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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Economic History of Central Canada.” Economic History of Central Canada | The Canadian Encyclopedia, thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/economic-history-of-central-canada.
Foty, Caroline. Fabricants De Rouets: NINETEENTH CENTURY QUEBEC SPINNING WHEEL MAKERS AND THEIR TWENTIETH CENTURY HEIRS (1850-1950) A PROVISIONAL DIRECTORY. 3rd ed., e-Book, 2018.