The videos you seem to be watching are showing you exactly what you need to do. Picking up stitches really is as simple as threading your knitting needle through the loops at the edge of your knitting. It can be used to add borders, but it can also be used for shaping. I've looked at the pattern you're making and, while I am having trouble visualizing its construction, my gut says that the picked up stitches are to help with the shaping.
I'm curious enough now that I think I'm going to grab some scrap yarn and make a mock up of the first bit to see how it knits out. I'll be back later with more details.
ETA: I've just done the first couple of rows and what happens in this pattern is that the first six rows of two knit stitches a row gives you this funny little strip that all of the other stitches come from. Think of it as a two by six stitch rectangle with two workable stitches coming off of the short ends and three workable stitches coming off of the long end. From those seven stitches, your shawl grows. It's a fun little pattern with lots of room to play around between the markers. I have some pretty lace weight yarn that I bought just because it was on sale. I think I know what I'm going to do with it now!
I'm excited and I wanted to share with my fellow knitters-I've converted my sister. She's been going through a rough time and has a two year old who insists on watching "Up" at least three times a day. In an effort to be helpful, I sent her a "just because" care package with a set of size ten bamboo needles, two skeins of Paton's Classic in their Harvest colorway, my copy of the first S'nB book, and a letter explaining how knitting makes me feel connected to both a tradition of strong women and the current knitters around the world and, at the same time, disconnected enough to let my mind wander to all the places it needs to go to sort through whatever needs sorted through.
She's completely hooked already. I was able to visit over Thanksgiving, so a week ago now, and get her going. So far she has about a foot and a half of her first scarf done and is already telling herself "just one more row".
I've taught a fair number of people to knit over the years, but she's picked it up quicker than anyone else I've taught. By the end of her first row, she knew what she was doing. By the end of her first ten rows, she had learned how to fix her own dropped or inadvertently slipped stitches.
For me, knitting isn't just about the FO. There's something amazingly therapeutic about the process and the act of creation. I'm thankful that I was able to share that with my sister and totally tickled that she's picked it up so well.
I've had really good results with steam blocking acrylic using the directions found here.
My very first sweater was an acrylic cardigan done in mostly stockinette stitch. I'll let you take a moment to reflect on the amount of curling that sweater had right off of the needles and my personal heartbreak when I thought I was all done and realized how awful it looked. Steam blocking took the curl right out though.
I don't have a steamer or special blocking wire. I do have a steam iron and sewing needles though. I pin my knitting to my bed (my ironing board doesn't hold a whole sweater at once) and carefully shoot the steam onto the garment without letting the iron actually touch the garment. Remember, acrylic is essentially just plastic. It can melt! If you're nervous about the potential for melting, knit a swatch in stockinette to practice with. You'll be amazed at the change steam can make.
This is absolutely wonderful looking! I knit almost exclusively with fibers for which I can felt the ends together just so I can avoid having to weave ends in. I've done the Russian Splice on non-feltable fibers, but I don't like the look of it in the finished piece. I can tell where the joins are, even if nobody else can. I will definitely try the braided splice next time I can't felt the ends together.
A beanie style hat was what I did with my first batch of homespun. I'm not much for patterns, but this is the basic idea of what I did.
Using double pointed needles, cast on enough stitches to make it around your head and be a multiple of 16*. Knit in a double rib** until the hat is as tall as you want it to be, for me this was the length from the dangly part of my ear where earrings go to the top of my head. Purl your purl stitches together for a round and then K2P1 for a round. K1, K2tog for a round, and then knit a round.
Binding off is the weird part. I made an X shaped seam on the top because I liked the shape it gave the hat. To do that, divide the stitches into four equal parts and place your stitches on four scrap pieces of yarn. Now, none of your stitches should be on the needles. Turn your hat inside out.
From this point you'll be making your X by doing a three needle bind off with two groups of stitches at a time. Use the group that has your last knitted stitch and the group opposite of it. The best way I can think of to describe how I did the bind off is to have you imagine looking down at the top of your hat with the two working groups on on the left and the right and the other two groups on the top and the bottom. Divide the stitches in the two working groups in half and place the halves that are closest to you on one needle and the halves that are farthest from you on the other needle. Use the tail to do a three needle bind off.
Do the same sort of bind off with the other set of stitches and a piece of scrap yarn.
*I used 64 stitches on, I think, size ten needles. If using a multiple of 16 gives you a wildly odd sized hat with your yarn and you're comfortable fudging things with the bind off by having halves that are, technically, not halves, it isn't a big deal. Having a multiple of four stitches is a must though for the double ribbing.
**I didn't actually do double ribbing. I did a little cable twist every other rib every four rows. For that, you would need a multiple of 8***.
***Aren't powers of two fun? I had to use a multiple of 16 because my number of stitches was first cut in half by all of the decreases and then in fourths for the different groups, and then in half again for the subgroups. I teach math and I have a few students who lament having to learn exponents, so I think it's kind of cool to have practical purposes for them.