This past Christmas I learned what a wonderful present hand made cotton dish cloths, pot holders, and kitchen towels can be. They are a favorite gift for family and friends - for the simple reason that a home knit or crocheted item will scrub harder and last longer than anything you can find in the stores. These items are simple to make; you can make a reasonable-sized dish cloth or pot holder at one sitting. Kitchen towels take longer.
This video is a great demonstration of a simple, sturdy pot holder. I especially enjoyed the instructions on how to include a loop to hang the item conveniently. I would suggest using at least a size 10 crochet hook to handle two yarns at once. If they are heavy yarns, you will need a larger one. Should you need help in chaining or learning the basic crochet stitch, this video is helpful.
Crochet is wonderful for pot holders and kitchen towels, but for dish cloths your best choice is a seed stitch knit. This gives you a great scrubbing surface. It is also a great way to use your leftover ends of cotton yarn. Nobody's going to care whether or not the dish cloth matches the decor! I use US9 needles and cast on 33 stitches to begin a dish cloth. A great guide to casting on is here. I usually make dish cloths just a little longer than the length of my hand; that seems to make them easier to grip and handle.
Crocheted dish towels are handy in the kitchen, but you can also make them by knitting with two yarns at once. A good dish towel should be about 12 inches by 18 inches, or about 40 stitches on US9 needles. They look especially good if you use a simple pattern; seed stitch four rows, then seed stitch 4 stitches at each side of the towel with stockinette stitch in the middle. Then seed stitch the last four rows. You can also use the same technique to make 10 inch by10 inch wash cloths for the bath - a much admired hostess gift.
You don't need to be a needlework prodigy to make pleasing gifts - just be practical~