This is when scarf patterns come in handy. Scarves as gifts work well since most of my friends do travel overseas one time or another. It's also just not as demanding in terms of fit.
Plus, I love the idea of experimenting with new stitches, shapes and colors.
Here's one I knitted back in 2008 -- sounds like an awfully long time ago, doesn't it?
However, I didn't quite like the look as well so I decided to kill it by ironing.