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Looking for a basic, simple sewing machine? I recently purchased the Singer Start 1304 for my older daughter and have now had time to sew with the machine and help her learn some. As such, I’ve put together this Singer 1304 review to help you determine if it’s the right sewing machine for your needs.
This Singer Start 1304 review will focus on my thoughts from the perspective of an experienced sewing enthusiast and my daughter’s experiences as a young beginner. I’ll give you a tour of its features, how to use it, and then let you know what I think are its pros and cons.
As a spoiler, I think the Singer 1304 Start is perfect for three groups of people:
- Beginners looking for a simple, inexpensive sewing machine to try out a new hobby
- More advanced sewists needing a travel machine or who plan to only do basic sewing and mending tasks with it
- Kids looking to learn to sew (I think it’s the best Singer kids’ sewing machine, which is why my daughter has one now!)
Simple for a child or beginner? Yes! Allowing you room to grow? Not so much. If you want a sewing machine that’s going to grow with you, I recommend against the Singer Start 1304. Like the “Start” part of the name implies, this is a starter machine. (Read my Brother XM2701 review or Brother CS7000X review for more advanced alternatives!)
My Sewing Perspective and My Daughter’s on the Singer 1304 Start
Before we get started with this Singer 1304 review, I want to let you know my sewing background.
For home use, I own a computerized Brother sewing machine (the Brother CS6000i), a computerized sewing and embroidery machine (the Brother SE625), and two heavy-duty sewing machines (Singer 4423 and Singer 4452.) I’m thus used to sewing with fancier, more advanced machines.
My daughter is an almost 6-year-old beginner. She’s highly motivated to learn because she has been watching me sew for so many years and wants to be just like Mommy. My machines are both too complicated for her to use, and I’m not about to let her learn and make beginner mistakes with my costly machines! I purchased the simplest sewing machine with good reviews that I could find for her to start with. She still needs a lot of help and supervision, obviously.
Now, with that said, let’s get started!
Singer Start 1304 Review of Features
|Dimensions||13 x 7 x 11.5 in|
|Bobbin size||Class 15|
|Max Sewing Speed||350-400 spm|
What Comes In the Box With The Singer Start 1304?
Here is what is included with the Singer 1304 sewing machine:
- Singer 1304 sewing machine and foot pedal with power cord
- 3 presser feet
- Accessories pouch containing bobbins (3 total, one was threaded), a pack of needles, darning plate, needle plate screwdriver, seam ripper & lint brush, and spool felt pins
- Quickstart guide
While Amazon says a manual is included, my box had no manual. If this is the case with yours too, I HIGHLY recommend downloading the Singer Start 1304 manual to read before beginning. The Singer website also has YouTube instructional videos to help you get started.
Do take note that there is no protective case or covering included, so you may want to purchase or sew one.
And, I made an unboxing video when I took my Singer Start 1304 out of the box. I’m a MUCH better blog writer than video maker, so give me a little grace with my videos! (Also, I thought it looked like the buttonhole foot automatically sizes based on your buttonhole, but that’s not actually the case once I started working with it. So disregard that comment, and I’ll discuss it with you later in my Singer 1304 review.) You can watch the video below if you’re interested. I’ve also written a post about beginner sewing supplies if you want to check out what else is in my sewing room!
Which Presser Feet Are Included?
A presser foot is a (usually) metal foot like the one you see above that holds the fabric in place while you sew. The presser feet for the Singer 1304 are snap-on feet, which are easily removed and interchangeable.
There are only 3 presser feet included with the Singer 1304.
- All-purpose foot: what you will use for most projects needing a straight or zigzag stitch
- Buttonhole foot: make 4-step manual buttonholes
- Zipper foot: insert a zipper
I wish the Singer Start also came with a blind hem foot and a button sewing foot, but these are at least something you can purchase separately if you think you’ll need them.
Singer Start 1304 Stitches
There are 6 built-in stitch types: straight, zigzag, satin, blind hem, scallop, and buttonhole. What you see above is what you get. There is no way to adjust the length or width of the stitches. The needle will also always be center needle (rather than left or right,) which may limit your options when straight stitching.
My daughter graciously put together this sample below of every single stitch option! She is still learning to sew with a lot of help, of course, so they’re not perfect. If you’re a complete beginner, you can expect your stitches to be a little crooked at times too.
Here are the names of the stitches from left to right.
- 1-3: straight stitch
- 4: satin stitch (this is a preset length and width, so keep that in mind if wanting to applique)
- 5-6: zigzag stitch
- 7: triple zigzag stitch
- 8: blind hem stitch (for putting in a practically invisible hem)
- 9: scallop stitch
- 10: buttonhole (3 stitches technically on the dial, but ends up as one buttonhole)
How to Set Up and Thread the Singer Start 1304
Winding the bobbin is VERY easy to accomplish on the top of the sewing machine. Threading the upper thread is also very easy. (Just remember to thread with the presser foot up or you may end up with tension issues.) There are printed diagrams on the top of the machine for both of these tasks, which makes it simple and easy to remember.
Now, for the less easy part: installing the bobbin. The Singer Start 1304 features a “front-load” bobbin. This is the bobbin case in the below picture, which is what holds the bobbin.
To get to the bobbin case, you have to remove the accessories compartment every time. You then have to remember the orientation of the bobbin case when you go back to put it in.
I wish the Singer 1304 had instructions written on the base of the machine to help you remember the orientation of the bobbin relative to the orientation of the case. But alas, it does not.
In contrast, most Brother sewing machines feature a top-load bobbin that you install on the top of the workspace. These are easier for beginners to install, and with a quick-set bobbin, you don’t have to draw up the bobbin thread manually. The machine automatically does that when you begin sewing. Furthermore, these top-drop bobbins often have clear covers. This is a big help in telling if you’re low on thread before starting a project. It stinks to have to stop what you’re doing mid-sewing and wind and install a new bobbin.
The good news about this less-than-ideal setup of the Singer Start is, well, your bobbin thread is going to last for a long time if you’ve threaded it fully before starting to sew. You thus won’t need to worry about installing the bobbin but every once in a while. Since it is so infrequent, I’ve been just installing it for my daughter rather than teaching her how to. Once she masters sewing more, I’ll help her learn this later.
I made another video of how to thread the Singer 1304 machine, too, if you want to watch below. I’ve also written a tutorial for how to thread a Singer sewing machine with step-by-step pictures!
And lastly, to note, the reason you see two vertical spool pins at the back right of the machine is because the Singer Start 1304 has twin needle sewing capability. That means you can use two spools of thread to sew parallel lines of stitches!
How to Use the Singer Start 1304
After you’ve set up the machine, using it is easy. All you need to do is first select a stitch with the dial and make sure you have the right presser foot in place. Make sure to use the reverse lever on the right of the machine to lock your stitches in place at the beginning and end when you get to sewing.
Because the Singer 1304 is a mechanical sewing machine, you have to use the foot pedal to sew. It’s not a very sensitive pedal, which is a plus for heavy-footed beginners. In my threading video above, in fact, you may hear me not push it far enough when I’m doing my first test stitch! It kind of makes a sound like it’s going to stall out.
The foot pedal is very lightweight and does slip around. I made my own sewing machine foot pedal pad from an old mousepad, and it’s worked great!
Making Buttonholes with the Singer Start 1304
Buttonholes are done manually in 4 steps. I’m used to my computerized sewing machines doing buttons automatically in one step, so this was a change for me. It is not as easy to make 4-step buttonholes! However, with a little practice, you can master it and become a pro.
What a 4-step buttonhole means is instead of just selecting a buttonhole stitch and telling your machine to start sewing, you have to manually create the buttonhole in 4 different sections.
You’ll start with the buttonhole stitch labeled 1 below, then move to 2, 3, and back to 4, which is the same zigzag stitch as 2 was. You have to make sure you are watching your sewing or you may end up with a dense zigzag stitch on the top or bottom or your buttonhole may be too long. Placing a thin layer of stabilizer underneath the fabric will be a big help in reducing pucker also.
You also have to mark your buttonhole and determine the size yourself. I thought when the Singer Start specs said automatic buttonhole in the description that this meant it at least sized your buttonholes for you based on the size of your button. It does not. Marking isn’t too hard, luckily. I’d recommend using a chalk pencil or a washable fabric pen.
In comparison, a one-step automatic buttonhole determines the necessary size of your buttonhole based on the size of your button. Here’s my Singer heavy-duty machine below. As you can see, you place the buttonhole in the back of the buttonhole foot. The machine then does everything for you. Much simpler!
How loud is the Singer Start?
This is the quietest sewing machine I own! Its maximum speed is very slow, which helps with noisiness. You should feel comfortable listening to music while sewing or sewing in an apartment with a roommate sleeping in the next room.
At the max speed, I also didn’t get much movement of the machine, which was surprising. I expected it to bounce around more since it was so small and lightweight, but that wasn’t the case. Having lightweight machines that jump when sewing makes huge thuds, so this was not an issue.
Can the Singer Start 1304 sew denim or leather?
To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend too much heavy-duty sewing with this machine. It was fine when sewing two layers of denim together and will handle basic hemming of jeans. However, if you’re planning to work with several layers of thick fabrics regularly, you want a heavy-duty sewing machine to take care of those tasks. This is a small sewing machine with a regular motor, and you run the risk of burning it out with continued heavy-duty use. If you’re looking for an entry-level heavy-duty sewing machine, I love my Singer 4423!
And if you do decide to do infrequent heavy-duty sewing, make sure to use a heavy-duty sewing needle (size 90/14 or higher)!
What is a free arm?
When you remove the small accessories compartment at the front of the sewing machine, a smaller workspace remains. This free arm allows you to sew small, cylindrical items like shirt cuffs and jeans hems. Most sewing machines, even small sewing machines, have built-in free arms, but your average sewist probably doesn’t even know what it’s for. So, remember this cool feature if you ever need to sew something small and round!
Singer Start 1304 – Other Features
The maximum sewing speed on the Singer Start 1304 is 350-400 stitches per minute. This is NOT very fast. However, this is a huge pro to this machine, in my opinion! You don’t want kids sewing too fast and hurting themselves, and for beginners learning to use a foot pedal, it’s nice to not have your sewing machine take off at breakneck speed as you’re getting used to it.
The left of the machine also has a built-in thread cutter so you don’t have to keep your sewing scissors handy while stitching. This is a nice feature of this affordable sewing machine!
The workspace has a light over it to help illuminate your stitches. It’s a bright light on your project, but the way it is oriented casts a shadow on the back of the machine. Here’s a picture of me showing the correct bobbin installation orientation where you can see the shadow the light casts on the back of the workspace. I think they could have found a better place for the light to minimize the shadow. Nonetheless, the area directly over the workspace is illuminated well enough.
The Singer Start 1304 also comes with what is called a darning plate. This is what is used to cover the feed dogs on the base of your sewing machine. The feed dogs are the little metal teeth that help advance the fabric from the front to the back of the sewing machine. If you need to cover them, for instance, to do free-motion quilting, you will need to manually attach the darning plate.
Troubleshooting the Singer Start 1304
If you decide the Singer Start is perfect for you, here are a few issues I had before I got to know the machine and some solutions to help you prepare. If you’re new to sewing, I’d also recommend checking out my sewing machine needle guide to help you pick the correct needle for your projects.
The machine kept jamming at first, which happened when I did not install the bobbin case correctly into the front-load compartment. You need to make sure you feel the bobbin case click into place when you install it. If it feels loose and rolls to the side, you’ve installed it incorrectly. If you still have issues after checking the bobbin, carefully rethread the top thread making sure you hit all the thread guides and are threading with the presser foot up. Make sure to also check the integrity of your needle. A bent needle can cause problems, too!
I also found the tension to be a little tighter on my new Start 1304 machine than I’m used to. Make sure to play with the tension (the dial to the right of the thread guides over your workspace) if you’re getting your bobbin thread bunching up or your top thread is too loose. I’ve written an entire guide on how to adjust sewing tension you can check out for more information. Also, when removing your sewing project from the machine, give the handwheel on the right of the machine a little jiggle to loosen things up if it’s hard to take your project out.
There were a few times when I’d start sewing that the upper thread would fly out of the needle. This happened when I cut the thread short. While my nicer machines can get away with a short thread, this one seems to have more problems. As long as you keep a nice, long upper thread when you start sewing, this solves this issue! (Check out the best threads that work on a Singer sewing machine to make sure you have good-quality thread.)
When making a buttonhole, you can also hold the end of the top thread with your hand while starting to slowly sew to prevent this issue.
Singer Start Pros:
- Lightweight and portable; has a built-in handle for transporting.
- Simple to use with minimal options, making it perfect for beginners
- Good stitch quality
Singer Start Cons:
- Not ideal for someone wanting lots of versatility
- Front-load bobbin a pain in the rear
- Sometimes may lose upper thread if not long enough to begin with
- Awkwardly placed reverse lever. Would be more convenient if directly over the workspace rather than far off to the right.
Singer 1304 vs Singer M1500
The Singer M1500 is the newer version of the Singer 1304. It has a sleeker appearance but is otherwise the same in function and in operation. So, purchase whichever you like best or is more cost-efficient at the time!
Singer 1304 vs Brother XM2701
The Brother XM2701 and Singer Start 1304 are both mechanical, entry-level sewing machines. The Brother XM2701 features a whole lot more for the price, though. It includes an automatic needle threader, 27 stitches (with an option to change both stitch length and width), and an automatic one-step buttonhole.
It also has a top-load, quickset bobbin, which is much easier. There are basic threading directions printed on the base of the machine, too.
Priced similarly, I wholeheartedly think the Brother XM2701 is a better sewing machine for the money, BUT that doesn’t mean it is necessarily right for you. I ultimately decided the simpler the better for my daughter. The Singer 1304 is perfect for kids and perfect for beginners who will get confused with too many options and features.
Singer Start 1304 Review – Conclusion
If you’re purchasing for a child or are a beginner looking for simplicity, the Singer Start 1304 sewing machine is a great place to “start.” It’s affordable, has enough features to get you doing most tasks, and makes quality stitches. It won’t do anything super fancy, but it’s more than adequate at everything it does do.