Since I haven't started my pinwheel (failed at 5 attempts while sitting up with Sebastian the other night), this list of tips and tricks will be illustrated not by pretty close-ups of me executing the various cast-ons with confidence and flair, but instead by baby pictures. Hope you don't mind.
There is some connection, in that the pinwheel's first rounds and a newborn baby are both full of hope, beauty, frustration, and staggering floppiness. It can be troubling.
Starting a pinwheel blanket involves casting on 5 stitches and then joining and working in the round. This is a mess, even for people who are zen with the dpns.
There are several suggested ways to deal with this.
1. Janice suggests Emily Ocker's beginning for circular knitting. This involves using a crochet hook to cast on, and I want to try it though I admit I don't understand how it helps. Can anyone explain its benefits?
2. Janice also writes:
One thing I'm going to try on a center-out piece some day is an I-cord beginning. Basically, you use a bit of waste yarn and do a couple of inches of I-cord before starting with the working yarn. That way you get a little weight of yarn on the needles, and the stitches are stabilized a little.
3. What I did on my first pinwheel was just use 2 dpns rather than 3, and keep them parallel to each other. Your circle is just 2 parallel lines, joined at the ends. It's less floppy.
4. Forego the stitch marker that is suggested in the pattern, and just use your superior brain power to track of where you started. Or use a small safety pin or locking marker. In my opinion, the marker just adds another element of fiddliness.
If you have other ideas, tips, or links, please leave them in the comments. The permalink to this post will be on the pinwheel gallery & knitalong entry page, so anyone can come here when they are trying to make a happy start.