A knitted cowl makes a great gift because no fitting is required and they're relatively simple to make. Here are some of my favorite free patterns from around the web.
1. Chunky Cable Cowl from Pickles
2. Garter Gaiter from The Purl Bee
3. Drop Stitch Cowl by Abi Gregorio on Ravelry
4. Gap-tastic Cowl by Jen Geigley on Ravelry
Also see: Dobbs Ferry Knit Cowl on Martha Stewart
Simple Snoods from By Hand London