President Carter's request for funds to start draft registration was defeated on a 6-to-6 vote in a House Appropriations subcommittee yesterday.

But the subcommittee did not kill the draft money bill entirely.

It sent it on to the full Appropriations Committee with just enough money to dust off the nation's Selective Service machinery and get it ready for possible future use.

The full committee could still restore the registration funds.

The subcommittee action -- Congress' first vote on the registration proposals -- was nevertheless a sharp setback for the president.

The funds cut out of the bill were for registering men as well as women.

Asked last night what would happen in the full committee, subcommittee chairman Edward P. Boland (D-Mass.) said, "I don't really know. I really don't have a feel for it."

The chairman of the full 54-member committee, Rep. Jamie L. Whitten (D-Miss.), is -- like Boland -- supportive of the president's plan to register 8 million men and women born in 1960 and 1961.

Carter proposed registration after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, as more evidence of U.S. determination to resist Soviet expansion.

Boland led the fight last night to get $21.9 million in supplemental fiscal 1980 funds to enable Carter to start registering young men and women this spring. All but about $4 million of that would have gone for the registration process. The remainder is to moderize Selective Service equipment and add people to the payroll.

"The central issue," said Boland, "is whether or not we are together on this" effort to show "resolve to the Soviet Union."

But Rep. Lawrence Coughlin of Pennsylvania, ranking Republican on the subcommittee, said the registration program would accomplish nothing significant and would amount only to "misleading ourselves and sending no signal to the Soviets."

Coughlin, Rep. Joseph M. McDade (R-Pa.) and Rep. Martin Stabe (D-Minn.) all argued that Carter's registration plan would be a waste of money, would save only seven days over waiting until an emergency arose and was not the system the Selective Service had recommended to the White House.

Sabo then moved to provide only $4.3 million to enable Selective Service to gear up for registering young people but not undertake it. He argued actual registration could be done safely after a national emergency was declared.

On this first vote in the heated subcommittee session, the motion failed on a 6-to-5 vote. Sabo was joined by fellow Democrat Louis Stokes of Ohio and Republicans Silvio O. Conte (Mass.), Coughlin and McDade.

Voting against the Sabo motion were Whitten, Boland, Bob Traxler (D-Mich.), Tom Bevill (D-Ala.), Mrs. Hale Boggs (D-La.) and Bill Young (R-Fla.), Rep. Bennett M. Stewart (D-Ill.) abstained.

The defeat of the Sabo motion set the stage for the key vote on whether the subcommittee would then approve the money Carter wanted for registration. In that vote, Stewart joined the opposition, making it a 6-to-6 tie.

That seemed to kill the whole bill, but Boland next prevailed on the subcommittee to give the full Appropriations Committee a shot at the issue, perhaps next week, by sending forward just enough to gear up Selective Service.

The subcommittee agreed to do that by acclamation, with no dissent.