Thinking of You Gift fosters creativity and inclusivity with handmade treasures

Since opening, Thinking of You Gift has offered a rainbow of handmade, socially responsible and fair trade gifts while sewing the seeds of inclusivity.


Freya Toussaint spent many years of her youth in and out of the Queensland Children’s Hospital while her mother, Donna, worked at a florist downstairs. Using their skills and talents, they launched the social enterprise Thinking of You Gift in 2016 to provide a platform for emerging artists and makers – many of whom, like Freya, are living with a disability – to help them enjoy a creative and fulfilling life. “My daughter Freya is a 26-year-old woman with an intellectual difference,” says Donna. “When I first dreamed of what kind of work would be possible for her, I looked to where she spent her time, her gifts and talents. Community has always been a big part of our lives, right from when Freya was in my womb.”

While Donna was pregnant with Freya, she – a lifelong artist and crafter herself – began to make special bunting to welcome her baby girl, embroidering each pennant with a letter of her name. Initially, she only intended to spell out ‘Freya’ but as friends and family visited, full of excited energy and wanting to participate in the project, she ended up with all 31 letters of Freya’s full name festooning their lounge room.

Now one of the signature products created at Thinking of You Gift, the bunting is made using upcycled fabrics and can be personalised with messages and names. Much of it is screen-printed, sewn and delivered by Freya to the bedsides of patients within the hospital, bringing a bit of colour to what can be a tough time. Introduced to sewing and screenprinting in high school, Freya has gone on to work with sewing tutors to grow her skills and now designs her own clothing.

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“She’s learned the joy of making something for herself,” Donna shares. “In disability, people are often attending occupational, speech or physical specialists. I believe the arts, in all their forms, are therapies themselves, and they have seen Freya’s fine motor skills and patience shine through weekly participation in three to four-hour sessions. Freya is more engaged in art and sees it as more ‘normal’ than her weekly allied health sessions. I wait for the day when allied health professionals work alongside artists to develop the untapped potential.”

This inspired the pair to set up a card collective – known as Can Can Cards – in 2018 after Freya won an Access Arts Achievement Award. It came with a grant of $10,000 which she used to establish The Ripple Effect Art Project. This initiative brought seven artists with disabilities together to hold three exhibitions and establish the Can Can Card brand.

The intention has always remained the same – to share the joy of crafting and connectedness.

“A weekly drawing class has turned into another small work opportunity,” says Donna. “The artists meet at Hands On Art in Paddington every Wednesday for four hours working alongside their artist mentors to design the greeting cards. Once a year, we print new designs with Words with Heart – a social enterprise that supports the education of women and girls. 

“By printing together as a collective, the individual artists reap the benefits of a better price and the support of others. A $6 greeting card purchased at Thinking of You Gift gives in a multitude of ways. Once to the artist, then to the shop and finally to support women and girls. We’d love to see more artists with a disability join our collective. Working together, with our own individual goals, we can have a bigger impact.”

Can Can Card and Thinking of You Gift are both examples of what Donna calls “tiny work”, a concept she’s a great proponent of. “Tiny work is the name I have given to our microenterprise,” she explains. “I define a microenterprise as a small business that is simple and low-cost to start up, owned by one person, and built around a person’s interests, hobbies and strengths.


“The benefit of a microenterprise for people with a disability is that it creates employment. It gives the person more control and flexibility regarding the kind of work they do. The positive outcomes of being self-employed include a sense of purpose, increased self-esteem, a better quality of life, a larger social network, an opportunity to contribute to the broader community through positive engagement and an ability to demonstrate some leadership skills. Everyone needs a place and to feel connected to others.”

Fostering that feeling of connection is a huge part of Donna’s world. She recently held her seventh successful community sewing event, the Sew We Can Sewing Bee, at the Food Connect Shed in Salisbury.  These sewing bees began as a way to channel the generosity and kindness Donna saw in her own textile networks into helping others. “After all,” says Donna, “there is a limit to how many quilts you can make for your own family! We crafters do enjoy a cuppa and a natter. Sew We Can has become a much-loved event in the giddy whirl of community endeavours. It’s a day of happy chatter and sewing machine clatter as we all sew together the beautiful bunting that graces Freya’s Thinking of You Gift line. 

It’s a day of happy chatter and sewing machine clatter as we all sew together the beautiful bunting.

The size of the day has varied from year to year but the intention has always remained the same – to share the joy of crafting and connectedness. “Realistically we are small fish in a big ocean. We don’t want to scale up, but we do want to shout from the rooftops and sing our praises to a bigger audience. Marketing and promotion to tell our story is the biggest challenge for both the shop and the sewing bee. Word of mouth and our person-centred care is our number one strength. Our business reeks of goodwill, community building and sharing the love.”