Needlework occupies a particular position in the treasury of Armenian culture. Needlework is the most widespread artwork among the Armenian people. Both women and men have engaged in it. Needlework has been produced both by individuals and by workers in workshops, as well as in abbeys and monasteries. The variety of thread materials, their rich style, the utilization of precious and semiprecious stones, as well as the golden-thread and silver thread stitches have all enriched the esthetic character of Armenian needlework.
Over the centuries, Armenian needle workers have created a variety of stitch patterns, which have been used in various regions. It is possible to distinguish between the Armenian needlework schools of Vaspurakan, Marash, Aintap, Ararat Province, Karin, Shirak-Karin, Sunik, Cilicia, Cappadocia, as well as those of the diaspora (Tiflis, Istanbul, Smyrna, Bursa, Crimea, Astrakhan, etc.). Exhibited in the St. Echmiadzin monastery collections are various works belonging to these three groups, which are valuable not only for their antiquity but also for their high esthetic value. Predominant among these are the silk needlework's in deep red on which beautiful compositions are formed by silk threads of various colors, with silver and golden threads, as well as pearls and various types of stones. Pictured on church vestments are various scenarios and religious characters with militaristic clarity. A large place is devoted to the Madonna, Christ, and the Evangelists. The miters of the St. Echmiadzin monastery, as well as the numerous other needlework creations, have historic significance. The miters of Catholics Khachatur and Catholic's Pilipos are select examples of needlework. The miter covers have also been worked in the style of miter needlework. Depicted on these are scenarios of the Annunciation, and sometimes Gregory the Illuminator in his patriarchal vestments. The armlets, which have a complex needlework pattern, astonish spectators. The best examples are the armlets depicting scenes of the Annunciation and Baptism. The Annunciation scene is often depicted on needle worked segments. The Madonna face and the herald angels are finely drawn and the delicate beauty of the facial contours is accented. The chasubles have given the needlework unlimited creative possibilities. Their wide and free spread has allowed the depiction of a number of scenes, such as the Last Supper, and the Crucifixion.
From the vantage point of style, the chasuble made in China (on consignment from Armenians in India) and donated to St. Echmiadzin is interesting, in that it has fine needlework and is executed in the tradition of Chinese art. Ritual belts were sewn in the example of metal belts, needle worked with botanical decorations. Needle worked buckles were used along with golden and silver ones. Precious and semiprecious stones were used in abundance in these. In needlework on slippers that are part of ritual vestments, a palpable position is accorded to the depiction of the dragon as an embodiment of evil.
In the needlework creations of St. Echmiadzin, items are used in the church form an important segment. Among these must be mentioned the holy banner of Gregory the Illuminator (1448). Depicted on one side of the banner is Gregory the Illuminator who is blessing with his right hand while holding the Bible in his left. Beside him are Trdat and St. Hripsime in praying position. The needle worker has tended to give life to the scene not only with the expressionism of the faces but also with the color differentiation (white, red, green) of clothing. On the other side of the banner is pictured Christ on the throne, with the Gospel in hand while his right hand is held in the traditional benediction position. Over him are pictures of the sun and the moon. Gregory the Illuminator's banner is a singular sample of the needlework of its time. The most significant of the church curtains is the one worked in Istanbul (1705-1714) and sent as a gift to Echmiadzin by the Armenians of that city. The identification of needlework as belonging to this or that school is not only determined by their stitches and stylistic specifications but also by inscriptions. In this regard, a series of needlework's prepared in the Armenian communities of Istanbul and Astrakhan are significant. Of special significance for their masterful composition are the creations of the abbess of the Ahtrakhan Abbey, Hripsime Mnatsakanian and her sister Anna.
In the treasure trove of St. Echmiadzin, one can also find gold and silver threaded brocades, as well as belts and fine wipe cloths made in the 18th c. in the Armenian communities of Poland and elsewhere. The creations of the needle workers from the abbeys and orphanages of Bitlis, Tiflis, New Julfa, and Van are also presented. These precious samples of Armenian needlework art with their national characteristics have a unique and noteworthy place among the treasures of Echmiadzin.