Make Your Own Zafu/meditation Pillow




I recently started practicing meditation as part of a class at my university. In class we have access to meditation pillows (or zafus) which we use, but outside of class period I have no access to them.
Buying a zafu of my own didn't seem like a reasonable option since even the cheap ones start around $30 a piece, and I need to use two. The two zafus I made ended up costing me less than $20 each, but it may cost more if you need to purchase fabric.

The following is based on directions I found online to make your own zafu. That link is only one of many sites with the same guide.

Step 1: Getting the Parts

There are two components to a zafu: the stuffing and the cloth that the stuffing goes in.

Typical stuffings for zafus are buckwheat hulls and kapok fiber. I opted for buckwheat hulls, which I purchased from, because they were cheaper and seemed less likely to make a huge mess. 10lbs of buckwheat hulls cost me $35.05 with shipping.

I was going to stop by a local fabric store to find something to use but before I made it to the store my SO picked up a giant piece of fabric that was on the "free rack" in our university's theatre.

You will also need a sewing machine and the ability to hand stitch.

Step 2: Prepare the Sides of Your Zafu

First a piece of fabric is cut to 9"x60".
Pick a short edge, measure 6.5" from that edge and mark the fabric. Then mark 3/4" and 1.5" from that line/mark. These marks are going to be guides for pleating.
From the third mark, measure 3" and mark. Then mark 3/4" and 1.5" from that line/mark. Repeat this until you reach the end of the fabric.

The guide I found (which I linked to above) said that you would end up with 14 pleats, but I only had 12.

Now we create the pleats. For each pleat there will be three marks; fold at the second mark so that the third rests on top of the first and pin it in place. If this doesn't make sense, check my photos and read the linked guide.

After pinning the pleats in place, they were ironed flat and sewn down.

Step 3: Prepare the Top/bottom of Your Zafu

I used a frying pan as a template to trace a circle (diameter ~12.5") onto the fabric. Then I folded the fabric over (two layers thick) and pinned the traced circle down so that I could cut two identically sized circles.

Step 4: Assemble and Fill Your Zafu

Use 4 or so pins (as recommended in the guide) to pin the sides to the top/bottom. When doing this be sure that the sides you want to see are facing in, if your fabric has a pattern. Then sew the side to the top, flip over and sew the bottom on.
When pinning this all together, I arranged the ends so that the 6.5" of the side, before the pleats, overlapped the pleat trailing end so that the pleat-less end would end up on the outside once the cushion was inverted.

Once you've sewn the pillow together (don't forget to leave the overlapping ends open), flip it inside-out through the opening. Then carefully fill the pillow with your stuffing of choice and hand-stitch the opening shut.

I ended up using 5lbs of buckwheat hulls per zafu, so my 10lb order was the perfect amount. If you want to make a zafu and a zabuton, I'd recommend either purchasing more than 10lbs, or getting another stuffing for the zabuton.

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12 Discussions


5 months ago on Step 4

Your instructions where easy to follow. I added a zipper and a removable pouch filled with buckwheat. Thanks.


1 year ago

Brilliant. Exactly what I wanted. Thank you.


2 years ago

Nice detailed instructions, now I'll see my out come!


3 years ago

How many pounds of the buckwheat did you use in each pillow? :)

1 reply

Reply 3 years ago

The builder said: "I ended up using 5lbs of buckwheat hulls per zafu."

Jo AnnC2

3 years ago

I am a total amateur at sewing. My sister bought me a sewing maching for a retirement gift and in return I wanted to try and make something for her on it. I attempted this pillow and even with a couple of little puckers, it turned out pretty good. I've never sewn before although I did take a class to learn how to make a tote bag. So if I can do this......


3 years ago

How many lbs of buckwheat do you use per pillow?


4 years ago on Introduction

EXCELLENT instructions - thank you. Question before i make these (instead of buying-whoo hoo!) since you seem to need 2 zafu cushions, dont they slide apart? Would it be better to make 1 larger overstuffed as in a WIDER pillow? If not, why not? Thank you. and thx for the link for the buckwheat hulls - we all are in this together - ALL of us.

3 replies

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

I use two because I have somewhat stiff/inflexible knees/hips (despite lots of yoga) and need to sit like this. The cushions don't slide apart at all since the cotton fabric isn't slippery. I imagine you may run into issues if you wanted to use nylon or silk or something slippery.

I'd recommend that you see if there are any zen centers or meditation studios (or yoga studios with meditation sessions) near you and stop by for a visit so you can try out various sizes and arrangements of cushions. If you just want to use one but also need the extra height, over stuffing the cushion may be more useful than just making a wider pillow.


Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

Thank you very much for the insight! Spoke to my yoga instructor and she suggested 2 pillows also to make it more flexible in usage. She wants an additional one for herself too! Intend to use a cotton "duck" material I have with heavy duty polyester blend thread so it wont split. I too have inflexible hips with bursitis and cannot do a lot of the asanas (poses) but this will help tremendously. I'm starting on it right away! WIl send pix when they're done. THX again for the great directions and help!!!


6 years ago on Introduction

Nice! Zafus are really comfortable. I would have never thought to make my own, nicely done.