Thumb Wrestling Puppets

Get ready for the epic battle, of the two foes locked in combat since before time began... or, at least a really long time... behold, the great war of...

That’s right, we’ve figured out a way to settle this once and for all, using the ancient art of...


We’re going to make some thumb war puppets, so our little pirates and ninjas can battle for glory in the time-honored martial art of thumb wars. Let’s introduce you to the contenders...

The Pirate - A scurvy scallywag who loves to cheat, drink, sail the seven seas, and say yaarrrr a lot. (Note: craft pirates say yarrrrn.) Pirates are known for their sailing ability on the seven seas, really big hats, and the ever popular skull and crossbones motif. Their best weapons against the ninjas are their awesome fashion sense (knee high boots!), fighting dirty, and rum.

The Ninja - A stealthy and cool shadow of the night, who sneaks around rooftops, loves being invisible, and is capable of disguising itself as anything, including a lamp. Ninjas are known for color coordinating everything with black, a fondness of mutant turtles, and a love of pointy objects thrown with scary accuracy. (Note: craft ninjas are most commonly armed with knitting needles, scissors, and occasionally, buttons). Their best weapons against pirates are their stealth, hidden arsenal of pointy weapons, and ninja magic skills that we can’t tell you about.

So... which side are you on? Choose your warrior, and we’ll show you how to make ‘em...

To make a pirate, you’ll need to print a template of the parts. There are several ways to get your templates: If you have embroidery software, you can print out the dieline files. If you don’t, you can hoop up a piece of paper and “stitch” the dielines, then cut out along the perforations to get your template. I doubled the outline so I didn’t have to print it twice.

For the pirate, you’ll need some felt for the body (my pirate is going to be red), black or brown felt for the hat, peach felt for his arm, and gray felt for his hook. It’s best to use felt for this project because all the edges are raw, and we don’t want them to fray.

To make a ninja, you’ll need to print the ninja template (or stitch it, as directed above). Again, I doubled the body template so I wouldn’t have to print it twice. For the ninja, you’ll need some black felt for the body (this is a rule... ninjas never wear anything but black), some peach felt for the arms (or black, if you want a fully outfitted ninja) and some yarn or ribbon to match your ninja’s headband.

Remember to have your epic thumb war battle, you’ll want to stitch both a pirate and a ninja. On top of these things, you’ll also need some tearaway stabilizer.

First we need to make our puppet pieces. Cut out your template pieces, spray the back of them very lightly with fixative, and place them on their appropriate felt. Carefully cut out around your template lines. I’m using a ninja template here as an example, not because I think ninjas are cool or anything.


There, now it’s even.

Once you’ve cut out all your pieces, it’s time to assemble the two titans. I’ll show you how...

For each puppet, you’ll need to hoop up some tearaway stabilizer. If you have a large enough hoop, you could also stitch both of them on the same piece of stabilizer.

I’m going to use the pirate as our first example, since the ninja had his turn before. To stitch your puppet, first a dieline will stitch. Spray one of your body pieces with some adhesive, and place it carefully inside the dieline. After that, a tack down will stitch, followed by all the inside elements. Once your pirate features have sewn, grab your piratey appendages and mock them up on your pirate.

Now, in order for your pirate’s arms and such to be facing the right way when he’s turned right side out, we need to flip everything inward. His arms should go over his chest and his hat flipped in towards his face.

Because the hat has point edges that are wider than the seam allowance, I folded the edges of the hat in and taped everything in place. Make sure some edge of the appendages overlaps the seam so it’s caught when the final stitches go around.

Grab your final piece, spray just around the edges and place it on top of your pirate. Finally, set your machine to sewing again and stitch the final tack down seam.

The ninja assembles the same way. Make sure you remember to fold in all his appendages, and add your yarn or ribbon (folded inwards) so he has some flair to his ninja headband.

Tear your puppet warriors free from the stabilizer once they’re done stitching, and turn them right side out. The pirate, naturally, is a bit more stubborn about turning right side out, but that’s just ‘cause he’s a pirate.

Our warriors are ready to do battle...

but before we commence... the thumb war puppet rules...

The Rules:

1) Puppets must be worn on thumbs at all times. Ninja is not allowed to sneak around during battle.

2) You can only use one hand, so if your puppet starts to come off, you must use your same hand to keep him on.

3) If a puppet falls off, both contenders must switch to the “hand of shame” (their non dominant hand) for 20 seconds of play.

4) The winner must pin their opponent for at least 3 seconds to declare victory.


Action shot! Pirate dashingly dodges Ninja’s sneaky moves.

Ninja super speed attack!!

The battle rages... but who will be the winner? Who comes out on top in the epic battle of pirates vs. ninjas?

Silly question. Craft bunny rules all.

Enjoy your puppets, you craft ninjas and yarn pirates, and let the battle rage on. If only all our disputes could be solved through thumb wars...

Want a printer-friendly PDF of this page? You got it, bud.
Suggested designs for this tutorial: 
Thumb Wars - Ninja (In the Hoop)_image
Thumb Wars - Ninja (In the Hoop) $1.99
1 Available Size:
Machine Embroidery: 1.97"w x 2.48"h | Hand Embroidery
Thumb Wars - Pirate (In the Hoop)_image
Thumb Wars - Pirate (In the Hoop) $2.99
1 Available Size:
Machine Embroidery: 1.97"w x 2.52"h | Hand Embroidery