You might be knitting flat with the circulars if its just the front and neck bands, that would be too many stitches for a straight needle. There's a video for picking up on the Tip page neard the bottom. With the RS facing you and starting with the bottom edge of the sweater on the right, insert your needle into a stitch on the edge, wrap the yarn around and pull through. Repeat all the way up the edge, around the neck and down the other edge. You'll probably pick up in 2 edge sts, skip 1, then pick up in the next 2, skip 1 and so on, all the way around.
sue- knitting heretic