Little Blue is the newest shop to open in the Oundle Market Place, featuring collections of homeware and haberdashery. Upon entering the shop, bright embroidery silks and shelves full of knitting wool catch your eye, alongside sewing supplies and unique novelty items. Mixed in are vintage collectibles from the UK and France, both decorative and functional, and chic upcycled furniture.
Prior to opening Little Blue, Ali Osborn, the new owner, had already been busy with furniture upcycling and restoration where she lived in Shrewsbury. She did an interior design diploma and sold her upcycled furniture on a Facebook page, also called Little Blue.
After she moved to Oundle with her husband, who is a teacher, she spotted an opportunity to expand her hobby into a business when the little shop in the Market Place became available.
“I do a lot of upcycling. It was like a hobby business before, and I had always thought it would be nice to have a shop to do that. Then with Oundle in Stitches closing, I thought maybe we could do with another haberdashery as well,” she said.
Getting the shop ready turned into a family project. “My daughter came down and helped me paint the interior, which was a great help because it was quite a task.”
Ms Osborn admits that she was a bit nervous about opening a new shop in the current economic climate. “We did our sums and decided that we could manage if there’s another downturn.”
Though small in dimensions, the shop is packed with a surprising variety of objects, both practical and decorative. She said that she prefers things that have longevity and describes her taste in furnishings and soft furnishings as very traditional. But then she also likes to mix in new pieces and even rustic items, to add interest. This is reflected in her shop.
“There’s both new and pre-loved homewares. It just depends if I’ve found things I like,” she said. “It’s very eclectic actually, I’ve got quite a mixture. I just buy things I like, but it’s not particularly any style.”
Selling haberdashery is a new area for her, but she is happy to fill the gap in the market for Oundle in Stitches loyal customers. She currently has a limited supply of fabrics, but if these are in demand, more could be stocked. She says that she will see what her customers are looking for.
Chunky wools will be popular at the shop for winter, but Ms Osborn has already started with double-knits and four-ply. Baby wools always sell well.
When travel is possible, Ms Osborn sources stock from brocante markets in France. “You get more unusual things over there, more one-offs.”
She also sells the Vintage with Grace mineral paints. You put a couple of coats of varnish over the top to make it more hardwearing. In Ms Osborn’s own work, she also uses paints by Annie Sloane, French Chic and Farrow and Ball.
Much to Ms Osborn’s surprise, she immediately sold a lot of items when she opened. “In the first week I nearly emptied the shop of furniture stock from sales!” she said. “That was a bit of a shock to the system to sell so much so quickly, so I’ve got to do some work now and get more pieces painted.”
1 December 2020