It used to be that quilters bought multiple yards of fabric to make their quilts. They did not have what we commonly refer to today as pre-cuts.
However, the first pre-cut to change the world of quilting appeared in the mid-1980s.
The term fat quarter first appeared in the book Country Needlework by Margaret Boyle.
Quilters began asking for this smaller cut of fabric and overnight the quilting industry changed. Fabric companies started cutting their fabric collections into handy fat quarter bundles and quilters bought them. They could afford to buy an entire collection by their favorite designer.