Camp Kit Coverings – Part 3/7: Coolers

This is the third post in a series on improving your camping/dayshade kit. The first was about chairs, and the second was about tables.

Whether you’re just hanging out field-side for the day or camping for the weekend, coolers are necessary if you want to keep/serve cold beverages or food. But a standard blue/red Igloo/Coleman cooler can be unsightly in an SCA encampment.

Sure, you can make a box cushion/cover for it, but then every time you go to open the cooler, you have to take the cover off. You could paint it, but it’s still going to look like a cooler (though there are some really neat ones out there!)

I’ve seen boxes build around coolers, or boxes built and lined with polystyrene to act like coolers, but that takes a level of woodworking/crafting skill that, as I’ve said throughout this series of posts, might be outside the scope/skillset/resources of folk.

As I’ve readied for Meridian Grand Tournament this year, I stumbled on this idea – hiding your cooler inside a basket.

chest with styrofoam coolers
(Source)

That’s a BYHOLMA chest from Ikea, with two standard styrofoam coolers tucked inside. I didn’t want to use styrofoam, because styrofoam, and found that Igloo is now making a biodegradable cooler, and it’s gotten decent reviews (I got mine at Target for $8).

I already have a chest-type basket that I thought would be big enough, but it is too shallow by an inch or so. (The BYHOLMA measures 72 x 50 x 50 centimeters.) I’m not sure if I want to try and find a big enough chest (do I need another basket chest?), or if the cooler will be fine tucked under the table as is. I think eventually I’ll upgrade my basket, but given that the BYHOLMA (which is no longer available from IKEA) sold for $70, I think I might wait until baskets go on sale at Michaels or Home Goods.

I might go by Home Goods before this weekend to see what they have. Baskets are one of those things.

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Camp Kit Coverings – Part 2/7: Tables

This is the second post in a series on improving your camping/dayshade kit. The first was about chairs.

Second to chairs, tables are essential to your camping/dayshade presence. Just as you need a place to put your body, you need a place to put your stuff – like a cup, or lunch, or a project.

The Luttrell Family at Dinner, from the Luttrell Psalter (Brit. Lib. Add. 42130, fol. 208r), c. 1325-1340

There are all sorts of plans out there for trestle tables, but making one of these when you first get started might be a little outside your wheelhouse for various reasons – access to tools, skills to work with those tools/wood, etc.

But I bet you have a card table, or a folding table, or even one of those folding tray tables. Like a folding camp chair, these are easy to find to purchase, easy to transport, but also glaringly modern.

To fix this, we just need a tablecloth. And yes, you can just get a regular, run-of-the-mill tablecloth to slap on the table and call it good, but if you’re table is a weird shape (like the little folding tray tables) you might prefer a more tailored option than just a swath of fabric.

Enter the box corner.

Tablecloths with box corners won’t slip and slide off your table. You can still give them enough on the sides to cover the legs of your table (and create hidden storage space), or even make a slit for easier access.

Due to the width of my fabric, I had to add the side pieces like a skirt, but it assembles the same. This also allowed me to put a pleat in the middle of each long side, which allows me some give in the fabric if I need to get under the table – hey, storage!

Follow the instructions for a box cushion, but make the sides big enough to accomodate the height of your table, and instead of attaching a bottom piece and a zipper, hem the bottom edge of the sides. I’d suggest watching a few different tutorials, but the concept is the same across them all. Cut out a square from each corner equal to the depth of the side + seam allowance, then sew the 2 new sides together – basically a dart to make the corner.

My newly finished mattress and “skirt” cover for my cot, both constructed using box corners, turning it into a couch. Not ironed and probably still sporting a few errant dog hairs.

I used the same concept, with an envelope back, to cover the mattress for my cot, and again for what is essentially a bedskirt – all using a cotton sheet set (yes, just one Twin XL fitted sheet that I took the elastic out of and the corresponding flat sheet). That’s three very modern things in my day-camp that are now covered in fabric and look way less modern.

A lot of rectangular things can be covered this way – tables, cots, bins – but I’d not including coolers in this. Why? You need easy and convenient access to a cooler througout the day, and a fabric cover doesn’t allow for that.

Instead, my plan for my cooler at an event where I need it only during the day (fieldside at a tournament) is to use a recyclable cooler and hide it inside my large hinge-top basket. But I’ll talk more about that in another post in this series.

Until then, have fun with box corners!

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Camp Kit Coverings – Part 1/7: Chairs

It never fails. I go to an event that has either camping or daytime field-side pavilions where folks are lounging, or both, and I start to obsess about my own kit. And by “kit” I mean the various bits, bobs, and not-worn trappings that make an SCA experience magical.

Carpets. Chairs. Cups. Canvas. Candlesticks. Chests. Banners.

(I couldn’t think of a C-word for banners.)

I’ve bitten the bullet this fall and commissioned a friend to make some silk banners for me, and I have plans to make a canvas day-shade. My husband is making me a chair. I dipped my toes into research on glass in 8th century China to figure out what kind of pitcher to buy to decant Yuan Dynasty lemon bochet into. (Psst. I totally found one and I can’t wait until it gets here.)

Last year at Meridian Grand Tournament, I focused on getting the furnishing inside my pop-up canopy decent. I bought an outdoor rug with a passable pattern when it went on End-Of-Season clearance at Lowes, as well as some patio furniture cushions – both red. The cushions were big enough to work as floor cushions – and while most Tang Dynasty seating was, to the best of my knowledge, stools and other low-to-the-ground platforms, cushions were a quick and cheaper way to make my space inviting for others to come and sit with me. I also cut a high density foam mattress topper down to size to fit my army cot and swathed the whole thing in red sheets so that I could have a couch – not dissimilar to the platforms we see in various paintings throughout Chinese history. My husband made me a table. All in all, it was a decent set-up – and I’m still tweaking it.

One of the simplest, easiest things to do to make your surroundings feel more period is to cover the modern elements. Small stuff is easier than big stuff, like pouring your drink into a more period appropriate cup. But making/buying tables, chairs, or even those incredibly amazing wooden chest coolers takes a level of time, skill, or money that is scarce for a lot of SCAdians. But believe me – the people who have them didn’t go and get/make them all at once. Everyone is always tweaking their camp/day shade/indoor presence to be more comfortable – both in terms of use and in terms of aesthetic.

Do small things. You will gain confidence with these accomplishments, and be able to take on bigger and bigger tasks. It’s not quite “fake it ’til you make it” but it is in that same garden – only with a better root.

So what small things can you do? More importantly, how do you do them?

Continue reading “Camp Kit Coverings – Part 1/7: Chairs”
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