Jun 22, 2010
If you examine the fukusa closely, it is about 30 cm on each side. You will see that it is not perfectly square -- this is by design. It will have seams on 3 sides and a fold on the fourth side. Use this folded side to orient your fukusa.
One of the first things we learn as tea students is how to fold the fukusa to put in the obi, and to put it away and the basic folding of the fukusa to purify the utensils. When you have a new fukusa, it must be taught what to do. This is sometimes referred to as taming the fukusa. A new fukusa seems to have mind of its own, but it doesn't have any stains, and it has a good energy, and a wonderful feel of the new silk.
As the symbol of the host, it is essential that the you treat your fukusa with respect. This symbolizes self-respect. Always sit down to fold your fukusa. After your temae, in the mizuya, sit down, fold your fukusa properly and put away before you come back into the tea room to thank the sensei for your lesson. Sensei can tell if you just throw down your fukusa without folding it. If you have trained your fukusa, it will tell you when you are folding it properly when you put it away. The folds will lie flat and not spring open.
When purifying the chashaku, you will get tea on the fukusa. During the temae, don't worry about getting tea on it. It is more important at the time to make sure the chashaku does not have tea clinging to it when you put it out for your guests. Later in the mizuya you can dust off the tea more thoroughly than when you held it over the kensui. My sempai said that you could use one of those "magic brush" lint brushes to remove tea from your fukusa. As long as the tea does not get damp or wet, most of it should come off.