Spinning History-

Spinning Wheels-


Canadian Production Wheel (CPW) — History, Spinning, and Long Draw

Have you ever wondered about the history of the Canadian Production Wheel (CPW)? Why were so many produced in Quebec during the late 1800s and early 1900s? I was inspired to do some research on CPWs after acquiring one myself.

It turns out the Canadian Production Wheel is a real workhorse. I like to compare it to a draft horse. I adoringly call my wheel Philippe after the draft horse in Beauty and the Beast.

A woman sitting on an armchair using a large wooden Canadian production spinning wheel that is in motion, CPW
Meet Philippe, my Canadian Production Wheel workhorse!

So today, I am going to talk about how to identify a Canadian Production Wheel, the history of this spinning wheel, and some of its benefits and quirks. I am also going to talk about how I do a long draw spin with my CPW. Watch the full video on YouTube or keep reading below!

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The Fiber for This Project

The fiber I’m spinning for this project is an artisan dyed fiber from Rock and String Creations. I used 4 oz of the color Mountain Twilight, which is 70% alpaca and 30% merino. This fiber is very interesting to spin because it is a thin pencil roving and it is not pre-drafted.

A spiral of twisted, multi-colored wool fiber with pencil roving
I found this fiber from Rock and String Creations in my stash. It worked well for this project.

The Bobbin for This Project

For this project, I plan to use a lace weight 2-ply yarn. But the CPW only has one bobbin, so how can I use a 2-ply yarn? I recommend using a storage bobbin to get more out of your antique wheel.

Two bobbins with multicolored yarn wound around them and resting on each other on a wooden table
These storage bobbins are great for using with the CPW and allow me to make a 2-ply yarn.

As you might guess, storage bobbins are just for storage. They are not meant to be used on a spinning wheel (unless you have a tensioned lazy Kate). But this storage bobbin comes with an attachment that goes into a power drill…

Yes, a power drill!

Using the drill allows you to load the yarn onto the bobbin more quickly than hand wrapping. It is a pretty cool and inexpensive solution to only having one bobbin.

The CPW Drive Wheel

The drive wheel on the CPW is enormous! In spinning, the bigger the drive wheel, the more twist you’re going to get. So, the iconic size of the CPW is what makes it such a fast, high twist wheel.

Two wooden spinning wheels in a living room or crafting room. The wheel on the right is much larger. Canadian production wheel, ashford spinner.
The Canadian Production Wheel (left) is huge compared to other styles of spinning wheels, such as the Ashford Traditional style wheel (right).

CPW Cast Iron Parts

CPWs are known for having cast iron parts.

One such part is the cast iron footman. The footman is the piece that connects the wheel from the crankshaft on the drive wheel to the treadle. However, some CPWs have a wooden footman.

Another part that is often cast iron is the treadle, which is where your foot goes. The cast iron treadles often have beautiful, intricate designs.

A close-up of a cast iron treadle on a wooden Canadian production spinning wheel.
Philippe has a beautiful cast iron treadle that is characteristic of many CPWs.

While those parts are not always cast iron, the CPW is known for always having a cast iron tilt tension system. This defining feature allows the entire flyer assembly to tilt towards or away from the drive wheel. This provides a high level of control over the tension of the spinning wheel (how quickly it draws the yarn onto the bobbin and is a really great system.

A close up of a woman's hand holding a cast iron tilt tension system on a wooden spinning wheel
All CPWs have a characteristic cast iron tilt tension system.

CPW Maker’s Stamp

All CPWs originally had a maker’s stamp on the table. However, mine has worn off. This is both a blessing and a curse because I am not sure the exact maker but this means the wood has been polished and well taken care of over the years. So, if you find a CPW, look very closely at the table for the Maker’s stamp.

The CPW Drive Wheel Hub

The drive wheel hub is where the spinning power comes from. Always check the hub to make sure it is in good shape. Make sure there are no cracks, and nothing is loose or falling apart.

If you have a wheel, check that the metal rod and metal bearing under the drive wheel hub are in good shape. When I oil my CPW, I always put a drop of oil on the bearing. If needed, you can also remove the pegs to remove the wheel for any maintenance, cleaning, or if you have to move the wheel.

A close up of a wooden drive wheel hub on a Canadian production spinning wheel
Here is the drive wheel hub on Philippe. If needed, you can remove these wooden pegs to take the wheel off for maintenance, cleaning, or moving and storage.

Oiling Your CPW

Speaking of maintenance, I use just a drop of Singer sewing machine oil on each side of my wheel to keep it oiled. There are many different recommendations out there but this works for me.

The Double Drive Wheel

The CPW has a double drive wheel, which is basically a giant figure eight. Here is more information on how to set up a double drive wheel and how to tie a drive band onto a double drive wheel. My preference is to use a thin, strong, cotton thread with the double drive wheel.

The Leather Bearings

My CPW has its original leather bearings. This is a high friction point that can wear out easily, so I also oil these bearings. I put a drop of oil on the leather to avoid unnecessary wear and prevent it from crumbling or breaking. You can replace these with crafting leather if they wear out.

Antique Spinning Wheel Damage and Repair

Antique wheels always have some sort of damage. Filippe has a little chip on the bobbin and is missing some flyer hooks.

The flyer hooks are very difficult to replace so be very careful with your hooks. Instead of replacing my hooks, I just work around it.

Long draw on the CPW

CPWs have a lot of speed and high twist ratios. The large diameter of the drive wheel is usually about 27 to 30 inches. My Philippe gets 24 turns of the flyer for each press of the treadle.

Therefore, long draw methods with thin yarn are great for this wheel. Alternatively, slow, short, forward drafts are not ideal for this wheel and may result in overtwisted yarn.

A close-up of a woman sitting spinning multicolored yarn on a wooden spinning wheel and bobbin, Canadian production wheel, cpw
Philippe goes fast so I found that long draw methods work best for spinning on CPWs!

This wheel does not want to go slow. Everything about this wheel is designed to go fast!

Now, there is a bit of a debate over whether or not you need to let your yarn rest. Some people say it doesn’t matter while others swear by it. I think we need some experiments on this in the future!

But, I can say that when I do have a high twist yarn like this, I do let the bobbin rest before doing the ply. It won’t eliminate the twist but it gives it a chance to settle down. This makes plying easier because you’re not fighting with all those curls and creating snarls in your yarn. After finishing this spin with Phillipe, I put the rest of it onto another storage bobbin and will come back to it to ply another day.

History of the Canadian Production Wheel

So, what makes a spinning wheel a CPW? Not all wheels produced in Canada are CPWs. Canadian production wheels were specifically produced in Quebec between 1875 and 1935. They are often double drive wheels with cast iron parts and the iconic tilt tension system. So, for accuracy, maybe we should start calling them Quebec-tilt-tension-really-fast-with-fancy-cast-iron-parts wheels — you know, for accuracy!

While the term “production” might conjure up images of textile factories, these wheels were actually sold to individual hand spinners. Commercially produced textiles were hard to come by, especially in parts of rural Canada, so women produced a lot of homemade textiles. Women were also encouraged by the Canadian government and the Catholic Church to engage in revenue-generating farming activities — such as beekeeping, raising chickens, and spinning and weaving — in an attempt to maintain Quebec’s traditional economic and social structures during a time of industrialization. Therefore, “production” refers to the speed of the wheels.

Caroline Foty (@fiddletwist on Ravelry and Instagram) wrote an amazing ebook titled Fabricants de Rouets:  Nineteenth Century Quebec Spinning Wheel Makers and their Twentieth Century Heirs 1850-1950. Thanks to her research, I was able to determine that Philippe was crafted by a second-generation spinning wheel maker named Philias Cadorette. Watch my YouTube video to learn more about the cool history of the Cadorette family that I discovered about my Philippe thanks to Caroline’s research.

Tell me about your CPW!

If you have a Canadian Production Wheel, I would love to hear if you have discovered who is the maker of that wheel, any quirks that it has, and if you love spinning with it — let me know in the comments down below.

A close-up of a spinning wheel in the foreground and a grey cat asleep on a floral couch in the background
I really enjoyed spinning with Philippe for this project. My cat was less impressed!

If you enjoyed this project and want to see more, you can buy me a coffee (or a floof of fiber!) to help support my next textile adventure. And remember to subscribe to my YouTube channel and join my Patreon!

If you are interested in private virtual spinning lessons, you can send me an e-mail at [email protected].

Happy spinning!

Further reading

BLACK, NAOMI, and GAIL CUTHBERT BRANDT. Feminist Politics on the Farm: Rural Catholic Women in Southern Quebec and Southwestern France. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999.

“Economic History of Central Canada.” Economic History of Central Canada | The Canadian Encyclopedia, thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/economic-history-of-central-canada.


8 thoughts on “Canadian Production Wheel (CPW) — History, Spinning, and Long Draw

  1. Connie Lipham

    I don’t know how to find that ebook by Caroline Foty…just bought my 30″ CPW today….I want to know about her!

    1. JillianEve

      I sent her a message through Instagram but I think she is on Ravelry also if you are able to use that. She doesn’t have a store front so you’ll have to contact her directly.

  2. Dawn

    I don’t know if mine is a CPW or not.I don’t have cast iron on the foot peddel.

    1. JillianEve

      Some CPWs were made without the cast iron treadle, and some were replaced with wood over time. The key feature that makes it a CPW is the tilt tension system rather than a tension knob connected to a screw that moves the flyer back and forth. Many CPWs have a decorative knob on the end of the table, but it isn’t functional. The tilt tension is key.

  3. Luci Smith

    I have recently purchased a spinning wheel from Facebook marketplace for my daughter’s 11th birthday. We have a friend, an adept spinner, who is helping us learn about spinning in general. It has no markings but appears to be a CPW. It’s missing the footman and needs a few minor repairs. My husband is going to try to fashion a footman, but I’m wondering if anyone can help me find an authentic one. Also, can anyone give me more information? We are in Georgia ( United States). I can send phots if that would help. Thank you!

  4. Dennis Hurd

    I currently have a CPW that I restored to It’s original condition. As I have 5 other wheels, I’m looking to sell it to anyone who might be interested. What is the best way to sell it and how much should I sell it for? I live in Iowa so I’m in the Midwest. Thank you for all of your research on these wheels. It is very interesting.

    1. JillianEve

      Spinners watch Facebook Marketplace for wheels but there are also several Facebook groups for spinners and spinning wheel equipment. Those are the places where I see the most action. If you are near a fiber festival or fair, you might check there and if you have a local spinning supply or yarn store they might have a space for used equipment. Please ensure it goes to a knowledgeable spinner so it will be cared for, especially if it is in original condition.

  5. Dennis Hurd

    Thank you Julian, I Listed the CPW on Etsy and sold it within 4 days to a lady in upstate New York. She currently has A CP W but it is not functioning due to a wheel problem. I boxed it up and sent it by bus to a town within 30 miles of her. Just FYI for other spinners, I have sent and received wheels via bus and they always have arrived in good condition. I hope this one does too. Thank you for your reply to my question and I’ll keep watching your videos.

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