If you’re a cactus lover like me, then you want cacti on everything! I want them in my garden, on home decor, and even clothes. Well, if you’ve been dreaming of a cactus crochet garment pattern, then you are going to love my latest free tapestry crochet pattern: the Desert Cactus Top and Dress! This versatile tapestry crochet pattern can be made as a tank top, a peplum top, or even a dress. It’s totally customizable to you! If you’ve been wanting to try crochet color work, this is the perfect beginner free tapestry or intarsia crochet pattern. You’re going to love this crochet top and dress!
You can find the free crochet pattern here in this post by scrolling down, or check out all the info about it by reading below! You can also grab an ad free PDF in my Etsy and Ravelry shops, and find a complete video tutorial of the pattern on my Youtube channel!
I am a huge fan of cacti, so it has been a goal of mine for awhile to have a crochet garment pattern with cacti on it! I wanted to not only capture the cacti that I love so much, but I wanted the entire top to capture the essence of the desert. I went with diamonds for the complimenting tapestry crochet pattern, and I love how the two motifs go together so well!
About a year ago, I first came up with this design, but never ended up writing it out. I was in a stage where I was trying to discover who I was as a designer, and was so fed up with designing garments that I wanted to quit. In fact, I did quit making garments. I felt like I had no place in the garment world, and therefore should quit trying.
Then, this year, I decided to try garments again. Maybe there was a way that I could enjoy making them. I ended up choosing to combine my love of color work with garment making, and fell in love with it! This design was in the back of my mind as I started making garments again, and I knew that I needed to go back to it. I am so glad that I did!
Want to save this pattern for later? Save it to your favorite Pinterest Board! (Save it from mine here!)
My biggest goal with this design, was to create a pattern that no matter what your experience with color work was, that you would be able to make it. The criteria were: simple color work, basic construction, customizable pattern, minimum seaming. I was able to meet all of those! If you are new to color work, you can definitely make this pattern.
The color work for the pattern is very basic, and only ever uses two colors per row. You can use the color work method of your choice such as tapestry crochet or intarsia crochet. I wanted to make sure that there were as few color changes as possible. That way you wouldn’t feel intimidated by a lot of colors!
As for the construction, this is truly a customizable pattern! It is all worked in one piece, with the main top being made from panels that are worked off of each other. You even work the straps and peplum or dress portion off of it. There are only two seams, so there is very minimal sewing! Not only is it a beginner tapestry or intarsia crochet pattern, but it also is a beginner friendly free crochet peplum top and dress pattern.
For a printable version of the pattern and charts, you can also grab an ad free PDF in my Etsy and Ravelry shops!
Not only is this pattern free, but I’ve also created a video tutorial available now on my Youtube channel that walks you through each step. I share how to do the color work, read the charts, and work each part of it. You can find it on my Youtube channel now at: Desert Cactus Top and Dress Free Pattern Tutorial.
New to Intarsia Crochet or Crochet Crochet Color Work?
When I was first learning how to do crochet color work, I often felt so lost having to learn how to do color changes and reading crochet graphs. It can seem so intimidating to learn a new crochet skill! If you’re new to tapestry crochet or color work, then I’ve got just the resource for you.
Here on my blog, I’ve got a two free crochet tutorial for how to do tapestry crochet and intarsia crochet, which are the two most common crochet color work techniques. They’ll walk you through what each technique is, how to read crochet graphs, how to change colors in crochet, and a bunch of other tips I have for color work! You can find them here on my blog at:
– The Beginner’s Guide to Tapestry Crochet: This technique is used when you would like to carry your yarn, and the color work is close together. I used this technique for the Rose Garden Tee.
– The Beginner’s Guide to Intarsia Crochet: This technique is used when you don’t want to carry your yarn, and instead would like to use yarn bobbins. You can easily use yarn bobbins when making this crochet pattern.
For this crochet top and garment pattern, I wanted to make sure to use a yarn that was not only lightweight, but also had amazing drape. I live in an area of California where it gets well over 100 degrees fareinheit during the summer. Just about every type of yarn is too thick to wear during the summer. In comes Lion Brand Beautiful You. I think I found a yarn that works no matter how warm it is!
Lion Brand Beautiful You is a weight 2 Fine yarn made from 100% acrylic. This acrylic yarn is unlike others though! The yarn has twisted threads and a feel closer to cotton thread. If you need a yarn with great drape, you are going to love this one! The yarn creates the drapiest fabric that is nice and breathable, which makes it perfect for summer garments. It’s one of my favorite warm weather yarns!
If you want to get some for yourself, Lion Brand has it available in a wide array of colors! There are bright summery pinks, or even deep jewel tones. I went with a warm desert palette for this design, and love the way that the colors compliment each other so well. You can get this yarn on either Amazon or Lion Brand’s website.
You can also substitute another weight 2 yarn or even a weight 3 if you can meet the gauge for the pattern. I highly recommend getting a cotton blend yarn so that it’s light and airy for warm weather!
Gauge: 4” x 4” square = 19 dc x 10 rows
Finished Bust Measurements:
- XS = 30”
- S = 34”
- M = 38”
- L = 42”
- XL = 46”
- 2XL = 50”
- 3XL = 54”
- 4XL = 58”
- 5XL = 62”
- Note: The fit is on the loose side for this design, and has no waist shaping. If you are wanting a tighter fit or are in between sizes, I recommend going down a size.
Yarn: Weight 2 light yarn. I used Lion Brand Beautiful You, but you could use another weight 2 or even a weight 3 yarn if you can meet the gauge.
Yarn Yardage (approx.) women’s sizes:
- Total yds needed (top): 900-1400 yds
- Total yds needed (dress depending on length): 1400-2000 yds
- To do all of the color work, and the striping like mine, you’ll need the following approx. amounts in 3 different colors (Note that if you’re doing the dress you’ll need about double of the following amounts):
- Main Color (Yellow): 300 (350, 400, 450, 500, 650, 700, 750, 800 yds)
- Contrast Color 1 (Orange): 298-400 yds
- Contrast Color 2 (Green): 298-400 yds
- Ch = Chain
- DC = Double Crochet
- St = Stitch
- Dc dec = double crochet decrease (Work a double crochet in the specified stitch until two loops remain on the hook. Keeping these two loops on hook, work another double crochet in the next stitch until three loops remain on hook; hook yarn and draw through all three loops on the hook.
- Dc inc = double crochet increase (two double crochet stitches in the same stitch)
- Rnd = round
- Sl st = slip stitch
- The pattern uses a few different charts that are located on the chart page for each size grouping. The chart page for sizes XS-L and sizes XL-5XL includes the cactus and diamond chart on each page respectively.
- Each square on the chart counts as 1 dc.
- The chart is read alternating from left to right.
- The cactus chart begins using the Main Color (MC).
- The cactus chart is only used for the front panel. The back panel just uses solid colored dc for the portion that the cacti are on the front panel.
- When you are about to change to a different color when doing the color work on the chart, switch colors by using the new color for the last yarn over for the stitch before the new color.
Cactus chart (sizes XS-L): For a printable version of the chart, grab a copy of the discounted premium PDF on Etsy and Ravelry!
Cactus Chart XL-5XL: For a printable version of the chart, grab a copy of the discounted premium PDF on Etsy and Ravelry!
Diamond Chart All Sizes: For a printable version of the chart, grab a copy of the discounted premium PDF on Etsy and Ravelry!
- For a printable version of this pattern, check out the discounted premium PDF version in my Etsy and Ravelry shops for just $3!
- This pattern is written in US terminology.
- The ch 2 at the beginning of each row does not count as a stitch.
- The pattern is made from a front and back panel that are worked off of each other. Then you seam up the sides before starting in the round.
- When doing the color work for this, you can use either tapestry or intarsia crochet. If you are using very contrasting colors, I recommend using intarsia crochet for the cacti. You can carry the unused yarn for the diamonds using the tapestry crochet technique.
- Want to avoid crochet mistakes while crocheting this pattern? Learn how to avoid them with my post on my blog: 10 Mistakes Common Mistakes Crocheters Make and How to Avoid Them.
- New to crochet color work, but still want to make this top? You totally can! I have a great tutorial here on my blog that teaches how to change colors in tapestry crochet, which you can find at: Beginner’s Guide to Tapestry Crochet or in the video below.
Desert Cactus Top Youtube Video Tutorial:
Front Panel Sizes XS-5XL:
For a printable version of this pattern, grab a copy of the discounted premium PDF on Etsy and Ravelry! For a step by step video tutorial of this pattern, check out my Youtube video tutorial!
Starting with MC
Row 1: Ch 74 (82, 92, 102, 112, 119, 129, 139, 149), starting in 3rd ch from the hook, dc 72 (80, 90, 100, 110, 117, 127, 137, 147) [72 (80, 90, 100, 110, 117, 127, 137, 147) sts]
Row 2: ch 2, turn, dc across [72 (80, 90, 100, 110, 117, 127, 137, 147) sts]
The next portion begins to use the cactus chart. You will work the cactus chart from the bottom up beginning from the left side, since the row begins on the wrong side.
Next 13 rows for sizes XS-L and 15 rows for sizes XL-5XL: ch 2, turn, dc 8 (12, 17, 22, 24, 27, 32, 37, 42), follow cactus chart across, at end of chart dc in the MC the rest of the row [72 (80, 90, 100, 110, 117, 127, 137, 147) sts]
Next 2 rows: using MC, ch 2, turn, dc across [72 (80, 90, 100, 110, 117, 127, 137, 147) sts]
For the following rows, we will begin decreasing on the sides to help bring in the top half of the panel. If you would like less decreases, you can stop decreasing at whatever point you would like to. Just do onea dc instead of two and dc to the point where you start the color work chart. It will change the end stitch count, so keep that in mind.
Next row: using CC2, ch 2, turn, dec 1 (1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2), dc 68 (76, 86, 92, 102, 109, 119, 129, 139), dec 1 (1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2) [70 (78, 88, 96, 107, 113, 123, 133, 143) sts]
Diamond Chart-Set-up Row: Starting with CC2, ch 2, turn, dec 1 (1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2), dc 9 (13, 18, 20, 26, 29, 34, 39, 44), place stitch marker to indicate beginning of chart, follow diamond chart across, place stitch marker to indicate end of chart, using CC2 dc in each st to last 2 (2, 2, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4) sts, dec 1 (1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2).
Next 7 Rows: Ch 2, turn, dec 1 (1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2), dc to beginning of chart marker, follow diamond chart across, dc to last 2 (2, 2, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4) sts, dec 1 (1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2).
Next 3 Rows: using CC2, ch 2, turn, dec 1 (1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2), dc in each st to last 2 (2, 2, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4) sts, dec 1 (1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2).
Final stitch count for the back panel will be 48 (56, 60, 52, 62, 69, 79, 89, 99) sts.
Do not cut yarn, move to the Straps.
Straps Sizes XS-5XL
Using CC2, we’ll start the first strap. Working off of the front panel, do the following for the first strap. For a step by step tutorial of how to do this part of the pattern, check out my Youtube video tutorial!
Row 1: ch 2, turn, dc 10 (you can also dc more if you’d like the straps to be wider, or less dc if you’d like them to be more narrow)
Repeat row 1 till your straps reach the desired length. They should start at the top of your armpits in the front, and go to the tops of your armpits on your back. I did mine till they were around 6-8”.
To make second strap, attach yarn in the last st of the top row of the front panel with a sl st through the last st.
Repeat row 1 from first strap till your strap matches the length of the first strap. Once they reach the desired length, do not cut, begin the back panel.
Back Panel Sizes XS-5XL
Continuing off of the last strap you worked, do the following.
If you have added more stitches to make your straps thicker, subtract the amount of stitches you did for each strap from the end stitch count of the last row of the front panel. For example: Size Small needs to end with 56 sts. If you made the straps 12 dc across you would calculate 56-12-12=32chains across the middle. This will give you the amount of chains that you will do for the first row of the back panel.
Row 1: ch 2, turn, dc across strap, ch 28 (36, 40, 32, 42, 49, 59, 69, 79), skip over to the other strap, starting in the first st of the other strap, dc across strap [48 (56, 60, 52, 62, 69, 79, 89, 99) sts]
For the next 3 rows: ch 2, turn, dc inc 1 (1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2), dc to the last st, dc inc 1 (1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2) in last st for sizes XS-S and last 2 sts for M-5XL, 2nd row end stitch count 52 (60, 68, 60, 70, 77, 87, 97, 107) sts
Increasing Diamond Section:
Set-up Row: Starting with CC2, ch 2, turn, dc inc 1 (1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2), dc 3 (7, 11, 6, 11, 15, 20, 25, 30), place stitch marker to indicate beginning of chart, follow diamond chart across, place stitch marker to indicate end of chart, using CC2 dc in each st to last st, inc in last st for sizes XS-M and last 2 sts for L-5XL. [56 (64, 74, 68, 78, 85, 95, 105, 115) sts]
Next 7 Rows: Ch 2, turn, inc in first st, dc to beginning of chart marker, follow diamond chart across, dc to last st, inc in last st for sizes XS-M and last 2 sts for L-5XL. [70 (78, 88, 96, 106, 113, 123, 133, 143) sts]
Next Row: ch 2, turn, dc inc 1 (1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2), dc to last st, inc in last st for sizes XS-M and last 2 sts for L-5XL [72 (80, 90, 100, 110, 117, 127, 137, 147) sts]
The rest of the top will be done in the MC, but won’t have any cacti on it. If you would like to add the cacti to it, just follow the same for the front half of the pattern that uses the cacti chart. Do the cacti portion starting from the top and working down. Essentially you are doing the cacti chart upside down.
Next 17 rows for sizes XS-L and 19 rows for sizes XL-5XL: using MC, ch 2, turn, dc across
Fasten off leaving a long tail for sewing.
Seaming Sides of Panels
For a step by step tutorial of how to do this part of the pattern, check out my Youtube video tutorial!
Once you’ve finished both the front and back panels, then we’ll seam up the sides, so that we can continue with the peplum or dress portion of the top.
To seam top, line up panels wrong sides together starting from the waist and working up to the armpit. You can do it up the side till you reach CC2 and then fasten off, or if you would like it to be seamed up more you can sew till you reach the point you’d like it seamed. If you are making the dress version, I recommend seaming it up past where CC2 was joined. I sewed mine about 2-3 inches past that.
Once you are finished seaming, if you would like to have the peplum top portion or the dress portion, continue with the next section. Otherwise, if you would like it as a crop top, you can stop here and weave in all the ends!
Peplum Portion/Dress All Sizes:
If you would like to continue with the peplum top/dress version of this pattern, do the following rows.
Rnd 1: With right side facing, join yarn with a sl st at a seam between panels, ch 2, *dc 1, dc inc 1, repeat from * around, join with sl st to ch-2 at beg of rnd
Rnd 2: ch 2, turn, *dc 1, dc inc 1, repeat from * around, join with sl st to ch-2 at beg of rnd
Rnd 3: ch 2, turn, dc around, join with sl st around
For the peplum top: Repeat rnd 3 till your top reaches the desired length. I repeated it till my peplum portion measured inches. If you would like to do striping on your peplum top, then switch colors every 4-6 rounds depending on how thick you would like your stripes.
For the dress version: Repeat rnd 3 till your dress reaches the desired length. I repeated rnd 3 till the skirt of my dress reached right above my knee.
If you would like your skirt to be wider, you can alternate between rnd 2 and 3 for a few rnds until your skirt has the desired waist size. Note that each time you repeat rnd 2 it will increase your stitch count for the rnd by 50%.
If you would like to do striping on your dress skirt, then switch colors every 4-10 rounds depending on how thick you would like your stripes.
Once you are all done crocheting, fasten off and weave in ends. I also recommend blocking the project, so that the stitches relax and give the garment more drape.
I hope that you love making the Desert Cactus Top and Dress as much as I loved designing it! If you make a Desert Cactus Top or Dress of your own, be sure to tag me on social media on Instagram and Facebook @eclairemakery or use #eclairemakery, #desertcactustop, or #desertcactusdress. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!
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