As a writer/editor, I attend a fair number of conferences every year.

And I take a LOT of crap er…umm… valuable, fun-stuff-that-is-definitely-not-crap with me to each one. Books, swag, agendas, banners, signage, and above all, chocolate, all of it has to make it to the con intact and unmelted. This necessitates a good number of boxes.

The problem with most boxes is:

A) They generally have someone else’s logo on them. I have gone to several cons with what, on the outside, appears to be several boxes of diapers. And I don’t have any babies living with me, so that gets a little tricky to explain.

B) They don’t hold up well over multiple cons, meaning they don’t protect your stuff very well. The more cons you go to, the truer this becomes. And let’s face it, no one wants to buy a bent book.

So – I decided to repurpose some handy little crates into even handier little con-crates. This is what I ended up with:

And this is how I did it:

Materials: (I got most of my supplies at JoAnn Fabrics or Michael’s)

  • Crate(s) (I have four now, which is plenty with the size I’m using.)
  • Spray paint in your preferred color (I ended up using four cans for four crates, inside and out. However, you could also use a paint brush and save some wear and tear on your index finger.)
  • Stencils in your preferred style
  • Paint pens in your preferred color (I recommend CraftSmart in fine point and chisel tip)
  • Painters tape
  • Fabric
  • Sturdy cardboard or foam board
  • Hot glue, Scissors, measuring tape/ruler, sandpaper, pencil

(On my fabric, I used scraps from a previous project in two contrasting colors. If you don’t have that on hand, I estimate you will need approximately 1 yard for each crate. For the liner, two sheets of foamboard or a single tri-fold display board will be more than enough for one crate.)


Prepping the crate:

  1. Sand your crates to remove any rough edges and/or previous decorations, labels, etc..
  2. Paint the crates inside and out using your preferred method, and let them dry completely.
    Using painter’s tape to prevent overspray can be useful


  3. Using your letter stencils and paint pens, imprint the end of the crate with your design.
    1. Use the painter’s tape to make sure your stencil is straight and to hold your stencils in position while you are tracing the design.
    2. If at all possible, fill in and complete the design, and allow it to dry, before removing the stencils.

Covering the interior (Otherwise known as preventing your crates from leaking SWAG everywhere you go.)

  1. Measure the sides and bottom of the crate. (Do this for every crate for a custom fit. I found that my crates were up to 1/2″ different in length and width.)20171016_162853-COLLAGE (1)
  2. Cut three pieces of cardboard 1/4″ smaller than the interior dimensions of the crate.
    1. That’s 1/4″ shorter, 1/4″ narrower. This allows space for the fabric cover and for the side folds. If you want a tighter fit, experiment with what works for you and gives the fit you want.

      This is a mockup, since I forgot to take pics of this part. You want to make sure your edges are straight and your measurements spot on.
  3. Cut a cardboard facing piece for each of the previous pieces. Make each piece 1/4″ to 1/2″ inch smaller than the piece you are lining. (See above pic and pretend each piece is slightly smaller than the ones pictured)
  4. Cut a single piece of fabric large enough for all three of your outer pieces together, plus two inches on each side.
    1. Remember to leave a small gap between your cardboard pieces so that they will fold up neatly and meet on the inside bottom seams.

      Ok, as above, I forgot to take pics of this part, so this is a mockup. And it’s a tad blurry, but you get the idea. I hope.
  5. Fold your edge over the cardboard edge, mitering the corners and using hot glue to adhere the fabric to the cardboard.
    1. Mind your fingers. It’s called hot glue for a reason.
    2. This will leave a large, uncovered rectangle in the middle of each side and the bottom. Don’t worry. We’ll get to that in step 6.
  6. Cover each of the facing pieces in the same manner, but individually.20171016_155319-e1508190297146.jpgCenter each lining piece on the side it belongs to, cardboard to cardboard, sandwiching the raw edges of the fabric between the two pieces.
      1. Before you glue it down, check to make sure it will fold into a proper 90* angle. The edges of the facing pieces can touch, but should not overlap or place too much pressure on the sides.
      2. Use hot glue to adhere the facing pieces to exterior pieces.
      3. You may choose to hot glue the top corners of the crate liner to the crate.
        1. When the crates are empty the lining sometimes leans inward, especially if the fit isn’t super snug. However, if it gets dirty or whatever, it’s harder to take out. The contents will push it back where it belongs, so it’s just personal preference.

The crates make cons easier by keeping everything neat, and while I’m packing, I can see at a glance what each crate contains. What do you use to keep your stuff organized? Let me know in the comments below.

Next time, a DIY personalized candy dish, or prize drawing dish, whichever suits your pleasure.

One thought on “Con-Crates to hold all your….stuff

  1. I just use a hard-case plastic suitcase that is specifically for conventions. I’ve learned how to divide it into sections to carry not only my own books, but also all the swag I bring home. I LOVE the idea of stenciling in my name or posting my logo on the side for branding purposes.


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