Cooler Covers

for SCA camping March 2005, updated 2006)

by Mestra Rafaella d'Allemtejo and Lady Elisabeth Catesby; additional assistance provided by Signora Francesca Testarossa de' Martini

[thumbnail pix of finished coolers]

Greetings all.

Dedicated as I am to making fairly inexpensive spiffy encampment stuff in a period/historically inspired style, my goal for the upcoming tourney season (actually this is a leftover project from LAST season, aren't they all?) is to cover my bright metallic apple green coleman cooler so it isn't such an eyesore. The cooler itself is fabulous and has a number of features to commend it, the first of which is wheels, the 2nd is height so it can be a bench, and 3rdly it will hold cold ice w/o much defrosting for a couple of days. I bought mine from Sportman's Guide, but they can also be got directly from Coleman or at your local sporting goods store.

Rafaella's cooler cover, before (note black shell badge as attempt at marking medievally):
Rafaella's bright apple green coleman cooler

After looking thru catalogs for options, such as this Harbor Freight cover (recommended on the Florilegium) both this design and this SCAdian version,, have the flaw that you have to remove the whole cover to get to the cooler (this is not good for active households, after a while you know the cover is going to wander...). Other folks have built wooden chests that fit a modern cooler inside them, but I'm trying to cut down on the heavy stuff I carry, not add to it. After deciding that I could do cheaper than the covers offered at Panther Primitives ( I hit upon doing something like a period "pall cover". A pall cover was a highly decorated (embroidery & embellishments) that went over a coffin during funerals. The modern versions aren't tailored and are pretty subdued in comparison.

The pattern is a central panel with flaps that hang down over the sides of the box (cross-shaped when completed). So this pattern works for coolers, tables, box-shaped cars (the version I saw online was called a "van cozy"), basically anything vaguely box shaped. IIRC, this is what Lady Alexandria uses to cover her tables, and the addition of ties at strategic points along the side can be good for larger items steady when winds come up.

My idea is to use hook & loop tape along the top of the cooler to keep the cover in place when getting something from inside (simply lift up the front flap and open the cooler, leaving the sides mostly covered) and to keep the cover from slipping off when used as seating. Removes for cleaning and packing. We're currently debating ties on the sides as the canvas is heavy enough this might not be an issue (weighting the flaps is another option). [2006 update: hook & loop tape failed for the most part. It doesn't stick to the plastic of the cooler enow. More research is required.]

Here's the pattern. You'll need the width and length of the top and the height of the box. Make sure to compensate for handles, latches, and other protrustions. How you cut depends on your fabric width. smaller coolers can be covered selvage to selvage making this a 3 piece pattern.

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another version of this may be found online at:

The difference, in my approach from the link above, is that the lady above is actually going for the "pall" look. Lady Elisabeth Catesby (my partner in sewing crime) and I are going to try and make our cooler covers look like medieval tourney chests through painting on the canvas material. Depending on your period, there's chip-carved chests, relief carved chests, painted chests, studded chests, chests with ironmongery bits, the designs are really varied (see links at the bottom). and let's not forget the use of heraldic designs. :-)

Here's the inspiration pictures, taken by Lady Elisabeth Catesby/Lord Gryth Greycloak and used with their kind permission. Taken at the Tower of London in 2003:

tower of london chest 1

tower of london chest 2

tower of london chest 3

Rafaella's cooler cover, the front (with her device in center medallion):
Rafaella's cooler with painted canvas cover, front

Rafaella's cooler cover, the back (note the extra "hinge" bumps):
Rafaella's cooler with painted canvas cover, back

[insert finished EC pix]

[add costs, fabrics, sewing, paint used, materials, templates, etc.]

Hope this inspires you to make some of your own covers. Feel free to contact me/us if you have questions.

[contact info]

Additional chest examples:, (The Medieval Chest, nice overview article with pix), (14th c. Byzantine reliquary box), (reproductions), (reproductions), (reproductions)

Created March 25, 2005.