I've had a lot of graduations and open houses to attend in the last few years and I always include one thing in my gift. A small, personalized sewing kit. Sometimes this is all I give, other times it's part of a larger gift... but it's always there.
I make them out of different things- canning jars, bead tubes, tupperware... I decorate the container with ribbon, trims, paint... nothing too over the top.
I always include:
-small pin cushion (typically done in college or favorite colors)
-pack of various needles
-variety of buttons
-small thread set (or spools of black, navy, white & tan)
-small tape measure
-pins (straight and safety)
I sometimes include:
-neutral colored patches (guys tend to rip their pant crotches)
Whether they're going away to college or living at home... you never know when you're going to rip a seam, pop a button, or tear the strap off your favorite top. It may seem like a boring or over-practical gift, but they'll be happy for it in the end.
My biggest tip is to keep the kit small- there isn't much room for extras in a dorm room. And keep the embellishments to a minimum (especially with guys)... you don't want the kid embarrassed when her new roommate sees the glitter covered atrocity you've made.
This year my step-sister-in-law is getting a sewing kit along with a few other presents... She's spoiled rotten and I have a feeling she'll be learning a lot about taking care of herself during her freshman year. I forgot to pack a sewing kit when I first moved away from home and I regretted it. I'm going to make sure she has everything she needs to keep herself in repair.