One possibility is for the upper to be woven. I looked into the current 4D knitting technologies which is a computer based production and this lead me to looking into hand made materials which took me to weaving.
This process using a weaving loom works well to create square pieces of fabric. I then tried to take this method and create a custom shape such as a shoe upper, this way there would be no off cuts. To do this I made a frame using nails in a piece of timber and did a test piece.
Test worked well, moving onto a larger scale.