When our son Jake was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2012, I couldn’t help but notice all the trash that came along with managing type 1. And honestly, some of it was too pretty to throw out! So, as soon as we got in a diabetes management groove, I took the garbage I collected and starting making earrings, bracelets, necklaces, picture frames, backpack charms, Christmas ornaments, and even light switch covers out of old supplies. I gave them as gifts to our diabetes helpers and sold them at conferences with all the profit going to research funding a cure for type 1 diabetes. Not only do I love getting creative with trash, but these little gadgets bring a positive spin and a smile to people of all ages living with type 1.

In early 2017, when our daughter Annie was also diagnosed with type 1, making upcycled gadgets became a real family affair, with our two other non-type-1 kids getting involved as well. Who knew that making crafts out of used diabetes supplies could be such a family bonding experience?!

If you want to give it a try, here’s how to make the two most popular pairs of earrings in our collection. They’re made with old insulin pump reservoirs, but we’ve also used syringe parts from pod-style pumps and plain old syringes with the needle portion removed.

What You’ll Need to Make Three-Bead Earrings

  • Two 1- to 1½-inch silver or gold head pins (available in the jewelry section of craft stores)
  • Two insulin pump reservoir inserts (pull insert out of reservoir with small pliers, rinse, and dry)
  • Two sets of 3 matching small glass, plastic, ceramic, or stone beads
  • Two hypoallergenic stainless steel, silver, or gold earrings (at craft stores)
  • Round-nose pliers
  • Flat-nose pliers

How to Make It

  1. Start by cutting off the tip of the insulin pump reservoir insert, creating a small hole in the top of the insert.
  2. Slip the head pin through the hole in the pump insert piece from the bottom so that the pin sticks out of the top and the head acts a stopper. You may need to grab the head end of the head pin with a pair of flat-nose pliers and push the pin up through.
  3. Carefully holding the pin so it doesn’t slip back through the pump insert, string three small beads onto the pin, leaving ¼ inch for attaching the earring piece.
  4. Using the round-nose pliers, twist the pin around the pliers and slip the earring piece onto the pin.
  5. Pinch the pin together with the flat-nose pliers so the earring piece doesn’t fall off.
  6. Repeat steps for the second earring using the same order of beads, or a different order if you want!

Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.