David Sorlie warned the frightened woman he had a knife, which he said he would use, before snatching her belongings, including a Mulberry handbag, together worth £2,500.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the 29-year-old serial robber, - who had been up drinking and taking drugs all night - remembers nothing about the shocking attack on Westoe Road, South Shields in August last year.
He was out on licence from a previous prison sentence at the time.
The victim was left dazed and scared after Sorlie warned "I'm going to stab you" during the shocking ordeal.
Sorlie, of Chichester Road, South Shields, who admitted robbery on the basis he actually had no knife, was jailed for 37 months.
Judge Stephen Earl told him: "You robbed her. You robbed her with serious threats of violence towards her. You have threatened her in a serious way.
"It was threats you had a knife. Regardless of the fact you didn't have one, you certainly led her to believe you did have such a weapon and from what you were saying, you were prepared to use it."
Prosecutor Richard Herrmann told the court the woman had been carrying a Mulberry bag as well as a lap-top style bag, both containing personal items, to work when she noticed a man, who she thought was high on drugs.
Mr Herrmann said: "She was the victim of a terrifying robbery.Within a few minues he came up behind her.
"He said 'do you see this, its a knife', although it is fair to say she could not see what it was, in fact, he had in his hand."
The court heard the victim bravely tried to keep hold of her bags but Sorlie warned "I'm going to stab you, if you don't give me your bags I'm going to stab you".
After the woman eventually gave up her belongings, Sorlie ran off and she flagged won a passing car for help.
The court heard Sorlie has previous convictions, including robberies, on his record.
Paul Currer, defending, said: "On this particular morning he had been drinking through the night to excess and taking drugs.
"It horrifies him and he is deeply ashamed. He expresses, through me, an apology to his victim for the ordeal he put her through."