dawn what about looking at www.straw.com, tehy have some great free patterns there. have you looked on ravelry.com as well, there are tons upon tons on there. um, lion brand.
hats are great to learn on, what i did with my first propper project, i get a dish cloth pattern, decided the pattern was far far to pretty for a dishcloth so knitted it to the size i thought was right for a hat (it was for ds who was 3 at the time so small was good lol) rather than casting off i sewed through the stitch and gathered the end up tight, sewed the side and hey presto a hat lol.
if in doubt a scarf is a nice project to learn on, and you can find tons of free patterns or make up your own as you go along