i say ponchos are definitely not out. i wear one in the winter all the time and get tons of compliments (my fav one was "nice afghan" from some guy at a coffee shop LOL although i really don't think he appreciated it) actually the poncho i wear is the martha stewart coming home poncho, the one she wore the day she got outta prison. my MIL made it for me w/ homespun...not sure of the name but it has oranges and purples and a bunch of other colors...looks really good. plus come on! if leg warmers are becoming popular again, as hideous as they are, then ponchos are definitely still cool!
i don't know how "classy" my idea is but when my boyfriend wanted me to crochet a scarf for him i just did single crochet and used homespun black yarn with a little gray mixed in. a lot of people commented on how nice it looked just because of the slight mix of color made it look a lot more complicated. otherwise you could try a few rows of single and then a row of double and then single again, double...you get the idea. plus if you're in a hurry, its not so complicated that you aren't able to finish it in time.
hi, if you end up dying wool yarn, you won't need the sodium ash solution. you can just use 3/4 part water to 1/4 white vinegar. soaking it for at least 4 hrs is good but over night is even better. it helps draw the color into the yarn. have fun!!