Nellie Jacobson was born in Ahousat, and learned basketry from her grandmother and two great aunts. She later taught other women in her community basketry. Helping her grandmother when she was seven years old scrape the cedar bark from the trees, Nellie learned quickly the various uses for cedar. "Her tools were three primitive bits of wood, a 30-year old knife honed to incredible sharpness, a wooden bowl filled with water and a stick-plaster thimble to protect her left forefinger when she is scraping reeds" (Vancouver Sun, 1954). Her father drowned when she was 11; at that time he was said to have given the largest potlatch on the west coast. Her basketry designs were strictly traditional.