The imprisoned Stewart's paper birds lose to a nativity scene built by fellow inmates

Martha Stewart, the queen of do-it-yourself domesticity, suffered an embarrassing defeat in West Virginia’s Alderson Federal Prison: Her team lost the holiday decoration contest.

Despite their efforts at creating paper cranes that hung from the ceiling, Stewart and her inmate group’s project failed to beat the winning entry: A nativity scene built by inmates assigned to the institution’s firefighting unit.

Stewart’s paper bird display “wasn’t all that great,” said one inmate, who told a friend that the firefighters’ display was “small and homey” and featured “pictures of snow-covered hills and sleds and clouds on the wall.”

Inmates had been asked to build around a “Peace on Earth” theme using $25 worth of glitter, ribbons, construction paper and glue.

Meanwhile, on her Web site (, Stewart, who is serving a five-month sentence for lying to federal investigators, has asked her fans to support prison and sentencing reforms. “I beseech you all to think about these women — to encourage the American people to ask for reforms, both in sentencing guidelines, in length of incarceration for nonviolent first-time offenders, and for those involved in drug-taking.”

In her online holiday posting Stewart, 63, also pondered the end of her incarceration in March. “I look forward to being home,” she wrote, “to getting back to my valuable work, to creating, cooking and making television.”

By Alicia Shepard and Jane Podesta