to the cutting, folding and sewing of the very sensual fabric I picked out. While my time, like everyone else’s is valuable, I feel good about knowing I made this myself and I know that the materials are all environmentally friendly. It’s just a nice something to do. 🙂

    Namaste.

    Wiggy

  5. I was wondering where you bought the kapok. I received a zafu case as a gift and am trying to find inexpensive stuffing. Thank you.

  6. I got the kapok at Lincoln Fabrics in Los Angeles. I was recommended to it by Kusala Bhikshu, who’d shopped there for kapok 20 years earlier. For any other city, I would call up every fabric store and ask about kapok.

    Be careful handling kapok. I strongly suggest getting a face mask for handling it both at the store and when stuffing your cushion. An alternative may be to order buckwheat husks (hulls?) online. I’m actually more of a buckwheat person myself, but it’s all up to your tush.

  7. We’re (DharmaCrafts) one of those zafu makers who charge around $49 :-). We’ve been making them in Massachusetts, by hand, for 30 years. Sounds like a great idea to make your own — if you’ve got the time, talent, tools, and if you take proper precautions. If you’re making a kapok-stuffed zafu, I would suggest that you try to use at least 3-4 lbs of kapok. so that your cushion doesn’t flatten into a “pancake” after a few sittings. You’ll, find, however that it’s rather difficult to stuff that much kapok into a cushion; it takes some muscle power and craftsmanship to make it round. And, you’ll wnat your fabric to have double-stitched seams so that you don’t rip the fabric when you’re stuffing. Also, while kapok is a natural fiber, the kapok dust is flammable and is not a great thing to breathe in! So, you should wear a mask and work in an area with a non-static floor. Good luck!

  8. I was curious where you got kapok from? I’m searching online and I’m only finding outrageous prices. Thanks!

  9. This info may be helpful to those going for it:

    I was a bit confused by STEP 1 a) of the instructions. It seems every web page on this subject copied from the same source, which reads:

    “make three marks, 3/4 inch apart, thus marking out the first pleat… Three inches after the first set of pleat markings, make the second set… Continue doing this till you have 14 pleats. When you finish, the last pleat marking should be 3 inches from the right edge.”

    My first attempt came out with only 12 pleats with 1.5″ remaining to the right edge. I tried again, this time making only two marks, 3/4″ apart, for each pleat. Lo and behold, I had 14 pleats and 3″ left!!

    1. OK, I am stuck big time at STEP 3! My 11 inch diameter circle is nowhere near big enough for the pleaded length of cloth! Has anyone tried these instructions successfully?

      My math shows the pleats would need to be 1.75″, not .75″:

      11″ diameter circle implies a circumference of about 35.5″. To shorten the 59″ long piece by 24.5″, one needs 14 pleats at 1.75″, right??

      HELP!

  10. Has anyone tried this since Derek posted the problems with the instructions? Is the 11″ diameter too small? thanks susan

  11. Hi,

    I just wanted to say, that anyone who has worked in a commercial field knows that you roughly mutiply the fabrication price x3 or x4 to have margin enough to pay all the employees down the line all the way to the vendor etc…

    So yes, anything you make yourself will probable only cost you about 1/4 to 1/3 of the market value. This is only a rule of thumb, but it almost always checks out.

  12. I’m using these instructions. But I have to say, they are far from perfect.

    The wording for the pleat sizing is a bit vague – if you make three points for each pleat, then it is the distance from A to C that should be 3/4 inch, rather than for A to B (and then B to C). Point B isn’t strictly necessary, but can help when folding the pleats in. I have found it helpful to actually iron the pleats into the fabric. With these measurements, you will have 14 pleats, with the correct distances left over at the edges.

    However I think the 11 inch circle would STILL be too small with the pleats done this way; I am using a 13 inch circle and there really is a lot of excess fabric on the length! Perhaps there is a mistake in the instructions concerning the sizing. My prediction is that a circle with a 13 inch diameter is just about the smallest that the pattern will allow.

    My real issue is with step 2 – specifying where to pin a loop at this stage doesn’t make any sense when you consider that your circle of fabric (following the instructions) could be anything from 11 to 13 inches in diameter, meaning anything from about 34 to 41 inches in circumference (a variation of around 7 inches). That’s a big difference! You would definitely need to pin your loop in a different place depending on the size of your circles.

    My solution at this point is to simply skip step 2 and just ease the circles onto the unpinned length of fabric; it’s extremely important not to force this in any way, or you risk warping the weave of the fabric. Once it becomes clear where the length will overlap you can fold the rough edge under and pin the loop here (fold the longer, un-pleated end under in order to maintain the direction of the pleats).

    I really do hope somebody comes up with some better Zafu instructions at some point. Honestly, I would do it, but I don’t know the first thing about sewing! If anyone with any skill in this area can spot any obvious mistakes with anything I’ve said, please add your thoughts!

    Nick

  13. I made a zafu with those instructions and it came out fine. I was using a 13 inch circle and only came out with 12 pleats (maybe less?) but I’m happy with how it turned out.

    It didn’t cost me anything to make this (except time, obviously). I was able to use some fabric that I got for free at our local swap shop – a red satin pillowcase for the top and bottom, and some brown polyester fabric for the side. For stuffing, I used plastic grocery bags, since I have an obscene amount of them hanging around. They actually worked very well–provided good structure to the zafu and great cushioning. Plus, the zafu ends up being very lightweight.

    I would suggest stuffing it until you think it’s full, then sitting on it to compress the bags and stuffing it a little bit more.

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