Bad stitches? Check everything. Why is this so hard to remember?
At least I have learned to test my thread on a scrap piece first, and to draw the design several times and then test stitch it a couple of times to build up muscle memory, but last night I was just doing butt ugly stitches, and couldn't figure out why.
Then I thought about how long it had been since I had cleaned out the bobbin area. Every 10 bobbin changes they suggest, but who keeps track?? It was desperately in need of a clean. For good measure I changed the needle, and rethreaded the machine. Sweet stitches ensued. Why don't I think of this ahead of time, instead of as a remedial measure?
New resolution to begin each major free-motion project with a newly cleaned out bobbin area, and a new needle. We'll see how long that lasts...