Well, I did it.
I ripped out the disaster, and re-cast on. I don't think it's twisted this time. (Why is it SO freakin' hard to tell, even with a few rounds knit?)
Some time ago I ordered a blocking board and a set of wires. They arrived Friday. I've been procrastinating on the shawl (and on everything else, rationalizing that I can't work on THAT because I really should be working on the shawl) because I had no way to block it once it was finished. Now I need to get my butt in gear and finish it, so I can block it Friday night while the Wibbles spends his weekly night at my in-laws' house.
The hat experiment is not conflicting with the Big Projects, though, since it is portable while the others are not. I work on the shawl at home, and the hat on the bus and occasionally on my lunch break.
In other crafty news, I bought the cheesiest sewing machine ever. It's from Target, and it's handheld and looks like a stapler. I have no intention of making any clothes or upholstering any furniture or anything, so presumably it will suit just fine. I'm hopeful that it will last long enough to crank out a couple throw pillows, and maybe a duvet cover and set of shams. If it's still around after that, I might even make bed canopies.