Maybe you could just use a smaller needle for the first row...I used to use a larger needle to cast on before I learned to knit looser.
DS Carter (11), DS Myles (9), DD Merlyn (7), DD Berkleigh (6)
Wonderful Wallaby for Linus' 1st birthday (9/16)
Birchbark shawl (my own design) for my mom's 60th birthday (9/15)
At least one ever-present felted bag