I've been fighting with my embroidery machine (again) in my small scraps of what is laughably called free time. The two things that worked this time were to add stabilizer backing, and to reseat the bobbin.
I thought this heavier mid-weight woven fabric was heavy enough without stabilizer, but the difference in the test results indicate otherwise. So lesson one: use stabilizer. I get the feeling that this lesson is universal to machine embroidery. To make testing easier, I stitched the stabilizer to the fabric. If I were to do this not-for-testing, I think the stabilizer border stitching would be a perfect place to use one of the fancy stitches on my new sewing machine.
Once I added stabilizer, I still had undesirable results. The stabilizer side looked tidy now, but the so-called right side was all wrong. I only saw top thread on the back, while the front showed somewhat loose bobbin thread. That looked to me like there was zero bobbin tension. Pulling on the bobbin thread end felt like zero tension as well. So I switched out the bobbin and was very careful how I seated the new bobbin.
I was so happy to see it work well after those two changes, stabilizer and reseated bobbin, that I kept running more tests, just to watch it work, just to wash away some of the previous frustration of seeing it not work and not having time to diagnose and fix it then. Ahh ,,,
And just in time too. I wanted to embroider a present for a friend, and my mother requested her chop on the jacket that she sometimes leaves at work (and would like to see again thank you). So I'm ready to help out embroidering now.