Suzy, I will definitely check that Magic Loop technique though I really wanted to limit the advanced skills to have to learn for my first sweater. I guess there's a limit to how simple even the simplest sweater pattern can be.
Last night I found another wrinkle. The yarn shop sold me the 32 inch size 17 circular needles because I supposedly wouldn't need the smaller ones until the sleeves. But when I got home last night and read the pattern carefully, I realized that the neck calls for the 16 inch size 15 circular needles. Ouch! I tried casting on 38 stitches for the neck on the larger needles but the stitches were stretching way too much.
As a test, I just started casting on stitches and was able to get 72 stitches on those needles. The second cast on was looser and I was able to knit with 45 or so but I don't think this length of circular needles is good for the small number of stitches I'll be starting with.
I'm thinking I should go back to the yarn store and get the smaller needles. What do you all recommend?