Help! Where do I begin?

When you’ve sewn for ages your mind kicks into gear when constructing a garment.  What do you do first?  What do you sew next?  You kind of know the order in which things should be done.  But for the novice, it might not be so obvious. Use these guidelines and you’ll generally be well on your way to a comfortable level of knowing how to sew something together.
Read through these steps first, then analyze them in relation to the garment you want to sew.  Eliminate those that don’t apply, but stay with the general flow of steps.

1.  Attach any interfacing. Whether for a blouse, dress, coat, shirt or waistband of pants or skirt, do this first.

2.  Darts, tucks, pleats.  Do these next.

3.  Sew style lines. Does your pattern have style lines like princess lines or yokes?  Anything that is not a shoulder or side seam should be sewn now.

4.  Pockets.  Apply them to the major piece taking care that they are balanced from one side to the other.

5.  Insert the zipper.  If possible insert the zipper while the major piece is still flat, but if it is a dress with a waist seam and the zipper extends into the skirt, it will be applied later.

6.  Shoulder seams generally come next.

7.  Sew a ‘shirt-style’ sleeve.  The lower, flatter sleeve cap lends itself to sewing into the front and back armscye at this time.

8.  For shirts, sew side seams from hem up through underarm to sleeve hem edge.  For pants, sew inseams and side seams.  For a dress, if the design has an attached skirt, sew the skirt and bodice side seams separately, but don’t attach the skirt to the bodice yet.

9.  For pants, sew crotch seams.

10.  Sew waistband or facings for pants/skirts.  Finish elastic waists at this time.  

11.  Sew collar.  Prepare collar.  Make sure facings have been prepped.  Attach collar.

12.  Prepare sleeve.  Prepare any detailing like plackets, gathers, etc. before stitching the underarm seam.  Apply cuff if applicable.

13.  Set in sleeve.

14.  Neckline/armhole facings.  Sew the neckline or armhole facings if there is no collar.

15.  Dress waist seam.  For 2-piece dresses, sew bodice to skirt at waistline.

16.  Apply zipper.  For dresses with waistline seams, add the zipper now.

17.  Finish hem.

18.  Closures.  Buttons, buttonholes, hooks and eyes, frog closures, snaps should be sewn at this time.

19.  Belts, bows or additional trimmings may happen at this time.

The more you sew, the more your confidence grows.

For detailed steps on how to sew the garment together read this article - Part 1: Sewing Construction Steps provided within the Sure-Fit Designs™ system.

(Adapted from Industry Guide to Sewing Order by Connie Crawford)

First, do as much work on a major pattern piece as possible before joining them to another major piece.  All darts, pleats, tucks and style lines (like princess lines) would be sewn first.  Sew side seams and shoulder seams only when you can’t do anything more on the major piece.  This makes pressing easier, simplifies the sewing process, makes the garment easier to handle in the machine and the entire construction process will take less time.  
Learn to press as you sew!
Your finished garment will look so much more professional.
Sure-Fit Designs Dress - Designed and sewn by Sue Schulz of Melbourne, Australia.
This was Sue's Race Wear entry for the 2011 Fashion Awards Australia.  The fabrics?  Japanese silk kimono width fabric with matching silk dupioni.
The hat?  Designed and sewn by Margaret Watson - Melbourne Australia.
Resources
Part 2: Sewing Construction Guidelines...for when you don't have a Guide Sheet

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Sewing Construction Steps:
a General Guide for Garment Assembly

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