I am not an advanced crocheter by any means. Once a year I seem to get a hankering to crochet something, usually around vacation time or Christmas. The latter being my motivation this time.
Usually my project of choice is dishcloths/washcloths because they are simple and I can have one finished in a couple of hours (My afghan adventures never seem to get finished).
For washcloths or dishcloths it's good to use a cotton yarn like the one above,
or Lily Sugar'n Cream yarn, because it will hold up well in the washer and dryer without melting.
There may be differences of opinion on this, but when I started crocheting as a child, my mom always told me to first unroll and reroll the yarn into a ball just to make sure there weren't any tangles or knots in it, and it's a habit I still practice.
It also then seems to unroll easily as I am using it.
These will make some cute additions to some of my Christmas packages.
(These two in particular don't look the same because I realized half way through, I was making my single crochet wrong, woops!)
Add a pretty bar of soap or an earth friendly fancy dish liquid, and you have a thoughtful little gift.
Another fast crochet gift idea is a flower bookmark. I found this pattern at The Best is Yet to Be, and it's just darling. I used the "tail" part of her pattern and for the flower part I used a small flat flower from About.com.
Aren't they cute!? Either of these would make a nice homemade stocking stuffer too!