Hi everybody- thanks for the comments. I know it's hard to see the details of a black sweater very well in photos, especially when I wear a black shirt underneath, duh on my part.
I think this pattern is a pretty good choice for a first sweater. Good luck to everyone who is thinking of trying it! Be sure to post photos when you're done.
And as for blocking- I think I will try soaking it and then re-shaping it. But even if doesn't make much difference it's still wearable.