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Knitting yarn suggestions

Sometimes on Postcrossing I see profiles that ask for some yarn for their personal knitting projects (like I ask for fabric for my PX quilt project). I don't knit so I'm not familiar with yarn types, weights, etc. So I ask my friends list:

1. What material is best? Wool? Alpaca? Something locally made? (someone in SE Texas does have an alpaca-yarn shop, I know that) What should be avoided?

2. What is a good length? Nobody specifies in these listings and I have no idea. Two yards? One yard? Three?

3. What is a good size? Or weight or whatever it's called. I need help here, I don't know yarn jargon. (Yarn yargon?)

Ideally I would like to send *some* yarn but not a whole skein because that runs into money. I figure color is a distant fourth because it'll be based on whatever the first three things are.

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