Walking into The I.D.E.A. Store at Christmastime is like walking into Santa’s workshop. The store is filled with holiday warmth, enthusiastic volunteers and, most importantly, the perfect Christmas present, with some assembly required, of course. The I.D.E.A. Store doesn’t sell traditional, premade gifts, but provides a treasure trove of donated materials full of potential. Carol Jo Morgan, co-founder of the store, prefers it this way.
“Handmade gifts are unique,” Morgan said. “They can be tailored to the person you’re giving it to.”
The I.D.E.A. Store’s employees believe that with a little imagination, any shopper can take a recycled object and transform it into something extraordinary. Somewhere among the rows of recycled trophies, stamps, corks, yarn, maps, buttons, packing peanuts and tons of other donated materials, you’re bound to feel inspired. If you still lack ideas, the staff of mostly unpaid volunteers is an extremely helpful resource.
“Even I, who am not very crafty, can modify pre-existing craft ideas into something that I can make,” Morgan said.
One hundred percent of the store products are donated by environmentally conscious community members and companies. An added bonus is that the store’s proceeds benefit the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation, which funds projects designed to help students of all ages.
The primary materials for the creations below came from the store, and the first two ideas were provided by the staff.
Sheet music envelopes
For less than $1 at The I.D.E.A. Store, you can easily make the process of opening a card a unique experience. All it takes is one page of sheet music, scissors and a sticker. Orient your sheet music vertically, fold the bottom left corner up and over straight against the right side and cut across the horizontal line made by this fold to make a square piece of paper. Unfold your square, fold the left and right corners in to the center. Then fold the bottom triangle upward, place the letter or card you’d like in the envelope, fold the upper triangle downward and seal it with a sticker.
Tissue paper vase
This simple, one-of-a-kind vase is a perfect Christmas gift for mothers and friends alike. The vase and tissue paper were available from The I.D.E.A. Store for a whopping $0.56. Mod Podge adhesive and a paint brush from Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores brought the total cost to just less than $5. To start, cut out strips of tissue paper of varying size and color. Then place a small amount of the Mod Podge on a plate, wet your paint brush with the glue and paint it onto the vase. Now place the tissue paper on the wet area and paint over the paper, sealing it to the glass. Repeat this process until the vase is completely covered in your unique color pattern.
Angel Christmas tree topper
This heavenly topper is the perfect adornment for any bare tree. All you’ll need is stiff, gold ribbon, cardboard, white lace fabric, metal wire, a Ping-Pong ball, tape and scissors. First cut the ribbon into four pieces, each two feet in length. Tie each ribbon into a large bow; these will be the angel’s wings. Now take a piece of cardboard and roll it into a cone. Tape the Ping-Pong ball to the small hole at its top. This will form the base of the angel’s head and body. Drape the lace fabric over the cardboard structure, cut a piece of ribbon and tie it tightly around the middle of the body. Using the leftover lace, cut out a long thin strip and tie it in a bow around the neck of the angel, making a scarf. Tape the wire in the middle of the angel’s back and run it vertically upward until it’s about four inches above the head. Bend the extra length of wire into a loop to make the halo. Now attach the wings to the back of the body, concealing the wire. Just be sure the loops are pointed upward.