Like so many other innovations, piecing by applique wasn't invented by a single person. Rather it evolved over several decades, changing as new materials and new ideas were tested and used.
A forerunning technique, often called double appliqué, has been around for a long time. In it, an appliqué shape is drawn onto muslin -- cheap, unprinted cotton fabric -- then this cloth pattern is placed onto the appliqué fabric and stitched through both layers. Trim the seam allowances, slit the muslin, turn right sides out, and press the edges flat. This piece may now be pinned in place and stitched down.
In the 1980s, someone (we don't know who) determined that fusible interfacing can be used for double appliqué. We have seen published references to this as early as 1985. Fusible interfacing brings the added advantages of eliminating pins and introduces far less bulk than muslin.
In the early 1990s, Eleanor Burns recognized the value of this innovation and published books such as Dutch Windmills, Dresden Plate, and Sunbonnet Sue Visits Quilt in a Day. The latter, for example, calls for tracing Sue's bonnet, dress, feet, and arms onto lightweight fusible interfacing.
In 1993, Mary Pat "Mattie" Rhoades, formerly Henderson, (owner of Quiltsmart) attended a Sunbonnet Sue class at Quilt in a Day's shop in San Marcos, California. She suggested eliminating the repetitive and imprecise tracing by printing the patterns onto fusible interfacing. "After all," she reasoned, "they can print on paper towels, why not print on interfacing?" Mattie immersed herself in the world of industrial printing. She soon had a process for accurately printing onto a delicate fusible non-woven fabric.
Mattie knew the possibilities offered by piecing by appliqué. Her interest was especially drawn by the potential for simplifying classic quilt patterns, especially the Double Wedding Ring. In 1994, she published her first book, Double Wedding Ring in a Hurry. She became a publisher the following year with Drunkard's Path and Mary's Flower Garden.
And as they say, the rest is history!
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