A woman who stole a knife from Briscoes hoped to sell the item so she could take her children to the movies.

Miriam Margaret Gilbert had no criminal history when she swiped the $99.99 knife on January 11, the Whanganui District Court heard on Tuesday.

Gilbert hid the knife in her handbag and left the store, but it was recovered, police prosecutor Sergeant David Grey said.

She told police she wanted to sell the knife to take her kids to the movies.

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She pleaded guilty this week to shoplifting.

Defence lawyer Stephanie Burlace said it was Gilbert's "first offence at 29".

Judge Dugald Matheson said he would have "imposed a penalty" had the knife not been recovered.

Despite not giving Gilbert a punitive sentence, Judge Matheson said she now had a "blot" on her record.

He ordered Gilbert to come up for sentence if called upon within six months.