I love all of these ideas! And I definitely agree with giving projects away as gifts. Very few of my friends craft, so they're usually super excited to receive a handmade gift.
I'm thinking of making a quilt for one of the gazillion babies my friends are suddenly having. I'm a beginner quilter, so it would just be basic square blocks. Several of the squares could be embroidered, which would use up several projects at once. I have a bunch of Sublime Stitching patterns that I look at often, but never use. The designs are cute enough to be used on baby items. (Except for the pinups. I must find a different use for those.)
I'm also planning a tote bag with a James Dean cross stitch on one side. A coworker is graduating high school, and she LOVES James Dean. I just bought a cross stitch design program (PC Stitch), and I think I'm about to become obsessed with cross stitching.)