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Zafu is a Japanese word for a sitting cushion. You may find that meditation is easier with a comfortable zafu to sit on. Sewing your own can be a contemplative act in itself. Decorate your zafu with embroidery or talismans that have meaning to you alone.
Cardboard or heavy paper circle, 16 inches (40.5 cm) in diameter
1/2 yard (46 cm) of fabric for the top and bottom
3 yards (2.74 m) of edged twisted piping
6 inches (15 cm) of 54-inch-wide (1.37 m) fabric for the sides
Glass seed beads
Semiprecious gemstone, about 4 mm in diameter
4 pounds (1.8 kg) of stuffing material
Chalk transfer pencil
1. On the 1/2 yard (46 cm) of fabric, trace the round template twice, and cut out the circles which will be the top and bottom of the zafu. Iron these, as well as the other fabric.
2. Sew the piping to the top circle by laying it on the right side of the fabric, with the edging lined right up to the edge of the circle. Leave about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of piping at the beginning and at the end after overlapping the piping to close the circle before you cut it off. (Always lock your stitches by sewing backward 1/2 inch (1.5 cm), and then cut the thread.) Repeat this procedure for the bottom circle.
3. Flip the circles so the wrong side of the fabric faces up; you will see the stitches you just made. Following these stitches, sew right on top of them to attach the side piece. Do this by putting the right sides of the side piece together and either the top or bottom circle, lining up the long side of the side piece's edge with the edge of the circle fabric and sandwiching the piping. Start sewing at least 3/4 inch (2 cm) from the beginning of the side piece, following the previous stitching. Do not overlap the edges, because that will make it harder to stuff the zafu. Leave 5 inches (13 cm) of excess material in the side fabric's length, cutting off the rest. Repeat this procedure with the other circle. Cut the extra side fabric to 2 inches (5 cm) and then turn the pillow right side out through the opening.
4. Draw any simple single-lined symbol, for example an om symbol, onto the side fabric opposite the opening. Thread the beading needle with about 2 yards (1.8 m) of thread, double it, and tie a knot at the ends. Put one seed head on, wrap the thread around the bead once, and come back through it. This prevents the knot from pulling through the fabric. Enter through the opening of the pillow, go to a good starting point on the symbol, and pull the needle to the outside. Begin with three or four beads on the thread. Lay them along the symbol, push the needle into the pillow where the line of beads stops, and pull it back up where the line of beads began. Go through the beads again. Repeat, beading the entire symbol.
5. To smooth the beadwork, finish by connecting all the little groups of four beads. Start at one end and go through just the beads, not the fabric, all the way around the symbol. If it is hard to get the needle through the heads, use needle-nose pliers to pull it. If it seems a bead may break, skip it by sewing underneath to the next bead. Tie the final knot on the inside by grabbing a small piece of fabric with the needle, making a loop, sending your needle through the loop, and pulling tightly. Do this a couple of times, then cut the thread, leaving at least 1 inch (2.5 cm).
6. If you did an om symbol, sew the gemstone dot on, going through it at least twice.
7. To stuff your pillow, push the stuffing to the back and against the edging. Avoid lumping, and fill it as much as you can, always pushing toward the piping' edges and the center. Hold the sides at the end of the stuffing so they won't tear. The sitting cushion should be extremely firm.
8. Line up the edges of the side fabric to close the hole neatly using three strands of embroidery floss threaded onto the needle.
9. Clean off any fuzz, and sit on the cushion to shape it.
Excerpted from Crafts for the Spirit by Ronni Lundy. Copyright 2003 by Lark Books. Excerpted, with permission by Lark Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.