The Radiating Star Blanket (pattern by Alexis Layton; available via free Ravelry download) satisfied my need for a beginner’s project that looks more advanced than it is. All you really need to know for this project is the knit stitch, yarn over and slip-knit-pass. It’s knit in the round, but if you’re not comfortable casting on with double-pointed needles you can start on straights and transfer the project to a circular needle when it’s large enough (just purl the knits until you’re on circs). That’s what I did after many, many frustrating attempts with the DPNs.
I made this blanket with Knitpicks‘ Brava acrylic so it could be machine washed and dried. It washed up with a nice drape, but did develop a little fuzzy halo. As acrylic goes, Brava was very nice to work with. For the right project I’d certainly use it again.